Confidential: As Commissioner, How Should Monahan Change the Tour?

November 7, 2016
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Every Sunday night, conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com.

1. Deputy PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan is expected to assume the role of commissioner on Monday, replacing Tim Finchem, who has held the post for more than two decades. How would you like to see Monahan change the Tour?

Josh Sens, contributor, GOLF (@JoshSens): The Tour has started in the right direction by requiring players to add new events to their schedules. As it stands, it’s one new event that the player hasn’t played in over the last four years. I’d like to see the Tour step up those requirements, the better to bring top names to some of the light events. The Tour schedule has become too much like our country: too great a disparity between the haves and have not events. Spread the wealth.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated (@MarkGodich): I agree, Josh. Adding events is a step in the right direction. And is it asking too much to require these guys to play, say, a minimum of 20 events in a year?

Shane Bacon, golf analyst, Fox Sports (@shanebacon): I think continuing to evolve in the digital world is something the PGA Tour has taken a big first step with and something they could continue to grow. PGA Tour Live has been an incredible asset and I think it really gives fans, especially young fans, a chance to always see the player and players they want to watch. The European tour has done an amazing job at using social media to their advantage and 2016 was a big year for the PGA Tour in that regard. Sports fans want to watch their favorite sports, so for golf fans, making it as easy as possible to watch golf is a simple way to engage fans and keep them hanging around.

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Jeff Ritter, digital development editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): We’ve covered this ground numerous times, but the change in leadership also presents an opportunity to upgrade the Tour’s drug testing program and announce player-conduct-related suspensions and fines, as they do in all other major U.S. pro sports leagues.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I think the PGA Tour could do much more with the LPGA, and I think it will. I think the Tour could work more closely with the USGA in an effort to simplify the rules (not easily done but a worthy goal). I think the Tour could do more to make the game more accessible to more people. The Tour needs to take more of a leadership role for the overall health of the game.

2. Rory McIlroy’s decision to withdraw from the Turkish Airlines Open due to security concerns drew the ire of the Turkish Golf Federation president, who said, “There are things happening everywhere in the world. If they are afraid of such things there is no safe place in the world.” He added, “True sports people rise above this.” (Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood also commented on McIlroy WD.) Should McIlroy have found a way to get over his anxiousness and play?

SENS: I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to say what someone else should or shouldn’t be afraid of. But I wouldn’t be surprised if McIlroy comes to regret skipping the event in Turkey, much as he seemed to have second thoughts about skipping the Olympics, partly out of Zika-phobia.

GODICH: Rory’s free to do as he pleases. And at least he was candid about it, instead of trotting out some lame excuse.

BAMBERGER: I totally agree, Mark. Rory’s been on a roll of candor and I admire him for it. How well would he play if he really thought he was somehow endangered? A decision like that is so personal I don’t know why other players would comment on it.

RITTER: I felt some of the Olympic/Zika WDs from male pro golfers were flimsy, but this is different. No problem with Rory, or anyone else, taking a pass. And as for fellow players criticizing Rory’s decision, the jabs carry zero weight when those same players are cashing appearance checks from the tournament they are rushing to defend.

BACON: Considering the way Rory is playing right now, pulling out of a tournament should actually be welcome news to everyone else in the field. If Rory doesn’t feel safe, he shouldn’t play, simple as that. He’s a pretty sensible fellow, after all.

3. In other McIlroy news, the world No. 2 voiced his frustrations about the stipulation that requires European Ryder Cup hopefuls to maintain full-time status on the European tour, adding that Englishman Paul Casey’s ineligibility “hurt” the European side at Hazeltine. McIlroy said the event should pit the 12 highest-ranked players from Europe against the 12 highest-ranked players from the U.S., period. Is he right?

SENS: What, and rid ourselves the bi-annual captain’s picks frenzy? What would we talk about for a fevered six months leading up to the event? Leave the selection process as is. The current system may be imperfect, but so are the rankings.

GODICH: I remember when the Ryder Cup wasn’t high on the list of priorities for Rory. Good to see he is embracing the event. Perhaps the Europeans should convene a task force and discuss.

SENS: Ha. Very nice, Mark. I dig the drollness. Fittingly, almost has a British twinge to it.

RITTER: So now Europe is questioning its selection process? How quickly the turntables have … turned.

BACON: While I find it a little silly to be questioning a process that has worked — until this year — very much in the Europeans’ favor over the last 15 years, I find it equally silly that Paul Casey and Russell Knox weren’t on Darren Clarke’s team as he headed to Hazeltine. The Ryder Cup has become the second-most anticipated golf event of the year when it’s on the schedule, so having the best product out there might mean figuring out a way for future captains to have these guys on the team and tweaking the qualification process for Team Europe. I’m not sure it would have meant another European victory, but it definitely would have given them a better shot with Casey, and Knox, wearing the blue and yellow.

BAMBERGER: I think each captain should pick all 12 players. No points system at all. Put that in your task-force pipe and smoke it!

4. The Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years last week, beating the Indians in a Game 7 thriller. What long-standing golf drought would you most like to see come to an end?

SENS: An end to Tiger’s eight-plus year major-less streak would be pretty compelling. But I’m also a sucker for the Sergio Garcia story. His winning a big one would be like Charlie Brown finally kicking the football.

GODICH: Your 2017 U.S. Open champion: Phil Mickelson.

RITTER: Two great picks. I’d add that a 62 at a major is due to drop. How poetic would it be for Phil to pull it off? It would take a little sting out of that agonizing, physics-defying putt on 18 from his opening round at Troon.

BACON: Since the obvious choices are taken, I’m going with an albatross on one of the back-nine par-5s at Augusta National. We haven’t seen one on 13 since ‘94, and haven’t seen one on 15 since the “shot heard ‘round the world” by Mr. Sarazen in ‘35. Give me an albatross or a double-eagle on those famed par-5s at the next Masters and let the roars shake buildings in Atlanta.

BAMBERGER: I’d like to see Cypress back on the Pebble Beach Pro-Am rota, where it has not been for 26 years.

5. It’s election week, so we have to ask: Which PGA Tour player do you think would make for the most effective politician?

GODICH: I’m all for a Geoff Ogilvy-Joe Ogilvie ticket, though we’re going to have citizenship issues with the former.

BAMBERGER: Well, he’s not a player, but he is a proven pol: outgoing commissioner Tim Finchem. He’s the whole package.

BACON: Being a politician is all about thinking you’re the smartest and most well-versed person in the room about anything and everything. So with that in mind, Senator Phil Mickelson has a nice ring to it.

SENS: Based on the political tweets I’ve seen from Tour figures, I think it’s best we keep most of them out of the corridors of power. But David Duval seems like a reasonable guy, open to hearing opinions that might be different from his.

RITTER: I suppose you could consider the most proven team leaders, like Davis Love or Paul Azinger. Or the most popular players with the masses, like Jack, Phil or Tiger. There are a lot of smart folks on Tour, but I think Josh is right: leave politics to the politicians.