“A work in progress.” That’s how PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan described his biggest challenge to date.
He was referring to himself.
Monahan on Wednesday revealed that anxiety-induced “mental and physical health challenges” precipitated his decision to take a leave from his day-to-day duties with the tour for slightly more than a month. He further admitted that it was not a certainty that he would return, but “I was fully committed to the process of coming back.”
“I realised that I need to step away and deal with that and to develop the skills to deal with that going forward,” Monahan told a small group of reporters during a one-hour roundtable interview in the clubhouse at TPC Southwind, where the FedEx St. Jude Championship kicks off the playoffs Thursday morning. “Ultimately, you can’t wait when you’re in a situation like that, and I needed to deal with it. I needed to deal with it for my family and for myself. That was a very hard thing for me.”
The PGA Tour announced June 14 that Monahan was taking a leave of absence for an undisclosed medical situation. That occurred eight days after he announced the surprise framework agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund that was met with general shock by most players. Monahan, 53, said that stress that had been building up over a period of time contributed to his condition as opposed to a single event.
For more than a year, the tour had been fending off a challenge from the upstart LIV Golf League, funded by the PIF, that has resulted in defections of several high-profile players and ultimately a number of costly lawsuits. The deal Monahan revealed on June 6 with PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan included a dismissal of all legal proceedings.
Monahan returned to work July 17. He met with about two dozen players on Tuesday at TPC Southwind and first and foremost told them, “I am healthy, I’m energised, I’m ready and I’m moving the PGA Tour forward.”
He had no hesitation about stepping back into the high-pressure tasks that come with being the tour’s commissioner.
“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.
“Anxiety affects everybody differently, and it had been affecting me. I realised the position I was in said this is the right time to take care of myself. I’m a work in progress.”
Monahan was gratified that the most common question players have been asking him is about his health. “Every player has not started off with a business question, but a personal question, and that means a lot to me.”
“It’s definitely good to have him back,” said Scottie Scheffler, ranked No. 1 in the world and No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings as the playoffs begin Thursday. “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.”