Any questions about whether the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour were united in their battle against LIV Golf – and there have been plenty of questions in recent weeks – were answered Tuesday with the announcement that the two tours have significantly enhanced their working relationship while extending it for 13 years.
While both commissioners – Jay Monahan of the PGA Tour and his European counterpart Keith Pelley – said the announced changes were part of a previously outlined long-term vision, they conceded that the aggressive efforts of LIV Golf hastened the strategic changes.
“While this closer collaboration between our tours was always in the road map of our strategic alliance, it’s pretty obvious to say the current situation in golf has significantly accelerated that process. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that is not the case,” Pelley, the CEO of the DP World Tour, said in a video conference with media on Tuesday.
A week after Monahan detailed significant changes to the PGA Tour’s structure, including the dramatic escalation in prize money at select events, Tuesday’s announcement clarified where the DP World Tour stands now and going forward. There was a school of thought that Pelley might opt to join forces with the Greg Norman-led, Saudi-funded LIV organization, especially since Pelley had remained quiet as rumors swirled.
“Our joint operational partnership with the PGA Tour gives us a degree of security that is almost unimaginable. Simply put, we are stronger together.” – Keith Pelley
Instead, Pelley said after receiving a briefing from LIV Golf officials on their concept in July 2021 in Malta, the DP World Tour never received a formal proposal from the group and had no further conversation with them after the July meeting.
Last September, Pelley said his tour’s board decided against pursuing the LIV idea. It was not as financially sound, Pelley said, as an earlier proposal offered by the Premier Golf League which the tour also rejected.
“Our joint operational partnership with the PGA Tour gives us a degree of security that is almost unimaginable. Simply put, we are stronger together,” Pelley said.
So what does this mean?
For the PGA Tour, it means it won’t be left to fight LIV Golf on its own, and it expands the competitive canvas for players.
From a business standpoint, the PGA Tour will now own 40 percent of European Tour Productions, up from its original 15-percent stake when the alliance was announced in November 2020, expanding its global footprint.
For what was called the European Tour, the top 10 finishers in the 2023 DP World Tour rankings (in addition to those already exempt) will earn PGA Tour cards. That’s a big addition for the DP World Tour, which also has guaranteed annual growth in prize money over the next five years, coming off record prize money in 2022.
Players on the Sunshine Tour and the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia also will benefit by direct pathways to the DP World Tour.
“The most important thing that we can do in the context of the current environment is create the strongest possible platforms, and that’s absolutely what we’ve done,” Monahan said.
When asked whether the tours considered a merger, Monahan and Pelley said they did not. They will continue to operate as separate entities with shared commitments to each other.
“We’re on a journey here as two organizations,” Monahan said. “I think the PGA Tour and DP World Tour coming together in this manner is just the right manner at the right time.”
To that end, the two tours will continue to set their own disciplines regarding members who have left to play LIV Golf events. The PGA Tour has indefinitely suspended those players, while the DP World Tour fined and suspended for three events players who teed it up in the inaugural LIV event in London earlier this month. Pelley said a decision will be made later this week about DP members who play the LIV event in Portland, Oregon, that begins Thursday.
There are no plans to add more co-sanctioned events. The first such event will be the Genesis Scottish Open next week where 14 of the top 15 players in the world rankings are scheduled to compete, and a number of DP World Tour members are expected to play in the Barracuda Championship and, later, the Barbasol Championship.
The PGA Tour also announced a change in how players advance from the Korn Ferry Tour to the PGA Tour. The top 30 KFT players will earn PGA Tour cards, and another five will earn tour cards through Q-School, which will be reinstated in 2023 after being abandoned in 2013.
Through this year, 25 KFT players will earn PGA Tour cards through the regular season and another 25 will earn tour cards through the three-event KFT finals. That number will be reduced to 30 overall and the finals will have enhanced purses, giving players the opportunity to move up the points list.
“It leaves me perplexed when they talk about their aspiration to grow the game, yet nobody really can explain to me how that works.” – Keith Pelley
This doesn’t put an end to the challenge presented by LIV Golf and its deep-pocketed pursuit of players. It does, however, allow the two tours to close ranks in the battle against a group that Pelley suggested might have been treated differently had it offered a different approach.
When Golf Saudi was offered a chance by the then-European Tour in 2019 to invest in the Challenge Tour, which feeds the bigger tour, the group turned down the opportunity.
“It leaves me perplexed when they talk about their aspiration to grow the game, yet nobody really can explain to me how that works,” Pelley said. “And I would have thought that a Challenge Tour and our Challenge Tour feeder tour into the DP World Tour would have been a perfect avenue. Unfortunately Golf Saudi has elected to play outside the ecosystem. They play inside the ecosystem in Formula 1; they play inside the ecosystem in Premier League Football and as they do in women’s golf.
“I’ve been consistent that if in fact they are interested to play inside the ecosystem and not launch a rival tour that I think is detrimental to the game at large, then I personally, from DP World’s perspective, would be open – and they know that – to having a conversation. “That’s why there has been no conversation since the summer of 2021, because they are convinced and they seem compelled to play outside the ecosystem as opposed to inside.”
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