PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA | For all the new, nine-year domestic media rights deal announced Monday may buy the PGA Tour – it’s valued in billions, not millions – it can’t buy any assurance that the tour playing schedule won’t be directly impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.
For the time being, commissioner Jay Monahan said Tuesday at the Players Championship, it’s full speed ahead with the schedule as it’s currently structured.
Unless it changes.
That’s about as definitive as Monahan could be when he was pressed on the subject during his hour-long press conference.
What else could he say?
In any other year, Monahan could have spent the majority of his time celebrating the tour’s pride-and-joy event along with the far-reaching impact of the new media deal which mushrooms not just the tour’s bank balance but also its reach.
But this isn’t like other years. There is a World Golf Championship scheduled in Austin, Texas, in two weeks, the same Austin that recently called off its South by Southwest festival out of concerns that bringing 300,000 people together might not be the best idea right now.
There are also whispers that the PGA Championship – scheduled for TPC Harding Park in San Francisco in May – could be forced to move, possibly even to the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass where the Players Championship will begin Thursday. The rumors were hot enough that the PGA of America issued a statement saying it still intends to play at Harding Park.
Unless, of course, it doesn’t.
That’s where Monahan and professional golf find themselves in these strange days, wanting to do the right thing while wondering exactly what that is.
Every hour, it seems, brings another virus-related announcement while the prospect of contesting sporting events without spectators – if the games are played at all – seems to be growing.
“At this point, I think everybody is planning on moving forward full speed ahead, exercising their tournaments but also keeping an open eye and an open mind to the information coming their way,” Monahan said.
It’s not as if the tour is relying on the internet for its information. Monahan said the tour now has what amounts to a business unit devoted to the virus outbreak with dedicated officials working in conjunction with the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and various state and local officials where events are scheduled.
More than once, Monahan used the word “dynamic” to describe the uncertain and unsettling landscape.
In other words, what’s true today may not be true tomorrow. It’s the new normal.
“There is no plan at this point in time for the PGA Championship to be held here. It’s going to be held at TPC Harding Park,” Monahan said.
Monahan went on to say that as a partner of the PGA of America, the tour would be willing to do whatever it could if circumstances were to change
“This thing is so dynamic that you just have to go hour to hour, day to day … ” – Jay Monahan
Asked specifically about whether he expects the match-play event to go on as scheduled in Austin, Monahan said that’s the plan then understandably hedged by saying the tour will remain in close contact with local officials there.
“This thing is so dynamic that you just have to go hour to hour, day to day, but right now we have every assurance that we’ll be in Austin for the event,” Monahan said.
Without getting into specifics, Monahan said holding a tour event in Austin is different from a massive convention such as South by Southwest. It wouldn’t be a shock if the 64-player event were to be played absent galleries given what’s happening around the country.
“If your public health officials feel confident that everyone can enter into a safe environment and that we’re protecting the well being of all folks on site (then) we’re going to move forward,” Monahan said.
It almost made the notion of the Premier Golf League seem inconsequential. The proposal isn’t going away, at least not yet, but Monahan and the tour are playing from a position of strength, particularly with the new rights deal in place and world No. 1 Rory McIlroy saying he wants no part of the new tour.
“As I’ve talked to a lot of top players in my one-on-one conversations, I’ve heard a lot of the same,” Monahan said.
In the course of his press conference, Monahan casually dropped in this nugget: The PGA Tour projects approximately $12 billion in revenue over the next decade.
That’s about $1.2 billion a year, give or take a few hundred million.
That’s a good place from which to be moving forward.
For the moment, however, there are more pressing matters. Stay tuned.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. Photo: Lee Jin-man, Associated Press
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