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What's up with Rory McIlroy, Jay Monahan, Tiger Woods and the PGA Tour board?

Jay Monahan weighed in on Rory McIlroy's PGA Tour board drama, adding a new chapter to golf's ongoing saga.

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On Wednesday morning, shortly after Rory McIlroy's press conference at the Wells Fargo Championship, GOLF reached out to the PGA Tour asking if they could have an official comment. On Wednesday evening we received one, from commissioner Jay Monahan:

“Today's news is by no means a comment on Rory's vision and influence. It is simply a matter of following our management process when a Tour player becomes a member of the Board,” read his statement.

Now it was “today's news?” How could it involve Monahan, McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Webb Simpson again Patrick Cantlay? Let's look at what happened.

A. There was a report about Rory

“Today's news” actually started a few weeks ago with a report that appeared The Guardian that Webb Simpson will be stepping aside from the PGA Tour Policy Board and Rory McIlroy will take his place. That was surprising because McIlroy had resigned from the board a few months earlier. Now would he go back?

“I think I can be useful in this process,” he said at the time, bemoaning the months that have passed without significant progress in talks with the Saudi Public Investment Fund. “But only if people want me to be involved, I guess.”

II. Nothing happened

A few weeks. There was talk of a vote, but it didn't happen. There was a report and then nothing. That seemed strange. It asked the question: It did the right people actually don't want McIlroy involved?

III. Rory did not join the board

Sorry to spoil the ending here, but on Wednesday morning McIlroy spoke to the assembled media following his morning pro-am at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, NC, and broke the news: No board is coming back to him. (You can read Sean Zak's full account here.)

McIlroy described it as “uncomfortable” and “complicated” and “dirty.” He added that he thought the program “opened old wounds and scars from things that happened before.” He raised his hand to help, he said, but things became difficult. No dice. Everything felt painful.

“So everything is fine, there are no hard feelings and we will all continue,” he said, looking for a hopeful ending.

IV. Webb told his side of the story

The next man on the mic after McIlroy is, fittingly, Simpson. He lives near Quail Hollow and is playing with sponsor exemptions this week and said McIlroy's guidance comes from a simple place: he just wants to help.

“So his opinion is big for us,” said Simpson. “He's a world player, he's always been there, so I think his opinions are important, and the other guys feel the same way.”

Simpson added that McIlroy didn't want to cause “any drama or big news,” but here we are. As for the idea that some board members were uncomfortable with McIlroy's return? He didn't see it that way.

“No. I think what we should have worked on, you know, where his role is not being used properly,” said Simpson. “There are many different roles currently played by different players in different committees or us in the policy board or the business board.”

That raised an interesting possibility, then: Even if McIlroy wasn't on the policy board, could he serve on one such committee?

V. Rumors run wild

The “rumor mill” is probably wrong. There was probably truth in everything. But various golf news outlets ran with McIlroy's comments and connected the dots to suggest that the policy board triumvirate of Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods were working together to block McIlroy's appointment. If true, that would be great; Spieth replaced McIlroy in the fall after all, and Cantlay and McIlroy have a Ryder Cup and board beef that was played months ago, and Woods and McIlroy started a golf league together. A small, stuck country.

It's very hard for McIlroy, which is a fact that is seen as the strength and weakness of his appointment on the board; he is close to Fenway Sports Group, which is the core of the PGA Tour's new investment group SSG (Strategic Sports Group) and has ties to Yasir Al-Rumayyan, PIF governor and LIV chairman. Add in the fact that he is the World No. 2 and a world star and McIlroy seems like a man who can help find common ground or a man with a conflict of interest, depending on who you ask.

6. The commissioner corrected the record

Monahan made it clear that McIlroy's omission was “just a matter of following our governance process.” It was telling that he made the statement at all, and perhaps a sign that Monahan knows better than to let McIlroy twist in the wind.

Others familiar with the negotiations confirmed Monahan's account; there was a procedural error in the original program. Simpson was not allowed a conditional resignation naming a successor. That's not to say other factors didn't play a role, but McIlroy's nomination didn't make it to the official voting stage.

“Webb remaining in his position as a member of the Policy Board and PGA Tour Enterprises Board until the end of his term provides the continuity needed at this important time,” Monahan's statement continued. “We are progressing in our discussions with the PIF and working as a team – the Player Directors, our Boards and the tour management – to remain open to all ways that improve the Tour for the benefit of our players, our partners. and, most importantly, our fans.”

7. An important committee was formed

How is this done in time? Also on Wednesday, Tiger Woods was the only player named to the PGA Tour Enterprises “transaction subcommittee” to negotiate with the Saudi PIF; he will be joined by Monahan, policy board chairman Joe Gorder, John Henry of Fenway Sports Group and recent board appointee Joe Ogilvie.

Multiple sources have indicated that McIlroy is likely to join that subcommittee in some capacity despite not being a member of the policy board. That would be a reasonable compromise, as it would avoid the controversy of McIlroy's board appointments while still tapping into his vision and connections. He has made it clear that he feels a deal between golf's warring factions is the clear course of action and this could represent an opportunity to help make that happen.

But which parties want the deal to be done? And within what frameworks? As with all proverbs, you have to believe the next tangible step when you see it.

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/ The young man originally from Williamstown, Mass. joined GOLF in 2017 after two years struggling on the small tour. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and is the author of 18 in Americadescribing the year he spent at age 18 living in his car and golfing in every state.

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