PGA TOUR commissioner Jay Monahan pulls no punches over Mickelson and rivals at THE PLAYERS

One topic dominated the questions and answers when Monahan spoke to the media at the tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra.

Right from the get-go PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan set out his stall, opening his press conference ahead of THE PLAYERS Championship with the words: "We are, and always will be, focussed on legacy, not leverage."

It was a pointed retort to Phil Mickelson, the 45-time winner on the circuit, whose flirtation with the Saudi Golf League fell to pieces in such spectacular fashion last month.

Alan Shipnuck of The Firestop Collective reported Mickelson saying: "They're scary motherf**kers to get involved with. We know they killed Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay.

"Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates. They've been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse.

"As nice a guy as (Monahan) comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won't do what's right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage."

Support for the Saudi project evaporated almost immediately and Mickelson has taken time away from the game to lick his wounds, but his reputation has been tarnished and, unsurprisingly, his relationship with Monahan has too.

The affair lingers on and today's press conference was much anticipated.

The world's very top players are said to remain unsatisfied with the share of PGA Tour riches, those further down the chain are also chuntering in the background, and Greg Norman continues to flex his Saudi-boosted muscles.

The hornet's nest has been poked and the buzzing hasn't stopped.

What, we wanted to know, would Monahan have to say? He began with that jab and here are the pick of the rest of his thoughts.

His introduction

"I wanted to take a moment to address all of the news, discourse and conjecture lately about the world of professional golf.

"I'd like to emphatically reiterate what I told our players at our mandatory player meeting two weeks ago at the Honda Classic.

"The PGA TOUR is moving on. We have too much momentum and too much to accomplish to be consistently distracted by rumours of other golf leagues and their attempts to disrupt our players, our partners, and most importantly our fans from enjoying the TOUR and the game we all love so much.

"I am grateful for the strong support our top players have shown recently and publicly, and I'm extremely proud that we've turned the conversation around to focus on what we do best: Delivering world-class golf tournaments with the best players to the best fans, all while positively impacting the communities in which we play. We are and we always will be focused on legacy, not leverage.

"You saw it a few weeks back with Joaquin Niemann winning the Genesis Invitational, a historic venue in Riviera Country Club, huge crowds following his every move and Joaquin receiving the trophy from tournament host Tiger Woods, the player who literally inspired him to take up the game. Those are personal moments that cannot be replicated at any price.

"History shows that the PGA TOUR is bigger than any one player. Arnold and Jack both expressed that thought throughout their careers, and Tiger echoed that very sentiment in December and at the Genesis Invitational when he said, the PGA TOUR will always be his home.

"So there is no better place than at the home of the PGA TOUR to reiterate our focus and promise to our fans and our players. Let's move on."

Woods and Palmer
Woods and Palmer

On the threat of legal action by Greg Norman and LIV Golf Investments:

"Listen, our PGA TOUR rules and regulations were written by the players, for the players. They've been in existence for over 50 years. I'm confident in our rules and regulations, my ability to administer them, and that's my position on the matter. I can't say it any more clearly, that that is: we're confident in our position.

"What's most important is if you look at the PGA TOUR today, and you've heard me say this before, we're going to grow faster over the next 10 years than we have at any other point in our history. Our players have spoken. They are 100 percent behind the PGA TOUR. They have expressed their loyalty and commitment in their own unique ways."

On the current situation with Mickelson

"I think that as it relates to Phil, you said it; the ball is in his court. He has said that he's stepping away and he wants time for reflection. That's something that I and we are going to respect and honor.

"When he's ready to come back to the PGA TOUR, we're going to have that conversation. That's a conversation I look forward to."

On Rory McIlroy suggesting the Tour could be more transparent on disciplinary matters

"He just said that? I would just say effective immediately, Rory McIlroy is suspended. (Laughter)

"No, listen, Rory is a member of our policy board. He's a player director. That's something that has been raised in the past. It's a criticism that has been lobbied against the PGA TOUR through the years, and I think we always have to be open to evolving. That's something that we are open to."

On Mickelson accusing the Tour of "obnoxious greed" and Norman suggesting bullying of players

"I think people know me and they know how I play and how we operate and the values that we stand for, and I don't think there's any question that that's not how I operate. I haven't had a lot of people ask me about it because people know me. I'm right here."

On any on-going threat to the circuit

"I think I've said this before. I wake up every day assuming someone is trying to take my lunch. That's the way I operate. That's the way we operate as a team."

READ MORE: THE PLAYERS Championship: 2022 form report of the world's top 12 ahead of the fifth major

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