DP World Tour CEO sounds off on American players in wake of LIV Golf deal

DP World Tour CEO sounds off on American players in wake of LIV Golf deal

Keith Pelley did not like the tone many American players had last summer.

According to the outgoing CEO of the DP World Tour, many top pros did not understand the ramifications of the Framework Agreement—the deal signed by the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) on Jun. 6, 2023.

“That’s what the whole concept was behind the framework agreement, and I think some of the top players in the U.S. are starting to realize that that’s exactly what the purpose of the framework agreement was. It was to unify the game,” Pelley said to Ewan Murray of The Guardian.

“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 realizing now that the best way forward is to unify the game. I think we will know the direction of travel over the next couple of months.”

Jay Monahan, Keith Pelley, PGA Tour, DP World Tour, BMW PGA Championship

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan chats with DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley at the 2022 BMW PGA Championship.
Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

On Jan. 11, 2024, Pelley revealed that he would be stepping down as CEO of the DP World Tour. He accepted a job to become the new CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) in his native Canada, a role he called a “dream.” MLSE owns four major sports franchises, including the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors.

But Pelley will not move into his new position until April. His goal is to have a finalized agreement between the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour, and the PIF by the time he leaves his current post.

“I’m here for the next three months, and by then, we hope to come to a conclusion, and I’ve told the PGA Tour and representatives from PIF that is my primary focus,” Pelley said to James Corrigan of The Telegraph on Jan. 12, 2024.

What an agreement will look like remains to be seen, but Pelley echoed Rory McIlroy’s dream ahead of this week’s Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

“The growth of the game is global,” Pelley said.

“I think the PGA Tour is coming to the realization [that] global is the key for the growth. They have heard me say it once or twice.”

Before last week’s Dubai Invitational, McIlroy envisioned a scenario in which professional golf traverses the world while also staging events in the United States.

“My dream scenario is a world tour, with the proviso that corporate America has to remain a big part of it all. Saudi Arabia, too,” McIlroy said on Jan. 9, 2024.

Rory McIlroy, DP World Tour, Hero Dubai Desert Classic

Rory McIlroy speaks to Keith Pelley ahead of the 2024 Hero Dubai Desert Classic.
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

“The Australian Open, for example, should almost be the fifth major. The market down there is huge with potential. They love golf. They love sport… The South African Open is another I’d have in the mix. Then you have places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. What a market Japan represents. That would be another opportunity.”

Indeed, golf is a global game enjoyed by millions worldwide.

The PGA Tour has unfortunately ignored that reality, primarily staging its events in the United States since its inception.

On top of that, the tour shifted to a wraparound schedule in 2013, diminishing the value of larger international tournaments, such as the Australian Open.

“This is a global game,” Pelley added.

“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.”

Now, the tour must right its previous wrongs and strike a deal with the DP World Tour and the PIF to unify golf for the game’s future. Perhaps the top American players on the PGA Tour will better understand golf’s new world order once an agreement is struck.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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