The empire struck back on Wednesday, but it was too little too late.
Such is the state of the PGA Tour after commissioner Jay Monahan’s latest chess move — an act that smacked of desperation as he announced a revamped, condensed schedule that caters to the tour’s elite with more lucrative purses — in an effort to stave off the Greg Norman-led LIV Golf series.
But it never needed to come to this, because Monahan and the PGA Tour had a chance to cut off the Saudi-backed tour concept at its knees back in the fall had they been proactive.
Instead, they took an approach that can only be perceived as greedy and arrogant and now they’ve become reactive, finding themselves on the defensive.
The shame for them is that it never had to reach this stage, and this is not a good thing for the PGA Tour or, more importantly, golf.
To review: The Post reported exclusively in February that three high-level PGA Tour players along with a deep-pocketed investor made a proposal to Monahan that would have eliminated the threat of the Saudi-backed tour.
According to three independent sources — two of which were players — with intimate knowledge of that proposal, the PGA Tour squashed the alternative concept.
The concept, which was presented to Monahan in October, consisted of an eight-event team series featuring the top players in the sport that would be blended into the PGA Tour’s existing schedule. Those events would have replaced some of the Tour’s fledgling events, which the player-investor group would buy from the Tour.
According to one of the sources, the financial backer of the group, who’s already in business with the PGA Tour on its legalized gambling side, committed to invest $500 million up front to get the concept started with another $500 million to come as the concept gained jogging.
The catch: Those eight events were going to be player and investor-owned (50 percent each), and that didn’t suit the suits at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. — even though it was clear this could put an end to the Saudi LIV Golf threat.
Monahan brought the proposal to the chairman of the PGA Tour’s Policy Board, Ed Herlihy, and on Oct. 30, according to one of the sources, it was shot down by Herlihy, a powerful corporate attorney, who told the investor: “If it’s not 100 percent owned and controlled by the PGA Tour, it will be viewed as hostile.”
Think about what has transpired since then.
LIV Golf has been gaining momentum by the day as players defect from the PGA Tour. On Wednesday, Brooks Koepka, who’s ranked 19th in the world and has won four major championships since 2018, became the latest PGA Tour star to announce his involvement with LIV.
He follows Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and a number of other big names already on board cashing the Saudi checks. All three of the players who were a part of that player-investor proposal to Monahan are a part of LIV Golf.
One of the sources who was a part of the proposal said that when their financial backer told Monahan, “Jay, I believe this Saudi league is going to happen and this would be a great way to thwart it off,” Monahan replied, “ I don’t believe it’s going to happen.”
Fast-forward to Wednesday and listen to Monahan’s answer when he was asked, “In retrospect, did you or the PGA Tour underestimate the impact that the LIV Golf venture would have.”
“I don’t believe so,” Monahan said. “I’ve taken it very seriously from the outset. So, I wouldn’t … I wouldn’t suggest that I’ve underestimated it at all.”
Other than announcing the suspension of the 17 PGA Tour players who competed in the first LIV event two weeks ago in London, Monahan has been conspicuously quiet as Norman and the LIV group have poached some of his biggest stars.
That passive public approach, according to players, has been off-putting, with many of them wanting a show of strength from him.
Thus, perhaps, Wednesday’s public lashing out at LIV, during which Monahan denounced the Saudi-backed series as a “foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy the game of golf.”
He also said, “We welcome good healthy competition, but the LIV Saudi golf league is not that. It’s an irrational threat that’s not concerned with a return on investment or true growth of the game.”
Along with those fighting words, Monahan also revealed a revamped schedule that caters to the tour’s elite with some $54 million in added purses and, at least in part, resembles some that proposal presented to the Tour in the fall.
With so many top stars already having left for LIV Golf and more expected to follow, it all sounded too little, too late on the part of the PGA Tour commissioner and his superiors, who seemed so hellbent on having it all that they lost sight of. the threat they could have snuffed out months ago.