MEMPHIS, Tenn. — PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said Wednesday that he took a monthlong leave of absence from his position because of anxiety that resulted in mental and physical health concerns which required medical care.
Monahan, speaking to a small group of reporters ahead of this week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind, said the pressure of negotiating the PGA Tour’s surprising alliance with the DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and players’ reaction to it contributed to his anxiety.
The framework agreement was negotiated secretly, and most PGA Tour players and members of the circuit’s policy board weren’t told of the deal until it was announced June 6.
“I think the reality for me was that I was dealing with anxiety, which created physical and mental health issues and challenges for me,” Monahan said. “And I realized that I needed to step away and to deal with that and understand how to develop the skills to deal with that going forward.
“To step away at that point in time was very difficult for me, but I needed to take care of myself and my family, and ultimately come back here stronger than I’ve ever been to lead the PGA Tour forward. And my family and my doctors supported me coming back.”
The PGA Tour announced on June 14 that Monahan was taking a leave of absence from the tour for undisclosed medical reasons. He turned over day-to-day operation of the tour to president Tyler Dennis and chief operating officer Ron Price.
Monahan returned to work on July 17.
Monahan’s leave came just one week after he and Public Investment Fund governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan announced the deal on CNBC. Some PGA Tour players criticized Monahan for keeping them in the dark while the deal was being made, and human rights groups condemned the PGA Tour for doing business with the Saudi Arabian monarchy, given its history of human rights abuses.
“I think everyone knows my nature and my nature is to always be one to run into a fight or a conflict, not run away from it,” Monahan said. “Because I had world-class medical care, I fully committed to the process. I was not going to come back until I was told by doctors and medical experts and my wife and my girls that I was fully supported in coming back. And that was not something that was a certainty when I stepped away.”
Monahan met with about 25 PGA Tour players at TPC Southwind on Tuesday, his first such meeting since his return. His message to them: “I’m healthy, I’m energized, I’m ready, and I’m leading the PGA Tour going forward.”
World No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler said Wednesday that he attended the meeting.
“It’s definitely good to have him back,” Scheffler said. “I think the tour has got a long way to go. But it’s always nice having Jay back in person. Guys when they want to can have face-to-face time with him, he’s always available. He’s doing the best that he can to make sure that he’s getting as much player input as possible.”
Monahan told players that his biggest regret was not informing them about the planned alliance with the DP World Tour and PIF before it was announced publicly. Monahan said he wishes he would have flown to Toronto for the RBC Canadian Open to inform players before the news was made public.
“It was ineffective,” Monahan said. “And as a result, there was a lot of misinformation. I think anytime you have misinformation that can lead to mistrust, and that’s my responsibility. It’s nobody else’s responsibility — that’s me and me alone. As I’ve said, I take full accountability for that. At the same time, I apologize for putting players on their back foot, but ultimately the move that we made is the right move for the PGA Tour. I firmly believe that. And as we go forward, time will bear that out.”
Monahan said the sides continue to hammer out the details of a final agreement, which he hopes will be finished by the end of the year. He said the PGA Tour continues to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice, which has opened an inquiry into the potential deal.
“Our team is in regular contact with the Department of Justice, has been and continues to be,” he said. “We’re confident when we come off the back end of this, we’ll do it the way where we’ve created more opportunities for players going forward.”
Monahan said he also offered to testify before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in late July, but the subcommittee couldn’t accommodate the timing. Price and PGA Tour policy board independent director Jimmy Dunne testified in front of the subcommittee on July 11. Monahan said if he was asked again, “I’ll quickly respond and I’ll testify.”
While Monahan believes he has earned the trust of PGA Tour members during his six-plus years as commissioner, he acknowledges the past few months have been a “setback.”
“I’ve acknowledged it was an ineffective rollout, and that’s on me,” Monahan said. “My performance has always been and will continue to be measured based on results and the productivity of the organization and results delivered and done in the right way. And so that will be determined when we complete this process. And I am confident that when we complete this process, as I said before, this will be a rewarding result for the PGA Tour players and our fans.”