Tim Finchem leaves Jay Monahan a robust PGA Tour, maybe even a bloated one that presents too many management issues. Still, Finchem's now-official retirement on December 31st comes a few months sooner faster than some expected based on his comments, and while there is time for Finchem to wrap up whatever projects he has been telegraphing as priorities, the schedule would seem to indicate time is running out for him to accomplish much.
Jeff Babineau at Golfweek.com outlined his thoughts on what Monahan faces, and here are the priorities in my view:
--Television future. Expect the PGA Tour to exercise an early opt-out of its CBS and NBC deals soon, with a renegotiation of terms that would kick in for the start of next fall's 2017-18 start. The current Golf Channel cable deal is locked in until 2021, but some changes in weekend coverage of PGA Tour events may be possible in this renegotiation. Such an opt-out would be risky considering that the sports rights fee bubble has burst, golf is expensive and cumbersome to cover (ask Fox), and golf's largely older demographic is not ready to log onto Twitter, YouTube or even PGA Tour Live to watch a live feed of the Shriner's final round. Monahan can use the opportunity to consider another partner besides the two he has and ask for telecast upgrades in technology, but he also risks upsetting two very powerful media companies. Maybe Monahan has been ushered into the Commissionership to play good cop to Finchem's final-move, bad cop opt-out cop? Big bonuses are at stake, but with Finchem having stocked the Policy Board with cronies and PGA Tour employee/PGA of America President Derek Sprague, his exit will be a well-compensated one and Finchem won't need to be signing up for Obamacare anytime soon.
--Schedule. PGA Tour players are asked to compete all summer, then show up in the playoffs before "enjoying" maybe a week or two off before returning to a full schedule (or risk falling way behind in Cup points, ranking points, or re-shuffle status). In 2017, the late season schedule may have only one week off up to Thanksgiving. So while the Commissioner's job is to provide playing opportunities, the long term pacing of the schedule makes little sense for players, fans, sponsors or TV partners.
--FedExCup. There still has been no renewal with the playoff sponsor. This was assumed to be (one of) Finchem's final pet projects. Perhaps the FedEx deal is done and terms will be delivered to the networks on opt-out day. Or maybe a FedEx renewal is not done and this will dictate a more-comprehensive-than-expected re-thinking of items one (TV deal) and two (schedule).
--European Tour. As partners in the PGA Tour's WGC events, will Monahan let them have their moments or turn up the heat with an eye to squelching Europe's tour? Chief Exec Keith Pelley and Finchem have very different views of the game, with Pelley thinking about things like night golf, while Finchem still thinks the PGA Tour's greatest charm is the sight of players taking off hats to shake hands. Monahan seems like he falls somewhere in between the two extremes. Will he take his eye off the core, most highly-rated product--domestic PGA Tour golf in the winter and spring--to expand internationally, all just to squelch European Tour power? Will it lead to him not dealing with a different rival few saw coming, say, a Formula One-style team concept?