5 things we learned from the Jay Monahan-Keith Pelley press conference about the PGA Tour-DP World Tour ‘joint venture’

·8 min read

The PGA Tour and DP World Tour expanded and strengthened their strategic alliance into an operational joint venture partnership.

“The more our teams have worked together the more one thing became clear: We are better working together than separately,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said.

The PGA Tour badly needed to keep an ally in the DP World Tour and prevent LIV Golf from sinking its tentacles – and deep pockets – into a circuit with a global footprint.

The PGA Tour dipped into its coffers to increase its stakes in European Tour Productions and guaranteed that prize funds will increase over the next five years. It’s a win for Monahan, who added, “The game of golf is rallying. Our members, partners and fans are rallying. Today’s announcement should serve as further evidence that the ecosystem of professional golf continues to innovate and thrive.”

Here are five things we learned from Monahan and Pelley’s press conference on Tuesday:

1. This wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to LIV Golf (but LIV Golf accelerated the timeline)

Keith Pelley the CEO of the DP World Tour speaks during a media conference. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Talk of a more global schedule has been going on for decades back at least to when Greg Norman was World No. 1, and trending that way. But Norman’s momentum with LIV Golf surely accelerated the process.

Pelley noted that in 2016, he first sat down with then-PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem to discuss how the two leading circuits in the game could work more closely together.

“We had this relationship with the WGCs and I was relatively new into the position. And I said, ‘It doesn’t make sense. We are a dynamic Tour with National Opens, creating — we were in the midst of creating an elite series.’

“So we started the alliance and came to that in November of 2020. And I can tell you, it has exceeded our wildest expectations,” Pelley added.

“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,” he said in his opening remarks.

“When I talk about this was the road map for the long-term, we always felt that to be stronger as collective organizations, having us vertically isolated with no horizontal integration is not the best way forward…This was always the road map. (LIV) escalated it. The existential threat in LIV Investments escalated what we had already planned.”

2. Pelley says no talks with LIV since summer 2021

DP World Tour Championship 2021
DP World Tour Championship 2021

Collin Morikawa of the United States celebrates with the Race To Dubai trophy and the DP World Tour Championship trophy after winning the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 21, 2021, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The DP World Tour chief was asked about rumors that he attended the debut event of LIV Golf earlier this month near London, and was asked whether he had talked to LIV Golf in recent months about forming a relationship.

You know what?” Pelley said. “I’m actually going to read you what I read to the players just an hour ago. So let me try to clear that up. In July of 2021, in Malta, we viewed an unsolicited presentation from P54, the marketing agent representing Golf Saudi. In our September board meeting that year we showed the details of that presentation to the board. After a discussion, in our assessment, we realized the numbers were less compelling than Raine Capital and the Premier Golf League proposal we turned down nine months earlier.

“Out of respect for all parties involved, I’m not going to go into detail about the figures. But you have to trust myself and the board that materially this was not a good deal for the European Tour and its members … it was nowhere near the figures being bandied about in the media and in the players lounge over the past couple of months. We have had no further conversation with them since last summer. I was not in Centurion. I was in Sweden.

“We have been totally focused and we have focused on the, as I said, the complexity of two members’ organizations coming together has required a tremendous amount of resolve, unwavering commitment and work with our respective teams.  That has been our primary and our only focus and I’m proud of where we’ve gotten to today.”

3. Don't expect any additional co-sanctioned events any time soon

Sentry Tournament of Champions
Sentry Tournament of Champions

Cameron Smith poses for a photo with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan after Smith won during the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions golf tournament at Kapalua Resort – The Plantation Course. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Could the Irish Open become a future co-sanctioned tournament? Monahan and Pelley held their cards close to the vest on this subject.

“At this point,” Monahan said, “our focus is going to be on delivering the best possible competitive platform in that January through August timeframe through the completion of our Tour Championship, those two elements in our fall, the International Series and the competition for positioning and for retention of membership … long way of saying we don’t have any plans right now to add co-sanctioned events (to the three previously announced – Genesis Scottish Open, Barbasol Championship and Barracuda Championship). We’re going into the next couple of weeks eyes wide open. We couldn’t possibly be more excited. But right now we don’t have any plans to add on that front.”

4. Pelley wouldn’t be opposed to working with LIV Golf under the right circumstances

Jon Rahm of Spain is presented with the Rookie of the Year award by European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley prior to the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 14, 2017 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

Pelley noted that he and the DP World Tour are responsible for bringing Golf Saudi into the game in 2019.

“Shortly thereafter we had conversations about how they could get involved in other aspects of our game and including the Challenge Tour, which is something they turned down,” Pelley said. “It leaves me perplexed when they talk about their aspiration to grow the game, yet nobody really can explain to me how that works. 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, the Golf Saudi has elected to play outside the ecosystem or 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. And I’m a board member of the LET. 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. But I’m not interested and 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.”

5. A merger could still be coming in the future

Playing Captain Tiger Woods and members of the United States team pose with PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and the Presidents Cup trophy after defeating the International team 16-14 at the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Course in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

There seems to be a sense of inevitability that men’s professional golf should exist under one umbrella. So, why didn’t the PGA Tour buy all of the DP World Tour today? Monahan stepped up to answer that question.

“I think when you go back to the origin of or the formation of our strategic alliance I think what we’re talking about today really is just a natural extension of that alliance.  We’re on a journey here together as two organizations,” Monahan said. “When you look at the commercial impact, the scheduling impact, all the things that have been delivered in a relatively short period of time by virtue of this alliance, this was the right step at the right time, allows us to respond to the changes that we’re making on the PGA Tour to the better, to the benefit of the DP World Tour, and allows us, as we’re building trust and building our path forward here with both membership organizations to continue to deliver more value.”

Here was a telling comment:

“That day may come in the future,” Monahan said, “but right now this is the day that matters, because by creating an operational joint venture, by adding the cards and by going back to what we just, what I talked about up front, which is creating the strongest possible competitive platform, that’s what the best players in the world want, that’s what I’ve heard loud and clear over the last couple of years and that’s what the best fans in the world want.

“And I think the PGA Tour and DP World Tour coming together in this manner is just the right manner at the right time. But I’ll stress, our work is not done. We’re going to have a lot more exciting news to share in the months ahead as we progress.”

1

1