PGA Tour must embrace golf’s global nature, says DP World Tour chief

CEO of the DP World Tour Keith Pelley speaks at the trophy presentation following his victory during Day Four of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
Keith Pelley believes America's PGA Tour is realising that golf needs to be a truly worldwide sport - Getty Images/Warren Little

Keith Pelley, the outgoing DP World Tour chief executive, has warned the PGA Tour that it needs to stop being so inward-looking and embrace a global strategy if a unified peace with the LIV funders is to be achieved.

Pelley believes that a deal – or least “a direction of travel” – can be reached between the tours and the Saudi sovereign wealth fund by the time he leaves his role at the start of April. But the Canadian thinks that the Americans must accept that a international schedule is the solution if the civil war is to end and the sport is to prosper.

And the good news is that Pelley reckons this is finally dawning on the American-centric officials at Sawgrass HQ.

“The growth of the game is global,” said Pelley. “I think that’s where the focus needs to be. I think with the emergence of FSG, which owns Liverpool [FC], they understand the importance of global. PIF certainly understands the importance of being global.

“This is a global game. Every business now that is growing wants to be global. What I would like to see is the game becoming unified with a global strategy. I think the PGA Tour is coming to the realisation that global is the key for the growth. They have heard me say it once or twice.”

Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, attended the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai two months ago, while Jimmy Dunne, another executive on the US circuit and one of the lead negotiators in the discussions with PIF, played in last week’s Dubai Invitational. “They were both blown away,” Pelley said.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a tee shot during practice prior to the Hero Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club
Rory McIlroy said that LIV could become the 'IPL of golf', done over two months in a year - Getty Images/David Cannon

Rory McIlroy, world No 2, highlighted his preference for a global tour, along the lines of F1, and Pelley agrees. He is determined to do all he can to help the parties reach a compromise before he returns to his hometown of Toronto to take control of four sports franchises.

“I think we will certainly have a direction of travel by then,” he said. “The conversations have heated up since Ryder Cup. We expected that I think there’s a will from all parties. You bring in somebody like FSG which is now SSG [the Strategic Sports Group], with powerful players like Steve Cohen [billionaire owner of the New York Mets]. And then I think there’s a willingness with PIF, and there’s certainly a willingness with us. If we can come together, then I think it’s pretty exciting for the game.”

Pelley plainly feels that after ‘the framework agreement’ with PIF in June, things went awry in the months that followed. “It was to unify the game,” Pelley said “Unfortunately after that framework agreement, some of the top players in the United States didn’t support it, which we needed them to support. I think they are realising now that the best way forward is to unify the game. If in six months time, the game hadn’t unified, I would be quite disappointed.

“I’ve believed that we should unify and all work together. I’ve believed that for years. So I was overjoyed with what transpired in June, and that was the right direction. I still believe it’s the right direction. What that means in terms of what the product looks like down the road, that’s the second step.”

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