DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley has dismissed claims by LIV rebel Sergio Garcia that the European circuit is in danger of slipping to fifth place in the global pecking order.
In a wide-ranging and occasionally scathing retaliation to what he called the “LIV propaganda machine,” Pelley took aim at his tour’s scathing criticism from Ryder Cup legend Garcia, who said in July the DP would soon be behind LIV, the Asian Tour, Fall Back and the Korn Ferry Tour as well as the PGA Tour.
Garcia’s comments were echoed in similar sentiments by Lee Westwood who, like the Spaniard, devoted large parts of his career to playing in Europe before signing for LIV.
Westwood has since pointed out, he believes, that the DP World Tour has slipped into the role of a “feeder” circuit of the PGA Tour for many years.
Pelley, speaking out ahead of the BMW PGA Championships in Wentworth after largely remaining silent during golf’s Civil War, emphatically dismissed the prospect as “nonsense”.
He said: “Some of those players have said we’re a feeder tour and even suggested we’re on our way to the fifth tour of the world. A feeder tour is a tour that is only there to allow players to get to the next level. The Challenge Tour is a feeder tour. The grain ferry tour is a feeder tour.
DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley has dismissed claims made by LIV rebel Sergio Garcia
Garcia said the European circuit was in danger of falling to fifth in the global pecking order
“I ask you: is this week a tournament that is on a feeder tour? A tournament with a sold-out audience, worldwide television coverage in 150 countries, five of the top 15 players in the world? A tournament with 150 accredited media? I could go on.
“No, is the answer to all these questions. So can we please end the feeder tour nonsense once and for all. And as for the point of becoming the fifth tour in the world, one of our members playing here this week actually said that. It’s incredible.
“And let’s look at the facts again. If the metrics that determine the top tours in the world are just money, then the #1 tour is the PGA Tour. Has always been. One could argue that the LIV Invitational Series is #2. But the Asian Tour, $22.5 million in prize money; Korn Ferry, 20 million; Japan, 28 million; Australia, 5.8; Sunshine Tour, 7.4: The sum of all their prize money is only half of our tour. So even if the only metric is money, how could we ever be #5?’
Pelley has spoken ahead of the BMW PGA Championships in Wentworth, which begins on Thursday
In a lengthy media briefing, Pelley also dismissed claims that the DP World Tour turned down a $1 billion offer to partner with Gulf Saudi in 2021. It has been portrayed by some quarters as a missed opportunity before the storm that has now engulfed golf.
He said: “I know a lot of people are still citing the Malta meeting and the alleged billion-euro bid from Gulf Saudi, which is in large part the reason behind the claim that we missed an opportunity with the Saudis.
“There is only one word to describe this claim and that is ‘fictitious’. I really don’t know how many times I can make this point. And you can ask any member of our board and they will unanimously agree that it wasn’t an offer, it wasn’t a deal, it was just a marketing presentation put together on behalf of Golf Saudi.
“When it was reviewed by our board on September 7, 2021, it was dismissed. I would like to share the actual document with you, but we have no intention of sharing a document that we do not own. In many ways, I wish I could because it would put an end to all this speculation once and for all.’
Pelley criticized how the LIV side has been handling the excitement, adding: “As I said to our partners and sponsors on a Zoom call last week, it’s easy to get carried away by the LIV propaganda machine that is broadcasting negative news and misinformation about the poor state of the traditional world of golf, including our tour.
It’s just not right. And let me be very clear: nothing could be further from the truth. We are in excellent form and will only get stronger.’
Unlike the PGA Tour, with which the DP World Tour has a strategic alliance, Pelley refused to permanently close the door on LIV defectors who may wish to return to Europe in the future.
When asked if there was a scenario where players could rejoin the party, he said, “I would say that at this particular point in time that would be a hypothetical situation and I tend not to talk about hypothetical situations . But if that happens, I would have a conversation with the person.’