DP World Tour boss Keith Pelley has refuted claims by Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia that his organization is no more than a power circuit destined to be just the fifth-best tour in golf.
Both players are European Ryder Cup heroes who joined the LIV Tour earlier this year and have criticized Pelley’s strategy to fight the arrival of the Saudi-funded independent tour.
At a press conference ahead of the BMW PGA Championship which begins Thursday in Wentworth, Pelley came out to fight and launched a fierce defense of his organization.
In July this year, Garcia threatened to quit the DP World Tour but remains a member and is one of 17 LIV players competing on the West Course this week.
“What they are doing is a shame because the European Tour will become the fifth [best] in the world,” said the Spaniard, who is Europe’s leading Ryder Cup points scorer.
“It’s amazing,” Pelley said. “Let’s look at the facts. If the metric determining the best tours in the world is only money, then the number one tour is the PGA Tour, it always has been.
“You could say that the LIV Invitational Series is the second.
“But The Asian Tour, $22.5 million; Korn Ferry, $20 million; Japan, $28 million; Australia, $5.8 million; Sunshine Tour, $7.4 million. metric is money, how could we ever become number five.”
As part of the DP World Tour’s strategic alliance with their American counterparts, struck to combat the LIV threat, 10 players will achieve full status on the PGA Tour.
Westwood claimed this made the European tour a “feeder” for what was once a rival circuit. “I’m going to ask you: is this week a tournament that’s on tour?” Pelley said.
“A sold-out tournament, worldwide TV coverage in 150 countries, five of the top 15 players in the world? A tournament with 150 accredited media?
“Our first co-sanctioned event with the PGA Tour in Scotland, where 14 of the top 15 players (in the world) played, would this appear on a feed tour? I could go on and on.”
Citing next week’s Italian Open which will feature Rory McIlroy and US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick in his field, Pelley added: “Can we please stop the nonsense from the tour food once and for all.”
The tour boss also touched on claims that while in Malta last year he turned down the chance of a $1bn (£875m) deal with the project Saudi Arabia, insisting that no such offer had been received.
“I know a lot of people are still quoting the Malta meeting and the supposed billion dollar offer that was made to us by Golf Saudi,” he said.
“There’s only one word to describe this claim, and it’s fictional. I really don’t know how many times I can make this point.
“And you can ask any member of our board, and they’ll unanimously confirm that it wasn’t an offer, it wasn’t a deal. It was just a marketing pitch made on behalf of Golf Saudi.
“When reviewed by our Board of Directors on September 7, 2021, it was rejected. I would like to share the actual document with you, but we have no intention of sharing a document that does not belong to us.
“In many ways, I wish I could do that, because it would end all this speculation once and for all.”
Pelley insists his tour is ‘healthy and thriving’ with prize funds guaranteed to grow by more than $140 million over the next five years, with an option to extend their relationship with the PGA Tour for another eight years. additional.
But he also acknowledged that these are times of unprecedented “division” in golf.
“LIV Golf and the PGA Tour are embroiled in a power struggle for our sport,” he said.
“It’s an American business against a sovereign state and a conflict fought with exorbitant sums of money. Money from both sides in the markets we play in is not possible to generate.
“I am often asked why can’t we work with both the PGA Tour and the Saudis. We tried.
“But the Saudis remain committed to setting up a new series outside of the current ecosystem. This decision created the conflict we see today and we chose to partner with the game’s flagship tour.
“Some people might not agree with this decision. But it’s a decision that we believe is the right thing to do for all of our members.”