PGA Championship is worthy of flagship status, says Drummond

Keith Pelley: Has risked antagonising PGA and sponsor. Picture: Getty
Keith Pelley: Has risked antagonising PGA and sponsor. Picture: Getty
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SCOTT Drummond has insisted that money alone shouldn’t determine the European Tour’s flagship event, claiming the heritage of a tournament is just as important.

The 2004 winner was responding to Keith Pelley, the Tour’s new chief executive, saying he felt the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth was no longer the circuit’s marquee tournament.

Speaking in Dubai ahead of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Pelley risked antagonising both the PGA and a key sponsor with his comments about what has traditionally been referred to as the flagship event.

“I’m telling you our flagship event, right here, is the DP World Championship which is $8m plus a bonus prize,” said the Canadian during a 45-minute press conference in which he confirmed changes to the Tour’s membership criteria and also the reduction of next year’s 
Final Series to three events. “I’m not sure how you couldn’t say this wouldn’t be our flagship event.

“It [Wentworth] has a fund of €5m. It’s a terrific event with wonderful fan engagement with 125,000 fans that experience the game of golf, and the way that we actually present it should be applauded. The tournament committee under Jamie Birkmyre has done just a fantastic job. But I don’t see it as our flagship event.”

Founded in 1955, the PGA Championship has been part of the Tour schedule since the organisation’s inception in 1972 and its roll of honour reads like a who’s who of European golf.

Past champions include Peter Alliss, Bernard Gallacher, Tony Jacklin, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, Jose Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie and Rory McIlroy, as well as Arnold Palmer. McIlroy has also won the Dubai event but, in comparison, it is a relatively new addition to the Tour calendar, having first been held in 2009.

“Obviously Keith is looking at it purely from a financial aspect and there are other events that carry bigger prize funds than the PGA,” said Drummond, who held off the likes of Faldo, Ernie Els, Angel Cabrera and Darren Clarke to record a career-changing victory 11 years ago. “If you look it that way, then you can see why someone would think they are more prestigious, but I think it is as much about the heritage of an event as the prize fund.

“For obvious reasons, the PGA Championship will always be a special event for me, but for most guys that have played in the event, even if was just once or twice, they also know how special it is. There’s a special buzz, the crowds are huge and it’s held at Wentworth, the Tour’s HQ – all these things make it special and I’m sure that will continue, no matter what anyone thinks.”

BMW, who have a deal until 2018 to sponsor the Wentworth event, will again back three tournaments on next year’s schedule, and Drummond added: “It will be interesting to see what their reaction to this is. However, Keith has been hugely successful in his previous job in the media world, and is obviously looking at things more from a business point of view, which is great. I think the Tour needs that and is something it will benefit from.”

Pelley, who said he is looking to raise the PGA prize fund to “$8m-$10m”, confirmed a new membership criteria of five regular events while he also took the wraps off a 2016 schedule that will end with a Final Series involving events in Turkey, South Africa and Dubai.