It is a proud claim along Wentworth Way and in the vicinity of the DP World Tour headquarters. The BMW PGA Championship is regarded as the premier competition there, at the headquarters of the former European Tour. is, and has been for a while. However, a change in terminology is unquestionably necessary given the competitive nature of international golf today. At least for this year, “battleship” could be a better word to describe this $8 million gathering of the rich and famous from the Old World.
19 players who have committed to the LIV Golf series will compete there the next week, joining tour veterans like Rory McIlroy, Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland, and Jon Rahm. It is a situation that is almost certain to incite strife between two factions that have thus far shown little to no interest in reaching an amicable agreement. Deep black and brilliant white are the only colours present, with no hint of any grey in between.
Only this week, DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley singled out the so-called rebels for less-than-special treatment. These players are permitted to compete in DP tournaments at least until a court challenge to the tour’s penalties and suspensions is heard in February of next year. Pelley made it plain in a message sent to members that while the LIV competitors won’t face any unfair tee times or other on-course competitive disadvantages, “they will not be required to play in the pro-am on the Wednesday and will not be in TV featured groups.”
Pelley made the following request in a separate message that was only sent to the “naughty 19”: “We would please ask you to consider avoiding wearing LIV Golf-branded items during your participation at Wentworth out of respect for our partners, our broadcasters and your fellow competitors.”
It’s a tough reality that contrasts greatly with the much-heralded togetherness and friendliness that have long distinguished European Ryder Cup teams. Longtime regulars like Patrick Reed, the former Captain America, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, and Sergio Garcia are suddenly unwelcome in what was once their home away from home.
One DP World Tour player who preferred to remain anonymous says, “I’m not disparaging of anyone who has gone to LIV.” “I would go if I was offered a few million pounds. However, I wouldn’t act snarkily on social media. The players are disappointed by this. It has turned into a personal matter.
Oh yes. After winning the Tour Championship last week, McIlroy expressed his feelings in some inevitable well-reported words. The Northern Irishman, who won the 2014 BMW PGA, said, “It’s going to be hard for me to stomach going to Wentworth and seeing 18 of them there.” “I abhor it. I genuinely do.
Strong words. But do they represent the general and predominant attitude of the DP World Tour’s more rank-and-file participants? Following his triumph at the Tour Championship last week, McIlroy’s remarks centred almost entirely on the PGA Tour and its ongoing dispute with LIV Golf. The four-time major champion’s home circuit, which is still considered to be so at least technically, was not mentioned. No mention was made of the transatlantic strategic partnership between the PGA and DP World Tours, however.
Scotsman David Law, who is placed 41st in the season-long Race to Dubai, finds it odd that Rory made no mention of the European Tour. “It would have been lovely to learn that one of the 20 top events next year will be, say, the Scottish Open. If we are truly in a strategic alliance, that would be extremely advantageous for us. However, they are fulfilling their promise as long as they have assured us of our prize money for the following year and given us the chance to obtain one of the ten available PGA Tour cards. Nothing more than what has already been agreed upon is required of them.
However, not everyone is as optimistic about the agreement that saw the Europeans select Americans as their economic partners rather than Saudi Arabians. There are still questions, even if the alliance promises record prize money over each of the next five years and a “changed” DP World calendar in 2024.
Westwood admits, “I’m quite concerned for the European Tour. But I have been explaining how this is all going to play out to Keith and other board members for the past 12 months. I informed him that it was a mistake to partner with the PGA Tour and form a strategic relationship. In Ponte Vedra, I met with Keith and Jay [Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner], and I listened to what they had to say. I didn’t enjoy it. What business or organisation, after all, gives away its top ten assets annually? That is never done, especially to a rival or business rival. Currently, the European Tour serves only as a feeder tour. even if Keith refuses to acknowledge that.
Strong words once more. However, Westwood is not the only one who has issues with Pelley’s selection.
According to a European Tour source, “strategic alliance” is merely a word used for convenience. “I’ll lend you some money, but in exchange, I’ll take half your house, is more how it goes,” The PGA Tour is treating the DP World Tour in that manner. Garcia comes next. The Spaniard recently gave a harsh evaluation. The former Masters champion added, “What they are doing is a disgrace because the European Tour is going to become the fifth best in the world.”
Even while another person who closely follows all things DP World is dubious, he or she at least suggests a potential alternative to the Rory and Tiger proposal, which calls for the introduction of those 20 premier PGA Tour tournaments in 2023.
He says, “I admire people like Rory and company for coming together and realising what a terrible idea the LIV tour is. “However, they have come up with the absolute wrong solution. They stand on the side of morality. So why not focus on expanding the game? Why not focus on funding global distribution to expand the so-called feeder tours? Why not create opportunities when those at the top are earning enough money? Instead, they are pocketing the entire sum. It only serves to demonstrate that even righteous individuals may make extremely dumb decisions. Where does Pelley believe it actually leads if he gives away the top 10 players on his tour each year? It’s craziness. Something must be there that we are not seeing. However, I’m unsure of what it is.
Some inside the DP World family still carry misgivings that the tour did not choose to accept the Saudi money that was reportedly on offer, pointing to the calibre of the field that will line up at Wentworth next week. And at least one participant, who requested anonymity, believes that top-level reforms could be the quickest way to reach a settlement and put an end to the current hostilities.
He asserts that the time for all parties to sit down and negotiate an agreement has long since passed. Even athletes have been teasing one another on social media. It’s quite disorganised and frustrating. Perhaps there needs to be a shift in leadership on all sides for something good to happen. In two of the three organisations, for sure.
Yes, it would have been helpful to know what might have happened if we had chosen the Saudis. But despite my initial hesitation, I came out fully in support of the tour when Keith spoke to us in Ireland earlier this year. The Saudis did not truly offer the agreement they had advertised. Given that, Keith was justified in utilising them as leverage when negotiating with the PGA Tour.
Despite this tone of optimism, recurring issues have plagued the DP World Tour in 2022. The circuit has experienced the customary protracted stretches of fields that are best characterised as poor, with the exception of the early events in the Middle East and the Scottish Open right before the Open Championship. Take the schedule of events from the Open until the following week. Six of the seven have already been finished, and the victors are currently ranked 329th, 341st, 304th, 211st, 275th, and 131st globally. Potential sponsors are sure to be aware of the possibility that being average is actually being kind.
Since the Open, the fields have been quite terrible, admits Law. “There are way too many events. The core issue is that. The week following the Open, we held the Cazoo Classic in an amazing location in Hillside. However, just 138 people participated. The field couldn’t be filled by the tour. The same held true for the Hero Open a week later at Fairmont and the Cazoo Open a week later at Celtic Manor. The tour is the owner of all three occasions. Why not combine them to create a fantastic field with excellent coverage? By airing 40 events on TV each year, we essentially dilute our offering. We want folks to skip a week of golf.
“At Hillside, the Senior Open and the Women’s Scottish Open took precedence over us. So, on Sunday, we ended at 8 o’clock. It would have been preferable if we had skipped the event that week. I’m confident that 2024 will see fewer events. Why not host 30 events with $5 million up for grabs each week if we have $150 million to work with? For many gamers, that would be an extremely alluring prospect. You might even see some players with PGA Tour cards.
All of which may be relevant to the future. The DP World Tour must respond to inquiries right away. That’s what Pelley will be doing at a players meeting on Tuesday at Wentworth. It promises to be a fun event.
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