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March 13, 2020
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
JAY MONAHAN: Good morning, everyone. We're obviously incredibly disappointed to suspend the PGA TOUR's season for our players and our fans. I've said all along, the health and safety of everyone associated with this organization is our number one priority. We tried to be as thoughtful and measured as possible during this dynamic and challenging time. We took all the steps within our control and felt comfortable proceeding.
I'm proud of the team. And I'm a fighter. I wanted to fight for our players and our fans and for this TOUR to show how golf can unify and inspire. But as the situation continued to escalate and there seemed to be more unknowns, it ultimately became a matter of when, and not if, we would need to call it a day.
Our goal now is to focus on a plan for the near and long-term and maintain the strength we've built through our organization over the past 51 years, and I'm confident we'll do exactly that.
Q. What changed? What was the biggest change from noon to basically 10:30 IN the decision?
JAY MONAHAN: Yeah, if you go back to where we were yesterday, we continued to talk to all the -- talked to local health officials, talked to government officials, all the constituents we had been talking to to make sure we were as aware and as informed as possible.
But I think as you went -- and we took all the steps to make certain that if we were playing today, we were playing in a safe environment. We had minimized the number of people that were going to be out here. If you listen to what the governor had said yesterday in his press conference, we weren't going to have more than 250 people in any one location. And we, along with Andy Carroll, the head tournament chairman, had taken all the right steps.
But when you get to -- when we got to late in the day and players came off the golf course, and to some of the questions that we received here yesterday, particularly from international players who were trying to figure out -- had a lot of uncertainty, trying to figure out what they do with their family, how they get home, how they get their families here, and just uncertainty for a number of players generally. That coupled with the fact that, as I said yesterday, we're talking about THE PLAYERS Championship, but we're also talking about a number of events going forward, when you looked to that moment in time where you have two theme parks that are located between Jacksonville and Tampa cancel, to me that really was the thing that was the final -- that was the final thing that we had heard that said, you know what, even though we feel like we have a safe environment and we've done all the right things, we can't proceed, and it's not right to proceed. And when you use doing the right thing as the litmus test, to me that was the final -- those two things together were really the things that drove the decision.
Q. How vocal were the players coming off the golf course? And will the PGA TOUR make sure that each player is tested? How will that process work?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, listen, our players are always vocal, and we were proactive in trying to share with them our thinking over the course of the day and as they came off the golf course and late into the evening. We're fortunate in that the strength of our relationship is our players are very comfortable sharing with us how they feel. And I'll tell you, there's a good number of players that wanted to do exactly what I said, which is to use this opportunity to unify and inspire and get out on the golf course. We felt very comfortable with the environment we were going to create out here.
But ultimately, as I said, there were some players that were concerned. That's something that we took into consideration and took very seriously.
But there are a number of factors. You know, you go to -- this is our Super Bowl. This is the biggest event of the year for us, and we're here and we're playing it. You know, unlike a lot of other decisions that are being made, they're being made in the weeks to come. And we just felt like, you know what, given all those factors, it was time to move on.
And as it relates to testing, you know, that's something, you go back to early in the week or into the weeks preceding this, I've talked about the fact that we essentially stood up a business unit of people that were focused on this issue, and right now there aren't enough tests out there. And so the responsible thing to do is to make certain that the tests are being used appropriately, and if we wanted to test everybody out here, we might be testing -- we might be pulling away from that -- might be taking away from that.
So we pulled back off of that. And if anybody in our ecosystem, our players, our employees, anybody is feeling like they're in any way compromised, we'd certainly recommend and help them do anything we can to help them get tested, but right now that's certainly not the case.
Q. What will be the process in determining when you do return to playing? And secondly, any regrets on the decision to play and allow fans yesterday?
JAY MONAHAN: I would -- in terms of the process, I would say give us a little bit of time, right? We've made the decision, we're stepping back, we're not playing. We've communicated that with all of our tournaments in the markets coming up. And I think we need to do a couple things right now. We need to really think about -- when you think about the DNA of this organization, think about the livelihoods that have been affected. The livelihoods of our players, the livelihoods of our employees, the livelihoods of the charities, and the economic impact we have in all the markets we play, out here, you think about all the vendors, all the service organizations that support these tournaments, we've affected a lot of lives.
But the one thing that this sport does better than any other sport is it uses a moment like this and it turns it into a positive.
So as we step back and we think about when we're going to play, we need to do all the things that led us to this decision. We need to continue to understand what's happening on the ground in the markets where we would be returning to play, continue to work with our partners in those markets, continue to understand what's happening with the CDC and the World Health Organization, and then ultimately that will guide our decision. We're going to make sure that we protect the safety and well-being of all of our constituents as we make that decision.
And as it relates to any regrets, you know, I go back to -- think about this: What has transpired has really transpired in a matter of 24 hours. We were at a reception on Wednesday night, and I got a text that the NBA had suspended play. And we felt like at that point in time, given, as we had talked about on Tuesday, we had taken all the right steps and we were comfortable playing.
So at 11 -- later that night, we determined that, one, we were going to proceed, we were going to play, we were going to continue to follow the path that we were on. And then as it relates to fans, we wanted to -- we had taken a number of precautionary steps. We were going to come in yesterday and we were going to do everything that we had done that preceded that, which is, let's continue to stay close to this, and if we need to make adjustments, we will.
So we quickly determined that we were not going to have fans today and through the weekend. I was really proud of the plan that we have in place. And ultimately we used the day to get as much information as we could to make the right decision, and we made the decision, and we're obviously not playing today and we're not playing through the Valero Texas Open, and it's a really hard decision.
But listen, anytime you make a change to a decision that you originally made, there's an element of maybe we could have done that earlier. But I continue -- and we talked about this as a team last night, you go back to what was your decision-making process, how committed were you to it, and what was the criteria that caused you to change. And for me I'm very comfortable that we made the right decision at the right time -- or made the right decisions at the right time over the course of the week.
Q. Jay, two questions if I may: Firstly, to what extent did the strong stances of other sporting bodies, in particular that of Mike Whan, force your hand and make you realize this was a bad look for the PGA TOUR to carry on? And secondly, why was postponement not considered as an option?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, on the first one, we worked very closely with all the golf organizations. In fact, Mike was here on Wednesday, and we were sharing our respective plans. And I don't want to speak for Mike, but I was very aware of the fact that two of the three events he had on his schedule were going to be canceled.
But you have to go back to everybody has a different set of facts that they're looking at. So in his case, he's about to resume play on the LPGA Tour, and he has players from throughout the world are making a decision about whether or not they're going to get on a plane and come to Phoenix and play. And as he said in his note to the membership and as he said to me, he just -- that just didn't feel right to him, and he wasn't comfortable with that. And I commend him for that.
For us, we're here. Our players are here. Everybody is on the ground. This is our Super Bowl. We were making decisions in real time about what happens this week, with an eye towards what happens in the coming weeks. So we made a decision for this week. We were prepared to execute going forward. And as I said earlier, I think that we made the right decision as we started to get more information over the course of the day.
But you're influenced by all the information that you're receiving, but what you're really influenced by is what led to that decision. And I'm fortunate as the leader of this organization, or I feel fortunate, that we have relationships with all the great organizations in golf and all the great organizations in sport with our U.S. Government, with our county, and ultimately that was the basis for the decision that we made.
And your second question?
Q. Why was postponement not considered as an option, rather than altogether cancelling it?
JAY MONAHAN: You know, it was considered. It was an option. It's something we identified early on in this process if we got to this point.
But when you make a determination that you're cancelling tournaments through the Valero Texas Open, we obviously didn't complete round 1, and we really don't have -- we really don't have a purview into how this is all going to develop, we felt like the right thing to do was cancel.
Q. Kind of an odd question given the players are independent contractors, but is there any plan in place to compensate them over the next four weeks, three and a half weeks?
JAY MONAHAN: There is not a plan in place to compensate them. I will -- I'm sure the question is coming, but as it relates to this week, our regulations stipulate that if you complete one round of a championship, we pay 50 percent of the purse. We almost completed one round of this championship, and we will pay 50 percent of the purse to our players equally distributed amongst our players. And I think as we go forward, we have to consider everybody here. And our focus is going to be with our players on how we use this moment in time to inspire the communities where we won't be playing, inspire when we get back in when we're playing, and make sure we use the strength of this organization to do good here and ultimately get back to this unbelievable platform that we have that's going to get stronger as we go through this challenge.
Q. Have you made any plans to reschedule this event later in the year? I know your weeks are slammed together, you really don't have a week when you could do it, but is that a possibility?
JAY MONAHAN: It's not a possibility. As you look into the rest of the season, we have -- tournaments in every market are well on their way towards planning their events, to fundraising. You've got charities just like we have here that are counting on those events. And we feel like it was our opportunity to potentially play this week. It didn't happen. And we're going to continue to go forward with the schedule that we've outlined and hopefully we can get back and play as soon as possible.
Q. After the round was over last night, Rory McIlroy talked about -- not only did he talk about the possibility of players being tested, he also mentioned the fact that he didn't want to possibly give this coronavirus to his mother who had respiratory issues. How much does hearing comments like that also push you a little bit closer to making the decision that you did, considering this is the No. 1 player in the world?
JAY MONAHAN: Yeah, listen, I think anytime you have -- all that influences you. And you heard that from him. I heard that from several other players. So it's the totality of what players are feeling and your ability to sense the pulse of the organization that leads you to make that decision.
These are the best players in the world. They're all here. But you also have to understand, we all have to look at the big picture, as our players have done here, and you understand that a lot of people are feeling that way. And that uncertainty ultimately led us to a place where we made the decision that we made, which is it's not right to be out here, it's not right to be playing, even though we feel like we've created a safe environment, and we don't have any reason to think that anybody that would be out here has the coronavirus. The fact that everybody is questioning -- or asking questions like that, though, is something you have to take very seriously, and we did.
Q. As you've been saying, this has been a TOUR decision, but on a personal note, how much sleep have you been getting these last few days? And also, how emotionally draining has it been for you as the leader of the PGA TOUR?
JAY MONAHAN: You know, who cares about my sleep? But I haven't gotten much.
You know, I love our players. I love this Tour. I love our charities. I love our volunteers. I love everything that we do. And as I said up front, while we wanted to do everything we could to play our Super Bowl, we also wanted to be smart and rational about how we were thinking about it. And so to cancel it is a really hard decision. You know, it's gut-wrenching. It's not gut-wrenching necessarily for me, but as I said earlier, when you're affecting so many people's livelihoods, that weighs heavily on you. I look out at everybody here. What are we all doing over the next five weeks? And that has to weigh heavily on you and it did weigh heavily and it will weigh heavily on me, but at the same time it's going to inspire me. I know it'll inspire our players, it'll inspire our tournaments. Like I said, golf is the great unifier and equalizer, and we have a lot of good to do here.
Q. Two questions, if I may: The first one, just to clarify, even though the first round wasn't completed, $7.5 million is going to be equally distributed between the players that teed it up this week?
JAY MONAHAN: You said it better than I did.
Q. Rarely does that happen. Secondly, you are in contact and have been in contact with the CDC, the WHO, the President of the United States, so best-case scenario, when could golf start up again?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, I guess at this point, given the fact that we're canceled through -- we're not playing through the Valero Texas Open, it can happen in the weeks that follow. That's all I know at this point in time. And we're going to continue -- obviously, you have the Masters tournament, and they're going to make their decision. And we have to start working very closely with our friends in South Carolina and beyond to really, as I said earlier, understand all the facts and get ourselves ready to be playing the tournament, and we're going to operate as if we are and have been operating as if we are from this point forward.
Q. Did you inform the Masters of your decision last night?
JAY MONAHAN: We've been in close contact with every single golf organization, sharing a lot of information and sharing our thinking as we've gone through the process. And obviously informed the whole world last night.
Q. I realize this is a lower priority, but what about the title sponsors of the next three events? Is it automatic that they get another year on their deals? Do you have to talk to each one of them? Obviously there's impact locally for all of them.
JAY MONAHAN: You know, the -- I think what you'll see in the weeks ahead is a demonstration of the strength of our business model and the strength of the partnerships that we share in that our sponsors where we won't be playing, in all of our discussions with them, they want to make sure that we partner to do the right thing, and in not playing, make a big impact on the communities that we're vacating in the coming weeks.
We have been in contact with all of them over the last several weeks. Certainly that intensified over the last 48 hours. They're fully supportive of the decision we made. They had proper input into the decision we made. And now it's on to, okay, how do we address and help the communities that we vacated. Hold us accountable to that because we're going to do some great things.
Q. THE PLAYERS has had a tremendous economic impact on northeast Florida and St. Johns County in particular. Are there plans to work with local charities and local businesses and staff and vendors and others to mitigate some of the economic impact made by the decision to cancel the rest of the tournament?
JAY MONAHAN: The answer to that is yes. And in the short-term, just to give you a sense, I believe Billy Horschel, I was told is here. He's in the back. Hello, Billy.
Billy is ambassador for Feeding Northeast Florida, and obviously we've prepared to have over 200,000 people here on property and won't. So one of the things that we're quickly going to get to work on is how do you take all the food supplies that we have here and put them to good use for our community, and that's something that we're going to do immediately.
We have -- you look at Andy Carroll. Andy is here in the back. He's our tournament chairman. And Andy, thank you for your incredible leadership. We were talking yesterday, the Red Coats, the Blue Coats, they are the heartbeat of this community. We're going to continue to work with them to make sure that we've identified all the things that we can do to support the charities in this community. And as it relates to economic impact, we have the platform of THE PLAYERS Championship, we have the foundation of the PGA TOUR being here. We take our commitment to this community very, very seriously, and we're going to get to the work at hand to make sure that we continue to help our community as everybody tries to make their way forward here.
Q. Are you aware of any players, caddies, staff, anyone who has either been tested or contracted the virus?
JAY MONAHAN: I am not.
Q. C.T. Pan was the one player who mentioned -- withdrew from the tournament because of the virus. Did you have a chance to speak with him? How much of an influence, if any, did having one of your players feel that strongly about the virus impact your decision?
JAY MONAHAN: You know, I did not have the chance to speak to C.T., but I was in the room with Andy and Phil Marburger when after C.T. had made the decision, they were talking about his decision and what we could do to support him. Obviously we respect and support his decision. Players have to make decisions that are in their best interests. That's what he did at that point in time, and we stay close to all of our players and stay close to all of them throughout the course of the day.
The second part?
Q. Not that it's that relevant, but will he be compensated among the players that actually did tee up versus him not?
JAY MONAHAN: He did not compete in the tournament.
Q. The players will be compensated and half the prize pool will be shared amongst them; there's a huge number of staff involved in putting on these events who rely on this to make a living. Will they be compensated, as well?
JAY MONAHAN: That's a -- to your point, there are a lot of people in constituent groups, but as it relates to running our golf tournaments, I would just tell you that while we're not hosting the tournaments, these tournaments are -- they're foundational and they're community assets and community treasures, and all the people that work at our tournaments are going to use this to help their communities and start planning for next year's event. So yeah, they will be -- my expectation is that the staffs will continue, they'll proceed and do everything they can to help those communities, and we're going to be their partner in that process.
Can I say one more thing? So the one thing I do want to say is that, in closing, as we're so close to what's happened here and the effect it's had on the TOUR and all of our tours and tournaments, golf is the greatest game on the planet. There are a lot of golf courses in this country. There are a lot of people that are in this business, in this industry that make their living through this game, and I hope that everybody as they go through this uncertain time gets an opportunity to get out, play golf, be outside, support their PGA of America professional, support this game, be inspired by this game.
Of course, everybody needs to think about what's happening in their local marketplace, but I want to make sure that not only are we inspiring the communities where we play, but hopefully people are inspired to continue to use this game to get through a challenging time, and that's what we're going to encourage people to do.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports