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In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Golf Aus­tralia mag­a­zine, PGA Tour Com­mis­sioner Jay Mon­a­han talks about his global vi­sion for the Tour, at­tract­ing so­cial me­dia au­di­ences and the im­por­tance of a healthy Tiger Woods.

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In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Golf Aus­tralia, PGA Tour Com­mis­sioner Jay Mon­aghan talks about his global vi­sion for the Tour and the im­por­tance of a healthy Tiger Woods.

When Jay Mon­a­han took over the role of PGA Tour Com­mis­sioner in Jan­uary of 2017, his pre­de­ces­sor, Tim Finchem, who was in charge of the tour for 22 years, de­scribed the Ir­ish­Amer­i­can as ‘‘ab­so­lutely the right guy” to re­place him and “so ready to go that he had to get out of his way”. For sure, if Mon­a­han needed any more pres­sure in fill­ing the shoes of a man who presided over the Tour’s most pros­per­ous pe­riod ever, he got it. The 46-year-old’s path to the top of the Amer­i­can golf scene is in­trigu­ing but sim­i­lar to the ones trod by those be­fore him. Join­ing the PGA Tour in 2008 from Fen­way Sports Group, where he was in con­trol of sales, Mon­a­han’s first move was to be­come Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship, the PGA Tour’s flag­ship event. Two years later he took the role of Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent for Busi­ness Devel­op­ment be­fore be­com­ing Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent and Chief Mar­ket­ing O‹cer in March 2013 and then Deputy Com­mis­sioner to Finchem the fol­low­ing year.

With an ar­ray of skills and ex­per­tise gained from work­ing in a num­ber of di’er­ent po­si­tions within the PGA Tour, it’s fair to say walk­ing into the Com­mis­sioner’s hot seat, Mon­a­han was

well equipped for the chal­lenges he would face. How­ever, now, 15 months in, has the po­si­tion lived up to the billing?

“There aren’t many sure things in this world, but my an­swer to this ques­tion would be that I’ve loved ev­ery as­pect of the job,” he told Golf Aus­tralia. “Even the big­gest chal­lenges – find­ing so­lu­tions for com­plex prob­lems – has been en­er­gis­ing.

“I feel I was well-pre­pared to han­dle this po­si­tion, hav­ing served un­der one of the great com­mis­sion­ers in sports, Tim Finchem. But, ul­ti­mately, it’s not about me, it’s about we. We have an out­stand­ing team in place that will help take on the many chal­lenges go­ing for­ward. I cer­tainly will en­joy that in the fu­ture.”

One of the chal­lenges fac­ing Mon­a­han, and in­deed, the world of golf at the mo­ment is find­ing ways to at­tract new fans to the game from home and, more im­por­tantly, abroad as the bat­tle to cap­ture the leisure time of mod­ern sports fans be­comes a harder and harder task.

Over the years the PGA Tour has al­ways been viewed as a con­ser­va­tive Tour, whose in­ter­ests pri­mar­ily lie in ex­pand­ing its in­flu­ence in Amer­ica, first and fore­most, rather than around the world. How­ever, to­day, the PGA Tour has oŒces in London, Bei­jing and Tokyo. It has feeder Tours in China, South Amer­ica and Canada, and hosts tour­na­ments in Mex­ico, South Ko­rea, Malaysia and the Do­mini­can Repub­lic. It seems glob­al­i­sa­tion is some­thing the PGA Tour is now keen to em­brace and use to its advantage.

“When you ex­am­ine what’s go­ing on across the sports land­scape – NFL games in London, NBA games in China, MLB teams have opened their sea­sons in Ja­pan – you might sug­gest that golf is fol­low­ing suit,” Mon­a­han says. “But golf has al­ways been a global sport, con­sider the mil­lions of miles flown by Gary Player, the Aus­tralian Opens won by Jack Nick­laus and Arnold Palmer or Sam Snead’s his­toric tour across South Africa.

“Those play­ers were a pre­cur­sor to where we are to­day, a world­wide mem­ber­ship with 84 mem­bers from 25 coun­tries out­side the United States, with tour­na­ments broad­cast to more than one bil­lion house­holds in 226 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries in 23 lan­guages. With fur­ther in­vest­ment in tech­nol­ogy, we will con­tinue to en­gage our fans through­out the world in new and cre­ative ways.”

As Mon­a­han al­ludes to, the PGA Tour in re­cent years has put a lot of its fo­cus into a new dig­i­tal ap­proach with the aim of al­lur­ing more fans around the globe. As well as launch­ing PGA Tour Live, a sub­scrip­tion-based dig­i­tal plat­form ser­vice, and form­ing stream­ing part­ner­ships with Twit­ter, the Tour has also delved into other ways of en­hanc­ing the fan ex­pe­ri­ence.

For ex­am­ple, last year, Tour rules were al­tered which al­lowed play­ers to stream videos and post pho­tos dur­ing prac­tice rounds and pro-am events on ap­proved so­cial me­dia plat­forms to help them build more of a rap­port with their fol­low­ers. While, at The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship, on the iconic 17th hole, Vir­tual Re­al­ity, a com­puter-gen­er­ated sce­nario which makes you feel as if you are stand­ing on the course as the ac­tion un­folds, was used for the first time ever and deemed a huge suc­cess.

As the Euro­pean Tour and its chief ex­ec­u­tive, Keith Pel­ley, have in­tro­duced new ini­tia­tives in the form of short and ex­cit­ing tour­na­ments like World Su­per 6 Perth, GolfSixes and the Shot Clock Masters, it’s clear Mon­a­han and the PGA Tour be­lieve the key to ap­peal­ing to younger view­ers lies in dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion rather than re-for­mat­ted golf.

“We have em­braced the dig­i­tal world, but I’d sug­gest it’s to ap­peal to a wider fan base, not just younger ones,” Mon­a­han said. “The re­al­ity of to­day’s world is hard to dis­miss; peo­ple of all ages stay con­nected not only to fam­ily and friends through so­cial me­dia and dig­i­tal plat­forms, but also to sports, news and other forms of en­ter­tain­ment.

“More and more of our fans are watch­ing and track­ing our tour­na­ments via PGA Tour Live, Twit­ter, Face­book, In­sta­gram, and Snapchat, they are stream­ing broad­casts on their phones and so our de­ci­sion to go all-in is a pru­dent one. Em­brac­ing so­cial me­dia and dig­i­tal is im­por­tant for har­vest­ing young fans, yes, but also for pro­vid­ing more op­tions for our core fans.”

Al­though dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion is one way golf is try­ing to en­tice new fans, the long-term re­turn of ar­guably the game’s most in­flu­en­tial player, Tiger Woods, would un­doubt­edly be the big­gest fil­lip golf could ever re­ceive in stim­u­lat­ing in­ter­est in the sport.

In­deed, with some broad­cast­ers re­port­ing view­ing in­creases as high as 30 and 40 per­cent

I FEEL I WAS WELL-PRE­PARED TO HAN­DLE THIS PO­SI­TION, HAV­ING SERVED UN­DER ONE OF THE GREAT COM­MIS­SION­ERS IN SPORTS, TIM FINCHEM. – JAY MON­A­HAN

when Woods is part of the field, and tour­na­ments trend­ing con­sid­er­ably higher on so­cial me­dia like­wise, it’s ev­i­dent that a resur­gence by the 14-time ma­jor cham­pion would bring back the fans who left the game, when he fell into de­cline, and po­ten­tially in­spire new ones to get them­selves ac­quainted with golf.

Cer­tainly, af­ter so many failed at­tempts in the past four years, Mon­a­han, for one, is keep­ing his fin­gers crossed that 2018 is the year Woods can sus­tain a suc­cess­ful come­back.

“The fas­ci­na­tion with Tiger Woods re­mains,” Mon­a­han says. “He is a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion tal­ent, so what’s not to love about hav­ing him back healthy?

“But I think Zach John­son said it best when he told re­porters in Hawaii that he thinks this young gen­er­a­tion of star play­ers de­serve the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence the thrill of com­pet­ing against an in-form Tiger Woods.

“Keep­ing within that frame­work but ex­tend­ing it to the new gen­er­a­tion of golf fans who’ve come on line in the last five years – they, too, are ex­cited about see­ing for maybe the first time this in­cred­i­ble ath­lete in good health. We all know his im­pact on golf.”

Even with the ab­sence of Woods in re­cent years, when Mon­a­han took over as Com­mis­sioner, he in­her­ited a Tour in great health with as­sets to­tal­ing more than $2 bil­lion, tour­na­ment purses worth mil­lions of dol­lars and play­ers per­form­ing in front of huge au­di­ences.

The dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives and glob­al­i­sa­tion moves of the Tour, which Finchem set in stone and Mon­a­han is now look­ing to take fur­ther, have been im­ple­mented to en­hance the suc­cess of Amer­i­can golf in the past two decades or so and se­cure its pros­per­ity for the long term.

How­ever, Mon­a­han knows that the fu­ture of his Tour will ul­ti­mately be de­ter­mined by the next gen­er­a­tion of play­ers, the qual­ity of their game and how they ap­peal to sports fans around the world. For­tu­nately, for him, with the likes of Jor­dan Spi­eth, 24, Justin Thomas, 24, and now Jon Rahm, 23, break­ing through, on the sur­face, at least, it looks like he may just have the mar­ketable stars he needs.

“In our 2016-17 sea­son, 28 of our tour­na­ments were won by play­ers in their 20s – and 20 were won by those 25 or younger,” con­cludes Mon­a­han. “As we start the 2018 por­tion of this sea­son, six of the top 10 in the Ošcial World Golf Rank­ings are PGA Tour mem­bers in their 20s; the three you men­tion, plus Hideki Mat­suyama, 24, Rickie Fowler, 29, and Brooks Koepka, 27.

“For a va­ri­ety of rea­sons this is great for the vi­tal­ity of the game. These are young stars who have the abil­ity to con­nect with fans – they’ve grown up with the so­cial me­dia land­scape and un­der­stand the dy­nam­ics in play – how they are build­ing their own brand and grow­ing the game glob­ally.

“Plus, they play an ex­cit­ing style of golf that that young fans em­brace. The fact that the line of great, young play­ers stretches far deeper than the six names men­tioned here in­deed gives me rea­son to love our PGA Tour fu­ture.”

Mon­a­han says the PGA Tour will con­tinue to em­brace new tech­nol­ogy in the dig­i­tal world.

Mon­a­han says a fit Tiger Woods is wel­comed back with open arms.

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