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New PGA Tour commissioner looking for broader audience

KAPALUA, Hawaii — A week into his job as the fourth PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan is looking to broaden golf's appeal.

Whether that means a new schedule is too early to tell.

Monahan said Saturday he was awake from 2 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. thinking about various challenges facing golf, though that was more a product of jet lag after getting to Hawaii for the PGA Tour's opening two events of the year.

He took over Jan. 1 for Tim Finchem, who oversaw two decades of international growth and exponential increases in prize money during a generation driven by Tiger Woods. The tour already is working on new television deals that expire in 2021, along with renewing the title sponsorship of the FedEx Cup that ends this year.

What got his attention, however, was a trip to Silicon Valley last summer to meet with executives of Google, Facebook, Amazon, YouTube and Apple.

"As much progress as we've made with our platforms, we weren't moving fast enough. We're not producing enough video content," Monahan said. "Our players are their own networks and have their own profiles. We had — and I'll take full responsibility for this — a tendency to think about what we didn't want to have happen at our tournaments. … We're taking away from our ability to grow."

He cited restrictions on players using smartphones during pro-ams as one example.

As for the schedule, the PGA Tour has been exploring whether it can end its season at the Tour Championship before the NFL season starts in September. A simple plan on paper, there are so many moving parts that Monahan said it is so early in the process that the tour hasn't even decided what it would do.

Whatever happens, he indicated that the tour would try to stay at the same number of events.

He also made it clear that the tour wants to start the new year in Hawaii. The Tournament of Champions at Kapalua has been the first event of the year since 1999, followed by the Sony Open in Honolulu.

"I expect to be doing this with you for a long time to come — this week, and then next week," Monahan said. "We've been here for 50 years. I think it's part of the fabric and part of the core of who we are as an organization. It's an important part of our season and we'll do everything we can to be here."

On other topics:

• Monahan said he thought it was "awesome" to have a golf-loving president, and he called President-elect Donald Trump "probably the best golfer to ever sit in office, and certainly the most golf knowledgeable." He said the tour left Trump National Doral because it couldn't find a sponsor — "That's on us," he said — but that the tour wants to be ready to have a tournament in Miami if a spot becomes open.

• The FedEx Cup sponsorship began in 2007, providing $35 million in bonus money at the end of the year and $10 million to the winner. The deal expires after this year. Monahan said he was at FedEx headquarters in Memphis just before Christmas. "I would just say that we have more work to do, but we're very hopeful," he said of negotiations.

• The PGA Tour is the only major sports group that doesn't announce fines or other punishment. That doesn't sound as if it will change. "I know that there is a desire to know everything that happened but … we're a family. If there is an issue in your family, you deal with it, and you deal with it with your family member," he said. "That has worked really well for us. If it weren't, we'd be making changes."

New PGA Tour commissioner looking for broader audience 01/08/17 [Last modified: Saturday, January 7, 2017 11:58pm]
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