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Podcast 120: PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan on Keeping Golf Safe in Pandemic & Partnership with WHOOP

April 20, 2021

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan joins our podcast for a wide-ranging discussion about golf navigating the pandemic, optimal performance, and the Tour's groundbreaking new partnership with WHOOP.

By Will Ahmed

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Jay Monahan is an impressive figure in the sports world. Thanks in large part to his steady-handed leadership, golf was the first pro sport to return last summer during the pandemic. The PGA Tour paved the way for other leagues to return in the following months and set a successful precedent for how to continue playing in unprecedented times.

But it wasn’t easy. The Tour dealt with a number of positive COVID-19 tests shortly after returning to play. When Nick Watney’s WHOOP captured an elevated respiratory rate that warned him of his infection, the PGA immediately procured 1,000 WHOOP Straps to help keep players, caddies, and staff members safe.

Now, WHOOP is the Official Fitness Wearable of the PGA Tour. This partnership not only helps players perform at their best and stay healthy on Tour, but it will change the way golf fans consume the sport. We’ll soon be showing you players’ heart rate and biometric data during the biggest moments of the season. You’ll see a WHOOP Live of a pressure shot and be able to watch how that moment affected the golfer in real time.

And for each WHOOP Live we feature, we’ll donate $10,000 to that player’s charity of choice.

Jay discusses what charity means to him and how it’s core to everything the PGA Tour does, how golfers on Tour are more focused on health and performance than ever before, and the global impact of Hideki Matsuyama’s win at the Masters.

Stay healthy and stay in the green!


PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan Podcast Show Notes:

3:10 – Hideki Matsuyama’s Masters Win. “It was a magical week and what an exciting victory and momentous victory for Hideki Matsuyama,” Jay says. “Knowing how much it meant to him, how much it meant to his country and how much it meant to the game, for all that to come together at once was pretty powerful. It’s a power that’s going to stay with us for some time. That’s a moment we won’t forget.”

4:28 – Paying Respects to the Golf Course. Will and Jay discuss the viral image of Matsuyama’s caddie paying respect to Augusta National with a bow following the victory.

5:49 – Impact of Golf. “I love the values of our sport. I love the fact that it’s a sport of a lifetime. I play it, I work in it, and so many people I know and love play the game. I just think that this game does so much for the communities where we play and for so many worthwhile charities. The purpose of what we do, that’s conveyed through the game, is incredibly powerful. I think the world has responded very well to that and the world needs more of it, and we have the perfect set of athletes that represent that.”

10:47 – Golf During the Pandemic. “Our sport was front and center for a period of time [in 2020] when other sports weren’t available to people. In many respects, and the numbers bare it out, it’s been a renaissance for our game. It was not the way you want it to get there, but I think by acting responsibly, it’s certainly been great for our game. Our players deserve a lot of credit for that.”

13:22 – Nick Watney. Jay and Will reflect on the PGA Tour’s first positive coronavirus test, Nick Watney at the RBC Heritage Tournament in Hilton Head last June. Nick noticed a significant increase in his respiratory rate, which led to him getting tested and withdrawing from the tournament to keep others safe (Episode 80 of the WHOOP Podcast). “I remember exactly where I was when I heard [about Watney’s respiratory rate warning]. That’s how significant a moment it was.”

18:58 – Health and Performance in Golf. “I think when you look at our players, as a collective, their focus on health is constant. Understanding their bodies, understanding how they optimize their performance both from a health standpoint and from an on-golf-course standpoint, that’s a never ending exercise. That’s a never ending pursuit.”

22:45 – Data for Athletes. “I think those [players] that are now on [WHOOP] are continuing to learn day-to-day, week-to-week. Everybody’s body responds differently and everybody has different patterns to the way they operate. They have to find what works best for them. It’s hard to do that in the absence of data.”

27:11 – WHOOP Live for Charity. WHOOP and the PGA Tour will implement a WHOOP Live initiative for charity that will highlight players’ heart rates and other biometric data in real time during defining moments of the season. Golf fans will be able to follow these videos on social media at #WHOOPLIVE. “The amount of pressure and the amount of stress that these guys are under I think is going to be extremely compelling to fans,” Jay says. “It gives you a more direct connection and it humanizes what’s actually happening to [players] in those moments.” WHOOP will donate $10,000 to a players’ charity of choice when their moments are highlighted during the season.

29:10 – A Commitment to Charity. “Making a meaningful difference in every community where we play is the heartbeat of this organization and it goes back to our origin,” Jay says. The PGA Tour raised more than $200 million for charities in the 2019 season and $160 million in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

31:29 – Sleep Consistency. “For me, I like to go to sleep no later than 10 o’clock on any given night. I find that when I do, even if I have to get up earlier, my numbers will be better over time than if I start getting into inconsistent patterns. I have purposely gone out of my way to create more structure about how I get to manage my sleep, which ultimately affects my recovery.”


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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.