Without being specific on Phil Mickelson, Jay Monahan takes stock

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — It’s not easy being the “guy” in any sport. Just ask MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred (lockout) or NFL’s Roger Goodell (gambling suspensions). It’s not all ball games and sun at the top.

By comparison, Jay Monahan’s Tuesday could have been worse. On a day when some of his contemporaries were playing full-scale defense, the PGA Tour leader was taking a predictable victory lap.

“He won’t do that. [brag]. It’s not his style. He would never brag about anything,” a Tour player said, moments before the commissioner’s 11 a.m. ET press conference.

Perhaps Monahan came closest to boasting, humble or otherwise, was when he opened his media session by launching headfirst into the Saudi-backed super league elephant. in the room.

“The PGA Tour is moving forward,” began a somewhat defiant Monahan. “We have too much momentum and too much to accomplish to be constantly distracted by rumors of other golf leagues and their attempts to disrupt our players, our partners and especially our fans, to enjoy the Tour and the game we we all love so much. .”

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It was a good start. Manfred and Goodell could only hope for a mysterious and widely discredited rival league as their main concern on Tuesday.

There was, however, one line from Monahan’s opening statement that sounded well-rehearsed and weighty: “We will always focus on legacy, not leverage,” he said.

‘Leverage’ has become something of a trigger for the Tour and Monahan since being weaponized by those who might consider a potential jump to the super league. In Phil Mickelson’s explosive firepitcollective.com interview, which essentially burned the concept of the super league and possibly Lefty’s own career, he used the word “leverage” twice in one take.

“[The Tour has] able to cope with manipulative, coercive and heavy-handed tactics because we players had no recourse. Such a nice guy [Monahan] seems like, unless you have leverage, it won’t do the right thing. And Saudi money ultimately gave us that leverage,” said Mickelson, who later claimed the comments were off-the-record and out of context.

Mickelson, who announced last month that he was taking time off from professional golf for an undisclosed amount of time, was not in the room on Tuesday when Monahan delivered the “leverage” line, but there was no doubt as to who it was intended for.

The commissioner said he has not spoken to Mickelson since Phil’s tour comments were published. He also danced around the idea that Lefty was suspended by the Tour for his lyrics.

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“We do not comment on disciplinary matters, potential matters or actual matters. But every player is responsible for their actions here,” Monahan said.

It’s been the Tour’s long-standing policy not to disclose suspensions or discipline — one of the few issues board member Rory McIlroy said he had with Monahan — but if the commissioner was ever going to say something without saying anything, it was Tuesday.

Monahan’s message to Mickelson was clear: there is only one way back.

“I think the ball is in his court. I would welcome a phone call from him,” Monahan said. “It’s difficult for me to talk about the different scenarios that could play out.”

On this, the commissioner has no choice. Although he was increasingly careful not to use words like ‘expelled’ and ‘banned’ when asked how he would react to any player committing to the super league two years ago , at TPC Sawgrass, he seemed to draw a hard line.

“Our system of governance has been driven by our players and our board, and we have regulations in place that enable us to protect the interests of our media partners, our sponsors and all of our constituents, and if we come to that time, we would take steps to vigilantly protect that business model,” he said.

Privately, the commissioner was even tougher on potential mutineers, according to several players, which makes this Mickelson moment so compelling. Even if Lefty – who also accused the Tour of “abhorrent greed” in a Golf Digest interview earlier this year – embraces total contrition, which he has not, there is always the question of priority. .

If Monahan doesn’t follow through on his threat – his promise – in a way public enough to leave a mark, the next time a super league concept surfaces, the commissioner may not have the luxury of a victory lap.

Even Tuesday’s moderate flex came with a reminder from Monahan that this the threat may have passed, but there will always be more threats.

“I wake up every day thinking someone is trying to take my lunch. That’s how I operate. That’s how we operate as a team,” Monahan said.

It’s a harsh and some might say unhealthy way to embrace each day, but it gives insight into how those storm clouds have altered the reality of the PGA Tour. Weakness in any form is unacceptable.

The steward would never do a lap of honor, it’s not his style, just like he would never talk about a specific suspension, it’s not the style of the Tour. But it’s what he didn’t say Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass that speaks volumes.