A global pandemic, tucking up with the PGA Tour and turning down Saudi Arabia. It’s not an easy task summarising Keith Pelley’s term as DP World Tour chief executive…
It’s usually London buses and trousers that come in pairs – not the resignations of golf’s most influential figures.
The Canadian will return home to become President and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd in April.
So what can be made of the Pelley era? It was a period packed with ups and downs that no one could’ve foreseen.
The COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented global health crisis that the 60-year-old admirably steered the tour through by continuing to stage events through 2020 and 2021.
Since 2015 when Pelley took over, the European Tour has become the DP World Tour and established a strong bond with the PGA Tour which has brought a number of financial benefits.
The riches of the US circuit have helped to prop up the DP World Tour and have no doubt helped its general survival and fund Rolex Series events, which feature the biggest prize purses on offer on the continent.
For that, Pelley’s endeavour to befriend the PGA Tour and Jay Monahan should be applauded, but did he also back the wrong horse in the same breath?
The DP World Tour was the first big schedule to entertain a tournament in Saudi Arabia in 2019 – the Saudi International which was won by Dustin Johnson in two of the first three years of its existence.
But that was enough for Pelley.
Instead of partnering with the Saudis, the strategic alliance was formed and then strengthened in 2022 until 2035 in a collective effort to oppose LIV Golf – the league the Saudis went away and created from scratch.
LIV is now a significant third party and, along with the newfound riches of the PGA Tour’s elevated schedule, has done much to dwarf the appeal and financial power of the DP World Tour.
The circuit arguably lacks a world-class event, except for the BMW PGA at Wentworth perhaps, and it has virtually accepted its position as a feeder tour to its big American brother by offering its top 10 players a card to play in the States.
This is a necessary pathway to golf’s biggest stage, but the difference in quality has surely never been so clear.
What shouldn’t be sniffed at is Pelley and the DP World Tour’s endeavour to innovate. The global nature of the circuit is unrivalled and visits nations and golf courses that on-lookers at home would give anything to play.
44 events across 24 different countries, while maintaining a newfound focus on the tour’s heritage stops in Ireland, Spain and France deserve all of our praise.
In recent years, the tour has excelled in showing us the character of its members. The social media content and entertainment factor that’s part of it go a long way to pleasing golf fans and engaging with competitors.
This camaraderie and togetherness shone through at the Ryder Cup in Rome when once again, a weaker team on paper beat an American team of world-class individuals with their spirit and determination.
As Guy Kinnings comes through the door in a few months, will there be a mess to clean up?
You’d like to think the framework agreement between the allies and the Public Investment Fund will be done by then.
The mopping should be complete by the time Kinnings takes his seat, but maintaining the respect and appeal of the DP World Tour in the years that follow could be the biggest challenge.
NOW READ: Who is Guy Kinnings?
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