When Jay Monahan spoke with the media Tuesday at the Players Championship about the current state of PGA Tour Enterprises and the future of professional golf, something crystallized for me in a way it had not previously. That it took me this long to clearly see the chessboard may be evidence of my own naivete, but at least I got there eventually.

Every faction within the PGA Tour is essentially at war.

Some people are trying to survive, some people are trying to gain territory, and some people are losing territory and desperately trying to protect it. No one wants to be deposed, everyone wants to save face, and everyone wants to stay rich.

The PGA Tour Policy Board can’t agree on how to finalize a deal with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia because they can’t agree on how their own house should be run. The players are locked in a class war with each other. The board of directors and the Tour’s new investors think the players are mostly rubes and naifs in matters of business. The money people want everyone to wake up and start figuring out ways to earn a return on the billions they invested in a flawed product.

In the middle of that war is Monahan, a man who — despite making a litany of mistakes over the last several years, which he again copped to on Tuesday — still somehow managed to earn a promotion amidst all this.

If you’re a consumer of pop culture (as I am), it might sound like a season of Succession. But everything we’ve gathered, after talking to dozens of people, suggests the boardroom squabbling on Tour has far more in common with the plotlines on Veep. Much like with modern politics, the clash of egos and everyone’s thirst for power ultimately creates a stalemate, and in turn protects the status quo. Monahan hasn’t needed to be successful to keep his job, he’s just needed to keep players divided into various factions, insulating himself from being removed.

When Sky Sports reporter Jamie Weir asked Monahan directly if any of the player directors on the policy board had asked him to resign at any point during the last nine months — something that happened in December, multiple sources told No Laying Up — Monahan did his best to dodge the question without giving a straight answer, pivoting quickly into a string of corporate word salad.

“You know, there's been a lot of good spirited debate amongst our board. I don't think that would be a surprise to anybody, you know, given the events of last summer,” Monahan said. “But we are a unified front. Our Policy Board continues to perform and function at a very high level with great support of our player directors, and the formation of PGA Tour Enterprises, with a new board, a new board comprised of four members of SSG, seven players, or six player directors and Joe Ogilvie, who is a liaison director, myself and Joe Gorder, who is the independent director serving on that board. I'm excited to work with both boards. For me, honored to serve as commissioner and now be a member of the PGA Tour Policy Board, and also honored to be CEO of PGA Tour Enterprises and be a part of that board, and committed to working with each of those boards to make sure we're moving this business forward and achieving what we can achieve to its full capacity.”

To be fair to Monahan, he was dealt a difficult hand two years ago when the Saudis showed up on the scene and started handing out money to economically-anxious golfers, but that doesn’t mean he’s handled any of this well. In poker terms, it was like he folded 15 hands in a row, then went all in with ace high, even though it was obvious he’d be called. I talked to a Tour player at Riviera this year who was still pissed that Monahan never even took a phone call from the Saudis when this whole thing started. And when the PGA Tour recruited the 9/11 families to be part of their PR campaign, then turned around had Monahan smiling next to Yasir Al-Rumayan on CNBC, it felt like one of the most hypocritical moves in the history of sports. At a time when the PGA Tour desperately needed a galvanizing leader, he has managed to make every public appearance feel like he’s on an earnings call with analysts and shareholders, trying to put a good spin on another tepid quarterly report.

“There are always things when you look back that you would do differently,” Monahan said Tuesday. “Obviously when you look back to last summer I could have handled that better, and I've taken full responsibility and accountability for that. That's on me. But we've moved on, and we've made so much progress since that point in time and I have learned from it. I've been humbled by it. I think I've gotten stronger as a leader.”

Monahan does have a handful of sympathetic allies within the membership. It would be unfair to say he is universally disliked.

“You look at what Jay has done since he took over,” Rory McIlroy said. “The media rights deal, navigating us through COVID, the strategic alliance with the DP World Tour. I would say creating PGA Tour Enterprises, we were just able to accept a billion and a half dollars in the business. People can nit-pick and say he didn't do this right or didn't do that right, but if you actually step back and look at the bigger picture, I think the PGA Tour is in a far stronger position than when Jay took over.”

Another PGA Tour player texted me Tuesday when I asked for his thoughts on Monahan: “He’s actually great in person, but really struggles in front of cameras. You should see the patience he shows with guys like Grayson Murray. Almost Buddha like.”

But for the most part, reviews from players have been lukewarm at best.

“Trust is something that's pretty tender, so words are words, and I would say in my book he's got a long way to go,” Xander Schaffele told reporters Tuesday, when asked what level of confidence he had in Monahan. “He could be the guy, but in my book, he's got a long way to go to gain the trust of the membership. I'm sure he's got the support of the board, since they were with him making some of those decisions, but for me personally, he's got quite a ways to go.”

When Monahan was asked by Adam Schupak of Golfweek how he felt about Jon Rahm saying he’d lost some faith in leadership, and that was part of what led to his departure to LIV, Monahan was both curt and dismissive, refusing to even say Rahm’s name.

“I'm focused on every single member of the PGA Tour,” Monahan said. “I'm focused on The PLAYERS Championship this week. I'm focused on the great season that we have ahead, and we have made tremendous progress with the SSG agreement that we have, putting ourselves in a position to invest back in our Tour, invest back in our fans, and I'm going to focus on the things that I control and we are as an organization and we are as a leadership team and we are as a board, so that's when I'm focused on.”

When Schupak tried to follow up, asking for clarification, Monahan was noticeably annoyed.

“I just answered your question about what my focus is,” he said.

It was the most tense moment of the morning and left the most pressing question unanswered: What is stopping other players from joining LIV? It’s certainly not their confidence in the commissioner.

“As a leader of an organization, I will want a person like that to take some ownership and say, hey, we made a couple of mistakes, but this is how we're going to rectify it, instead of kind of sweeping it under the rug, which I felt like has been done to a certain degree,” said Viktor Hovland. “So I don't mind people making mistakes. We all make mistakes. But I think when you make a mistake you got to own up to it and say, hey, we're trying to do better here, and this is how we're going to do it.”

The players aren’t helpless bystanders here. They share blame for some of this mess, in part because they can’t form a unified front. Many of the top players want to cap fields around 100 (or less) and force those on the outside to scratch and claw their way into the upper class. And then there are additional factions within those two tiers, like the players who would be willing to let LIV stars like Rahm and Brooks Koepka play in Tour events without suspensions or financial penalties — the idea being that it’s what’s best for the overall product — and those who are furious over the idea.

Scottie Scheffler, typically a measured voice who rarely gets animated, gave a thoughtful but pointed answer Tuesday when asked how he felt about fans getting frustrated that the game can’t be unified.

“I think we're trying to do our best to create the best product for the fans, but we can't control whether or not guys want to leave,” said Scheffler. “If guys want to go take the money and leave, then that's their decision. I'm not going to sit here and tell guys not to take hundreds of millions of dollars. If that's what they think is best for their life, then go do it. I'm not going to sit here and force guys to stay on our Tour. But at the end of the day, this is where I want to be, and we're continuing to grow what we're doing, and what they're doing is not really a concern to me.

“If the fans are upset, then look at the guys that left. We had a Tour, we were all together, and the people that left are no longer here. At the end of the day, that's where the splintering comes from.”

It’s hard to talk about Monahan’s job performance without acknowledging the tangled web of relationships that exist at the corporate level of the PGA Tour.

SSG, the new investor in PGA Tour Enterprises, is fronted by The Fenway Sports Group. Monahan was an executive vice president at The Fenway Sports Group before he was named commissioner of the PGA Tour in 2017. (He’d also worked at the Tour in various capacities, including as the executive director of The Players Championship.) He was recommended for the job by Seth Waugh, who was at the time the CEO of Deutsche Bank, but is now the CEO of the PGA of America. He went to Trinity College with Sam Kennedy, the CEO of The Fenway Sports Group and president of the Boston Red Sox. The PGA Tour’s vice president ranks are also rife with various Fenway Sports Group alums.

Without seeking player input, Monahan worked with Jimmy Dunne and Ed Herlihy to negotiate a framework agreement with Yasir Al-Rumayyan and the PIF, and Dunne and Herlihy, in addition to being PGA Tour Policy Board members, are two extremely influential members at Augusta National. Some players have been starting to wonder: What are Dunne’s and Herlihy’s motivations in all this?

Even if every decision made during the past year was done in the best interests of the PGA Tour membership, it’s hard not to wonder about the conflicts of interest, and what role they play.

I used to think Phil Mickelson was a kook for implying a web of conspiracies ran the PGA Tour, but when you think about that list of entanglements, or you see PGA Tour policy board members like Peter Malnati, Webb Simpson and Adam Scott nab sponsor invites to signature events, it’s hard not to ask the question: Is this appropriate?

The SSG/Fenway proposal was, according to several sources, one of a dozen proposals the PGA Tour Policy board considered, and the players on the advisory board reached an initial consensus that the Tour move forward in a partnership with the consortium Friends of Golf, backed by billionaires Henry Kravis and George Roberts. But in the end, multiple players splintered off and supported the SSG proposal instead. The proposal Monahan backed ultimately won out, which left a bitter taste in the mouths of some players.

Most of the membership, one player told me, feels like Monahan “continues to fail upward.”

Near the end of Monahan’s press conference, he pivoted away from a question about whether he felt signature events were working and went on the offensive, listing off a series of changes the Tour has made that he wanted to be recognized as accomplishments — moving The Players Championship to March; negotiating with Netflix to have PGA Tour players participate in Full Swing; making gambling a normal, sanctioned part of the sport; forming an alliance with the DP World Tour; transitioning the business to a for-profit entity; creating the signature events series and dramatically increasing purse sizes. And he’s right, those moves do feel significant.

But it’s also true that many of them were done with a whiff of desperation, not in the spirit of innovation. After years of making virtually no changes, the PGA Tour began to scramble once it became clear the status quo wasn’t sustainable.

Is Monahan good at his job? The easy answer is no. Fans are frustrated with the product, ratings are down, sponsors feel squeezed, and the future of the Tour is unclear. But it also depends on who you ask. Some players feel like he’s doing his best in a difficult situation. Monahan shared a story about an encounter with British Open winner Brian Harman earlier that day that made him proud.

“I'm walking in the parking lot today,” Monahan said, “and Brian Harman pulls up in his truck and says he needs to speak to me, and we walk up towards the clubhouse and he says, ‘You know I meant to reach out to you last week,’ he said. ‘These Signature Events are awesome. Everything about the competition and the infrastructure and putting us in the position where we can play at the highest level, it's just, I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I'm at these events.’ ”

Patrick Cantlay took a far more measured approach when asked if Monahan still has the board’s full support.

“I think it's very important that we're all rowing in the same direction, and right now he's definitely our leader, and so it's important that we're all doing our best,” Cantlay said.

The player directors may have wanted different leadership. All signs, public and private, indicate that they did. But they couldn’t outmaneuver him, and now they have to find a way to work with him. Monahan’s one unquestionable strength — cultivating relationships with other powerful people — means he’s going to be in charge for the foreseeable future. If this mess is going to get cleaned up, he’s ultimately going to be the guy who has to do it.

“I am the right person to lead us forward,” Monahan said. “I know that. I believe that in my heart, and I'm determined to do exactly that.”

Judging by how the past two years have gone, it’s difficult to feel optimistic.