Jay Monahan says PGA Tour won’t support proposed ball rollback

The PGA Tour has notified the R&A and the United States Golf Association that it will not support a proposed modified local rule that would allow tours and tournaments the option to require elite men’s players to use a golf ball that will be tested under modified launch conditions to limit how far it is hit, according to a memo PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan sent to members on Wednesday.

The new rules, which will not affect the types of balls that recreational players can buy, would take effect in January 2026 if adopted. The governing bodies are receiving feedback from manufacturers and others until Aug. 14. The governing bodies said the proposed modified local rule [MLR] would reduce hitting distances by about 14 to 15 yards on average for the longest hitters with the highest clubhead speeds.

“As you know, we have spent the last two years undertaking a comprehensive analysis of distance on the PGA Tour and its impact,” Monahan wrote in the memo. “Although there has been some level of support for limiting future increases, there is widespread and significant belief the proposed Modified Local Rule is not warranted and is not in the best interest of the game.

“Following a discussion on the topic at a recent [players advisory committee] meeting, we have notified the USGA and The R&A that while the PGA Tour is committed to collaborating with them – and all industry partners – to arrive at a solution that will best serve our players, our fans and the game at all levels, we are not able to support the MLR as proposed.”

At last week’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England, R&A CEO Martin Slumbers said “doing nothing is not an option” regarding the rollback of the golf ball.

“Our role, indeed our responsibility, is to do what is right for the sport when we reach our determination on the way forward,” Slumbers said. “All I really will say at this stage is that I would echo [USGA CEO] Mike Whan’s sentiments when I say that doing nothing is not an option. We’ve put forward a targeted and proportionate measure to address a complex issue, which we believe is key to preserving the inherent challenge of golf and to ensuring that it has a sustainable future.”

Monahan took a leave of absence for undisclosed medical reasons on June 13, a week after the PGA Tour’s surprising announcement that it was forming an alliance with the DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which has funded the LIV Golf League the past two years. He returned to work on July 17.

In the memo, Monahan said he has “fully recovered and [feels] stronger than ever, committed to representing the best interests of the PGA Tour and our members.” Monahan said he planned to attend next week’s Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina, and a players’ meeting at the FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis on Aug. 8.

The PGA Tour will unveil the 2024 schedule on Aug. 8, according to the memo.

Monahan told players that a player benefit program would be established if it reaches a final deal with the DP World and PIF that “will be financially significant in total and incremental to our planned compensation package.” Monahan said a task force is also evaluating “potential pathways back to the PGA Tour for LIV players who wish to reapply in the future.”

Monahan said two player directors on the tour’s policy board, Patrick Cantlay and Webb Simpson, will serve on a search committee with independent directors Mark Flaherty and Mary Meeker to identify a replacement for former AT&T chairman Randall Stephenson, who resigned from the board on July 9. In his resignation letter, obtained by the Washington Post, Stephenson wrote that the PGA Tour’s planned alliance with PIF “is not one that I can objectively evaluate or in good conscience support, particularly in light of the U.S. intelligence report concerning Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.”

Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident, was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

“There will be no approval of the candidate unless there is unanimous Board support, including the Player Directors,” Monahan wrote. “We will move this process forward quickly and thoughtfully, and we will keep you posted on the timeline and progress.”

Monahan informed players that the tour had retained Colin Neville, a partner at the Raine Group, as a “resource” for the player directors as it negotiates a potential final deal with the DP World Tour and PIF. Neville leads the Raine Group’s sports practice and was involved in the sale of Chelsea F.C. soccer club, Joe Tsai’s purchase of the Brooklyn Nets and Steve Balmer’s acquisition of the Los Angeles Clippers, among other deals.

“Our negotiation toward a potential Definitive Agreement with the PIF and DP World Tour is complicated and time intensive,” Monahan said. “I am extremely appreciative of the dedication our Player Directors and Player Advisor Council members have provided and will continue to provide to this process. Working with the Player Directors and the Player Advisory Council, we recognize the benefit that a third-party advisor would bring to help move all deal conversations forward with utmost efficiency and confidence.

“I’m confident Colin’s perspective and expertise will help ensure a transparent, efficient, and collaborative process.”

Monahan also informed members that Jason Gore, a former PGA Tour player, had been promoted to vice president and chief player officer, a new executive position. Monahan said Gore will “assume leadership over all Player Relations and Player Partnerships functions, and he will provide player input and representation across the entire business.”

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