Column: Tales From The PGA Tour In A Year Mostly About Money And Surprises

More than six months have passed since PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and Yasir Al-Rumayyan of Saudi Arabia’s national wealth fund appeared publicly for the first time.

It was in a television studio, not a federal courtroom. That was the first surprise.

They spoke of a proposed business partnership, which no one saw coming because negotiations had been held in secret. Even now, no one is sure where it will lead. Tiger Woods used the word “murky” to describe how he envisioned the immediate future of golf’s landscape.

As for the immediate past? Money was at the center of almost every conversation, from $20 million purses to how much it would take to lure a top player to LIV Golf ( Jon Rahm won’t say ).

But the game marched on inside the ropes (too slowly for some) and provided new major champions, new stars and plenty of memories for this year’s version of “Tales from the Tour:”


The Genesis Invitational was the perfect place for a photo opportunity, and not just because Tiger Woods was making his first start of the year.

Riviera Country Club is hosting the golf competition when the Summer Olympics return to Los Angeles in 2028. It just so happened the last two gold medalists — Xander Schauffele (Tokyo) and Justin Rose (Rio de Janeiro) — were in the field. They brought their gold medals, and then another Olympian showed up to join them.

The golfers didn’t immediately recognize freestyle swimming great Janet Evans until she reached into her bag and removed a small pole holding the four gold medals she won in Seoul in 1988 and Barcelona in 1992.

“Hang on,” Evans said, reaching into the bag again to get her silver medal. Schauffele was born a year after Evans competed in her last Olympics. It didn’t take long for him to realize he was in the presence of Olympic fame.


Monahan was in the breezeway at Bay Hill, fresh off a seven-hour board meeting that reshaped the structure of the tour. Adam Hadwin walked by and asked him what came out of it. Monahan assured him good news was on the way.

“For everyone?” Hadwin asked.

Even then, there were concerns that a new schedule would be lucrative mainly for the best.

Another player who sought out Monahan was more interested in soccer’s Premier League. It seems Monahan had arranged match tickets for Callum Tarren when he was home in England. Tarren was thankful for the assist and shared all the drama of the day, mainly dealing with boisterous fans when they left the stadium.

By year’s end, Tarren was among 21 players who signed a letter to the PGA Tour board demanding details of all proposals from potential private equity investors because they felt they had been left in the dark.

Tarren was among only six players who signed the letter who had full cards for 2024.


Wyndham Clark was long on pride, short on history. The subject was his 3-wood to the par-5 14th in the final round of the U.S. Open, arguably the best full shot of the year.

“My caddie thinks it’s one of the best shots in U.S. Open history, just considering how tough the shot was, and then under the circumstances,” Clark said.

The target on this 282-yard shot was an opening about 8 yards wide, and Clark nailed it. The ball settled 20 feet from the hole, and the two-putt birdie gave him a three-shot lead with four to play. “It won me the U.S. Open,” he said.

A few months later, the debate was on. John Ellis, his caddie, felt it should be recognized as one of the greatest shots ever in the U.S. Open. Asked for another candidate, Ellis and Clark mentioned Corey Pavin hitting 4-wood into the 18th at Shinnecock Hills to all but clinch victory in 1995.

Left out of the conversation of full shots that day was Ben Hogan’s 1-iron into the 18th at Merion in 1950, Jack Nicklaus and his 1-iron off the pin at the 17th at Pebble Beach in 1972 and Arnold Palmer driving the first green at Cherry Hills to start his historic comeback in 1960. It’s unlikely that 20 years from now Clark’s 3-wood will be mentioned in the same breath.

But he’s the U.S. Open champion. That was enough.


Monahan finished playing golf one afternoon in late May with a group that included two of his leading executives. It was a round just like so many others, followed by a trip to the grill room for a few beers and conversation.

Monahan wasn’t pleased with his putting that day. He got a tip from a former tour pro, and on his way to the parking lot he sneaked back out to the 18th green to practice. It was another example of the passion for golf and the endless pursuit to get better.

This stood out only in hindsight. The proposed deal with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia was about a week away from being signed. No one would have any idea what was about to happen. A month later, Monahan took a leave of absence from sheer exhaustion.


Nothing brings out creativity like links golf, and Cameron Young illustrated that during his first look at Royal Liverpool on the Sunday leading into the British Open.

Paul Tesori, his caddie, wanted to see how he could handle having to hit out of a pot bunker left-handed if the ball settled close to the steep side. Just short of the 18th green, he dropped a ball in the soft sand and handed Young a lob wedge.

Instead of getting into the bunker, Young stooped over and swatted it with one hand on the club. He clipped it with so much topspin it climbed up the face and onto the green. It was one of the more remarkable shots of the week that didn’t count. And perhaps that’s why Young tried it — because it didn’t count.

He never faced that predicament during the tournament, which was probably a good thing. Young did try the left-handed swing. He caught all sand, no ball.


The British press was as fascinated with Brian Harman’s life on the Georgia farm during his performance at Royal Liverpool. Over three days, he regaled them with stories about hunting pigs with a bow, learning to skin a deer when he was 8, hunting and harvesting an elk in Colorado and packing his freezer with wild game.

There was more conversation Sunday about his new tractor than his 5-iron into the wind for his first birdie of the final round.

One Scottish writer set the tone for the week. He had read about Harman being so disappointed by missing the cut at the Masters that he killed a pig and a turkey. So after Harman tied the 36-hole record at Hoylake, the writer posed a question rarely heard at a major.

“I take it the sheep and the cows are safe around here at the moment, are they?”


Justin Thomas had one round left in an otherwise tough year. He asked his caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, if he was leaving for home in Arizona after the final round of the PNC Championship in Florida. Mackay figured the last flight out would be cutting it too close. He was planning to leave on Monday morning.

The next day, Thomas sent Mackay packing after 16 holes of the final round so he could catch the last flight. Thomas had arranged for his father-in-law, visiting from Chicago, to be ready to work, and Bruce Wisniewski took over the bag.

It wasn’t just for the holidays. That Sunday also was the birthday of Mackay’s wife. He caught the last flight to Phoenix.