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March 12, 2020

Jay Monahan

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

JAY MONAHAN: Okay, let me preface my remarks by reinforcing that the health and safety of our players, employees, partners, volunteers, fans, and everybody associated with the PGA TOUR is our top priority. I spoke to President Trump this morning. I spoke to Governor Ron DeSantis a few hours ago, as well. Our team is in constant communication with local health authorities in each market in which our tournaments are played, and we are tracking and monitoring the health information provided by the CDC and the World Health Organization in addition to the travel advisories provided by the U.S. State Department.

Both the White House and the Governor's office have been and are supportive of the precautionary measures we have taken to this point. It goes without saying that this is an incredibly fluid and dynamic situation. We have been and are committed to being responsible, thoughtful and transparent with our decision process.

With that as pretext, at this point in time PGA TOUR events across all tours will currently proceed as scheduled but will do so without fans. This policy starts at THE PLAYERS Championship tomorrow and continues through the Valero Texas Open. It's important to note that could change. But for the time being, this decision allows the PGA TOUR, our fans and constituents to plan, prepare and respond as events develop.

Further, the recently-announced travel advisories and potential logistical issues associated with players and staff traveling internationally limit our ability to successfully stage the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship. Therefore, we're going to postpone that event and will provide details in the coming weeks on a reschedule as the situation develops.

We will continue THE PLAYERS with essential personnel only and we will be in direct conversations with those groups from vendors to broadcasters to media to player support groups, essential volunteers, to provide instructions. This is a difficult situation, one with consequences that impact our players, fans and the communities in which we play. As I said earlier this week, we have had a team in place that's been carefully monitoring and assessing the situation and its implications for several weeks.

We have weighed all the options, and I appreciate the input and collaboration across the TOUR, our industry, our partners, and our members that got us to this point. We'll continue with that collaboration and I want to thank our fans for supporting the PGA TOUR.

LAURA NEAL: Questions, please.

Q. Somewhat knowing how this virus is transmitted, there are plenty of players on the PGA TOUR that travel commercial when it comes to airline travel. Is the PGA TOUR still comfortable with its members traveling on commercial airline and they feel that it's still safe?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, I think to the point you're making, I think so long as commercial airfare is available, as it is now, I would be comfortable and therefore I would be comfortable with our members continuing to travel commercially to markets where planes are flying, yes.

Q. How much of this decision was influenced in any way by the NBA suspending its season last night, and did you strongly consider not allowing fans coming today, even though it would have been incredibly short notice?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, it's a great question, and I think that there have been a number of announcements over the course of the last couple days, and that was one that certainly got everybody's attention. But if you go back to where we were earlier in the week, I talked about the fact that we -- here we are, we're in St. Johns County, we're working very closely -- this is where we live. So we have all the right people and resources in place here, and my daughters Sophie and Phoebe, they got up and went to school today. The businesses are open; the St. Johns Town Center is open; movie theaters are open; theme parks are open. And when we talked to those officials and they tell us that they're comfortable with us continuing to move forward with this event with fans, that's what we did and that's what we do.

But to the point you're making, when things change, and I don't know if you saw it, but Governor DeSantis just stated publicly that he is discouraging mass gatherings in the state of Florida. It's a conversation that we had earlier today. It's been preceded by a number of conversations with his office that led up to that, but we feel like as residents of this county, as residents of this state, as a business that operates here, when your governor says that, that's something that you need to follow. But it's certainly been something we have been talking about for several -- you know, throughout the point where we started to pull a team together and think about how this could all unfold.

Q. Similar to that but in layman's terms, can you explain what the difference is between the PGA TOUR which is continuing with events and, for example, the NBA, and I think I'm right in saying the MLS and other sporting bodies which have just shut down completely. Why do you feel golf is different?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, I think if you look at our venues, obviously we're an outdoor sport, we're not in a stadium, and here this week at TPC Sawgrass our players are making their way over 400 acres. And so we feel like we have, because of the nature of that and the fact that you've got 144 players here and over the course of a round our players generally do socially distance themselves, we felt like by taking this step to address the problem with our fans, we're in a position where we can continue to operate the events as of right now. And you look at there are other circumstances that led to the decisions that those leagues made that are unique to those leagues that we're not currently faced with. And that's something that we thought about and talked about, but ultimately when you break it down and you think about what's going to happen here over the course of the next three days and then going forward, we're comfortable having our players continue to play at this time.

Q. Will the fans already here be allowed to stay for the rest of the day, and at some point will you close the gates to prevent additional fans from coming in?
JAY MONAHAN: The fans that are here will be allowed to stay for the rest of the day. I think that we're going to make a public statement about our position, which is this policy takes effect tomorrow. We will be communicating through our volunteers what our position is, and as we did last night, we have offered fans the ability to refund their tickets. So any fan that is uncomfortable is going to be -- we'll refund those tickets and we're going to be as aggressive as we can in communicating where we're going, but right now we're comfortable having fans out here today.

Q. Somebody pulling into the parking lot right now, they can still get in?

Q. Will there be restrictions on players' immediate families coming to the tournament, coaches, physios, and are there any restrictions on how many members of the media can come starting tomorrow?
JAY MONAHAN: You know, as it relates to players and their constituents and their resource groups, that's something that our team is going to be communicating with the players. We're going to identify those essential people that need to be here, and then as it relates to the media, at this point in time we will not be placing any restriction on the media and your involvement here. But again, I'll just say that here we are on Thursday, it's a situation that will continue to develop, and if it develops in a way where we think we need to even change our position on that, we will do it and we'll come back in here and we'll tell you what we're doing and why we're doing it.

Q. Will this impact the charity dollars going to Northeast Florida and will it impact the subsequent tournaments that are going to have no fans?
JAY MONAHAN: There are a lot of hard parts to a decision like this, and that's certainly one of them. When you eliminate fans from a tournament, that you're eliminating a significant source of the financial underpinning of an event. So at this point in time it's early to state what the impact will be, but there will be an impact, but the spirit of this organization, the spirit of our players, the spirit of our volunteers, the spirit of everybody associated with what we do will find a way to make up for it. We wanted to focus on what's the right thing to do given the facts that we have been presented with, and we feel like that's what we have done.

Q. What changed in the decision-making process from last night until now? Can you take us through that timeline?
JAY MONAHAN: Yeah, I would say last night -- I assume you're referring to once news came out of the NBA and some of the other decisions. I think at that point in time going back to what I was saying about what's unique about our sport, we have felt like and where we are right now and all of our conversations with all the constituents that are the experts, that we were in a position where we could continue to operate this event with fans. In fact, we still feel like we could, but we have a responsibility. We're playing here over the next four days or three and a half days and then we go to Tampa, and then we go to Austin. So we needed to look at where we are now, and we needed to think about what are the implications in the weeks ahead and what are all the different ways that this situation could develop. And we felt like as hard as it is with this being our biggest championship, it was the right time to lead, to make a decision that we think is the right decision, not only for this week but in the weeks that follow, and that's something that candidly we debated through the night and all morning long and it was -- I want to stress that while we're debating it, the beautiful thing about where we were based on the planning we had is we were able to call on all the right people to get really good informed decisions as it relates to the virus itself, but also people across our industry that we know are also going to be affected by this decision.

Q. Why not just shut down entirely for the next several weeks, and was that ever contemplated?
JAY MONAHAN: Well I think, yeah, we contemplated everything and, again, we feel like based on where we are right now in St. Johns County, we feel that this is a safe environment in which to continue to move forward with a tournament of 144 players with limited personnel on-site, and we're comfortable that this is the right path forward, but that is something that we'll continue to consider as we go forward.

Q. Other sports, the way they're reacting to it, is there any sense that you feel any pressure to not be alone as the one that's still playing?
JAY MONAHAN: Yeah, I think it's natural to feel pressure to do what others have done. I think you have to look at what's unique to your sport relative to what others have done, and I think our sport is unique, particularly given the venues where we host our tournaments. So I would say that for us it was -- looking at the fact that we can be here over 400 acres, that we don't feel like there is a -- we were supported by the health and government authorities, that we were in a position where we could continue confidently to stage this event with our players here at TPC Sawgrass, and we feel at this point looking into the weeks ahead we're in the same position.

Q. So there were a couple questions earlier about whether it be the NBA, the NCAA or even the MLB for that matter, do you have any plans to communicate with said leaders or even leaders of the European Tour in terms of the future, and if so could you outline for us the steps and the process that could potentially take place in terms of communicating with those figures and coming up with a plan?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, I would tell you that this is THE PLAYERS Championship, so every major golf organization in the world was here this week. We have been in contact with them over the last several weeks. They're our partners. I could go down the list; I think you know who they are. And we have been sharing our thinking as it's progressed, including our thinking last night, our thinking this morning, with each of those organizations, and we have had the benefit of understanding how they're thinking about this. And I'll leave it to them to talk about within the game of golf how they're going to handle their tournaments, how they're going to handle their tours and then similarly as it relates to other leagues, I've been in touch with a number of the leaders from the major professional sports leagues and that has helped inform our own decision, because in talking to them you understand how they're thinking about it in a way that's unique to their business, can talk about where we are and what's unique to ours and I've had the benefit of a lot of good input over the last several days, including the last 24 hours.

Q. One last thought. I know you talked about talking to President Donald Trump, and I know he's had an impact on the TOUR, whether it be his presence at Doral and in terms of other golf activities and events, so to speak, have you ever leaned on him in the past and could you just take through some of the things that you talked about with him in terms of this event?
JAY MONAHAN: Well we certainly leaned on him in the past. He was the host of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National and obviously as an avid enthusiast for the game itself, I've had a chance to talk to him a lot about where we are as an organization and where we are as a game. But in this specific instance I was just flattered that he would take the time to have a conversation, for me to be able to share how we're thinking about this to get the benefit of his input as we were going through our thinking this morning. And that's been something that I have valued and will continue to value.

Q. This may be a little bit trivial at the moment, but has there been any discussions with your TV partners to maybe expand live coverage at all because fans won't be able to get in or anything of that sort?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, since we have every player, every shot live, I don't think there's more we can do on that front, but I would -- we have been, and it's a great question because I think it's emblematic of all the conversations you need to have. And so Pete Bevacqua and his team have been here all week, was on the phone with him late last night, on the phone with him this morning, talking about not only how we're thinking about it, but how the way that we're thinking about it has implications on his business and on our partnership. And I don't want to put words in Pete's mouth, but part of the reason that we are here today with this statement and with our other media partners is that they all agree that this is the right way for our sport and for the TOUR to move forward.

Q. How will the TOUR handle or address monitoring and/or testing with the players, staff, etcetera?
JAY MONAHAN: At this point I think we are working with local health officials. If a player and/or individuals that are close to the tournament feel like they have symptoms or don't feel well and want to be tested, we have a protocol in place with our volunteer force and with local medical authorities to make that happen, and that's something that we're continuing to work with to make certain that we have all the resources in place going forward to address that situation if it were to intensify.

Q. Did you have a chance to speak to any of the players through the players' committee, and if not will you do that going forward?
JAY MONAHAN: You know it was, we have had a chance over the last several days to speak to members of our board and some of our players that serve in our governance, but the reality is that for us, we're talking about late in the evening and early in the morning of the first round of one of the biggest events of the year. So our players, I think, have confidence -- I know they have confidence in the way that we think through situations like this and how we prioritize their health and safety, as well as that of all the constituents, including yourselves.

So we will now that we get through -- when we get through the day today and we start to think about the coming weeks, we'll involve our board. We'll involve all the members of our leadership team from a player standpoint to continue to evolve our thinking.

Q. It seemed like one player in the NBA testing positive kind of prompted them to make their decision. I'm wondering if that were to happen here -- I know you don't want to speculate, but what would it take to reassess this policy of continuing the tournaments but just with no fans?
JAY MONAHAN: You know, I think there are a lot of different circumstances that are going to cause us to continue to look at where we are and whether we adjust where we are, where we're going and whether we should be making further changes. Again, that's -- I don't want to speak to another sport and other circumstances. I don't have all the facts of what led to that decision, but in our case we're looking at what we have, and that's what has led us to not only make this decision about the next three days here at THE PLAYERS but in the coming weeks. And I think it gives us the flexibility to adapt and I think that's an important position to be in.

Q. This has considerable affect on Europeans, too. Those who are from Europe can't necessarily get here, those who are here want to go home and wonder whether they can come back, could you address that side of things? How important a consideration was that or were they?
JAY MONAHAN: Well we're a global membership, 93 players from 28 countries. And we're considering every single member and every single decision that we make and the fact that there is now a travel ban from Europe to the U.S. obviously has implications for several of our members. We think that playing this tournament, playing for the rest of the week and being a partner to every single player on our TOUR so that we can help educate them, provide the right resources, help identify what are some of the things that are concerning to them and can we address them is the mentality that we take into the rest of this day, into this day, the rest of the day and going forward. So it's a great point. It's one of the areas that's particularly challenging, but we're committed to making sure we do the right thing.

Q. Have you been in discussion with Augusta at all about what you're doing, and do you have any idea of what they're thinking?
JAY MONAHAN: I have been in frequent discussion with Augusta, and I'll leave it to Augusta to share their thinking when they're prepared to share their thinking. But they have been a great partner, a great -- helpful to us as we have been thinking through this over the last several weeks.

Q. For fans who may be watching this at home, what will be the specific process to receive refund for this weekend's tickets and then other events moving forward?
JAY MONAHAN: You know, I think that's -- I would like to be able to answer every single question here, but as it relates to a specific process, what I'll commit to you is we will be posting that on our website, if it's not already, and we're committed to providing refunds to those people that are not going to come out here as a result of the decision that we made last night and the decision that we're making today.

Q. Last night the Florida Department of Health announced that a person is in isolation here in St. Johns County who was visiting from New York State. When the TOUR become aware of that information and what, if any, impact did it have on the thinking last night in terms of having fans out here today and the rest of the week's decisions?
JAY MONAHAN: You know, in terms of being made aware of that, we were made aware of that essentially around the same time that everybody else was, but we have been preparing for that. You've seen it happen in markets throughout the world. So part of our thinking here is that that is something that we have to assume was going to happen, it actually did happen, but this is the step that we would have taken in either instance, given how this situation has developed.

Q. Just on a personal nature, we are thinking all the same, but how shocked are you personally that this has got so far, this pandemic, and you're sitting here now making this decision?
JAY MONAHAN: I would say that going back a couple weeks ago we actually talked about this scenario, and at the time I didn't believe it would be happening right here right now. I thought as you looked at the way that it has developed in other markets that we might be in this situation several weeks down the road. But I am really proud of our team; we're prepared to be here, so shock is not a word I would use because you plan for things like this. But it's hard, it's difficult and there are a lot of people that are trying to figure this out here at this event and all over the world.

Really what you need to do when you're leading through a situation like this is make sure that you're listening, you're responding, you're doing everything you can to protect all constituents that have such an important hand in what we do out here every single week, and I really feel like that's what we have done and I promise you that's what we'll continue to do.

Q. Can you estimate what percent of the revenue for this event comes from the gate including impact on people that are expecting to go to sponsors' events?
JAY MONAHAN: It's significant. I mean it's -- I don't want to get into the specifics of our revenues, but we talk about over 200,000 people here over the course of the week, when you talk about the incredible support we get from Optum, Morgan Stanley, Grant Thornton, the hundred plus companies that are not only here this week but support this tournament over the course of the year, all the charities that are here that use this as an opportunity to raise more money. I mean the implications are far reaching than just the money that is generated from the ticket and from the hospitality, and that's something we're proud of because of the impact the tournament is having, but now that's something that we're going to have to have to deal with, but we're going to do that.

LAURA NEAL: Thank you, Jay. And as Jay said, we're committed to keeping you updated so we will come out with an update either by tonight or at this time tomorrow morning as the situation develops, so we'll keep you posted there. Thank you, Jay.

JAY MONAHAN: Thanks, everyone.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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