Jay Monahan struggles to defend hypocrisy claims from 9/11 families after LIV Golf merger: 'I have to own that'

The PGA commissioner said he is working to find a way to reward Tour players who did not jump to join LIV Golf

A lot of people are angry with Jay Monahan this week.

The PGA Tour commissioner, just a day after he announced a surprise merger between his league and LIV Golf, is well aware that he’s taken a hit. He was called a hypocrite to his face in a players meeting in Toronto on Tuesday, and Rory McIlroy, who has been perhaps the Tour’s biggest supporter in its battle against LIV Golf, said Wednesday morning that he felt like “a sacrificial lamb.”

Most golfers learned of the news alongside everyone else. McIlroy, who is trying to defend his title this week at the RBC Canadian Open, said he received a call just a few hours before the announcement was made.

Since then, Monahan has received a lot of criticism, both internally and externally. He held an “intense” and “heated” players meeting at Oakdale Country Club in Toronto on Tuesday afternoon. The 9/11 Families United, an organization of families of Sept. 11 victims, bashed Monahan, too.

Monahan once invoked the memory of the 9/11 terrorist attacks while criticizing LIV supporters. Reversing on that moral stance now, the group said, is deeply offensive.

Like Bryson DeChambeau did when trying to defend LIV Golf’s financial backers on CNN on Tuesday night, Monahan struggled to defend his reversal on that front.

“I think about the fact that I allowed confidentiality to prevail here. And in allowing confidentiality to prevail, I did not communicate to very important constituents, including the families of 9/11, and I regret that. I really do,” Monahan said on the Golf Channel on Wednesday.

“But as we sit here today, I think it’s important to reiterate that I feel like the move that we’ve made and how we move forward is in the best interest of our sport. We’ve eliminated those fractures. But for any difficulties I’ve caused on that front, I have to own that as well, and that comes back to communication.”

As for being called a hypocrite, Monahan is trying to own that, too.

“I understand the criticism I’m receiving around the hypocrisy and me being hypocritical given my commentary and my actions over the last couple of years,” he said. “As we went forward and reached a compromise, that was obviously one of my great considerations. But any hypocrisy I have to own, nobody else. That’s on me. It shouldn’t be directed at the membership, that should be directed at me. As we sit here today, I’m confident that we’ve done something that’s in the best interest of our sport and ultimately in the best interest of PGA Tour members.”

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan once invoked the memory of the 9/11 terrorist attacks when defending his league against LIV Golf. (AP/Chris O'Meara)

Monahan: Those who stuck with the Tour ‘will be rewarded’

There are still plenty of details to be figured out about the new golf merger. One of the biggest will be how LIV Golf defectors will be welcomed back into the PGA Tour.

In McIlroy’s eyes, that can’t just happen without any punishment.

"There still has to be consequences to actions," McIlroy said Wednesday. "The people that left the PGA Tour irreparably harmed this Tour, started litigation against it. We can't just welcome them back in. Like, that's not going to happen. And I think that was the one thing that Jay was trying to get across yesterday is like, guys, we're not just going to bring these guys back in and pretend like nothing's happened. That is not going to happen."

Though Monahan doesn’t have the answers yet as to what, if any, consequences there will be for LIV golfers, he insists that the players who remained with the Tour throughout the LIV Golf saga will be “rewarded.”

“Their loyalty will be rewarded,” Monahan said. “I’m gonna spend every single waking hour as we move forward here … that the players that have created the PGA Tour, have created this pro-competitive, legacy driven juggernaut, that have articulated and supported the direction that we are going in. Ultimately the decision we made, I believe, is going to make it better for all of our players. Loyalty, ultimately, as a leader is something that must be rewarded.

“How that manifests itself is something I’m going to spend a lot of time working on. And I think when we’re having this conversation down the road, that’s something I look forward to being more specific about."

Whether that can make up for the potentially tens to hundreds of millions of dollars players missed out on by avoiding LIV Golf remains to be seen. Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and others reportedly received well in excess of $100 million to join LIV.

While he knows it’s going to take some work, Monahan is at least hopeful he can rebuild his relationship with his players.

“There’s no question that yesterday was a setback, and I’ve had setbacks before. In terms of rebuilding the trust, it starts with having conversations like I had through the night last night and being here in the morning and talking to players and explaining to them this deal and how this is a great outcome for every PGA Tour member and the game,” Monahan said. “I don’t expect everybody to understand right off the bat. I think this is going to take some time, but I think as you look out over the horizon, I’m entirely confident when I talk to our players that that’s where I’m going to take them.”