Keith Pelley says 'definitive agreement' with PGA Tour and PIF is still best-case scenario for DP World Tour
Speaking to a small group golf writers in Dubai ahead of this week’s DP World Tour Championship, the circuit’s CEO revealed he’s set to be joined at the weekend by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who is making his first visit to the Middle East for the season-ending event that boasts a newly-increased $10.5 million prize fund.
The pair have been involved in lots of discussions since the framework agreement was announced in June and more talks are planned to take place at Jumeirah Golf Estates, where Rory McIlroy, who has just resigned from the PGA Tour Policy Board, is spearheading the field made up of the top 50 players in this year’s Race to Dubai in the season finale.
Due to non-disclosure agreements having been signed by all three parties, Pelley was unable to be as open as he has been in the past in his dealings with the media and felt the need to apologise on more than one occasion for that being the case.
At the same time, though, the 59-year-old Canadian deserves credit for putting his head above the parapet at a time when, as it was suggested to McIlroy in his pre-event press conference on Tuesday in the UAE, the waters are somewhat muddy due to the PGA Tour also taking to potential US investors, including sports conglomerate Endeavor and Fenway Sports Group, owners of Boston Red Sox and Liverpool.
“I can’t give you much comment on it,” replied Pelley, sitting in a temporary boardroom in the hospitality suites around the 18th green on the Earth Course, to being asked about the talks over the framework agreement, which was announced out of the blue in June and halted civil litigation between the PGA Tour and the breakaway LIV Golf League.
“Obviously we have all signed NDAs. We are in confidential discussions right now. But, as I’ve said internally and will say it externally as well, we said that things, for a better word, would heat up after the Ryder Cup and the discussions have intensified. Outside of that, I can’t make any comment on the framework agreement or speculate or anything.”
What about the PGA Tour reportedly seeking outside investments separate from the negotiations over a deal with PIF? “Obviously, we are abreast of those conversations and I am in regular dialogue with Jay,” added Pelley. “He sent out a player note yesterday, but I can’t be specific about anything. I wish I could, but I can’t.
“I will only reiterate that, certainly from my involvement since the Ryder Cup, it is definitely clear that all three partners in the framework agreement are committed to trying to bring the agreement to a conclusion as soon as possible. We are having more and more conversations and I have more conversations with Jay this weekend and a proper debrief.”
While he couldn’t throw any light on whether a deadline of 31 December for the framework agreement can still be met, Pelley was crystal clear with his reply to being asked what he felt would be a best-case scenario for the DP World Tour and its members.
“I think the best result is that the framework agreement comes to a conclusion and we enter into a definitive agreement as partners with the PIF and partners with the PGA Tour,” he declared. “I think it is pretty clearly outlined in the framework agreement and I think that would benefit not only ourselves and PIF and the PGA Tour but global golf in general and I think we can then focus on making our respective businesses grow. That’s what we talked about - unifying the game - and our commitment is to try and make that happen.
“I think the framework agreement was something we see significant benefits from for the DP World Tour and I think we are starting to see those benefits from our strategic alliance with the PGA Tour and they are starting to see the benefits of working closely with us as well. We are going to make some announcements in the next couple of weeks about some partners that are coming on board that we are excited about.”
It has been rumoured that LIV Golf events could be played later in the season as part of a new masterplan for the professional game. “I think there is a tremendous amount of speculation, tremendous amount of rumours,” said Pelley. “The conversations that all three of us are having will be in the best interests of global golf and our interest is in the best interest for the DP World Tour. We are very confident that, if we can reach an agreement, it will be in the best interest of our tour. I won’t comment on specific formats or seasons as all those conversations are confidential.”
Describing the boost from Europe’s Ryder Cup win in Rome last month as “massive” and indicating that he’s keen to see the 2025 captain being announced before the end of the year, Pelley’s tone was bullish when he talked about the ten PGA Tour cards being handed out on Sunday to players through this season’s Race to Dubai.
“I’m in the school of Rory, who said yesterday that he didn’t understand it,” he said. “I’ve struggled understanding the criticism as well because, first and foremost, as administrators, it is one of our key performance indicators/ roles to create the maximum earning potential for the members and on Sunday ten members will be granted a minimum of $500,000. That’s $5m to our members with an opportunity to increase their earning potential.
“I do believe we have formalised something that has been there for many years. I also believe it will give the players who have those cards a much better opportunity to prepare and shine in the three majors prior to July and bring them back as bigger stars and guys like Rory, [Tyrrell] Hatton and [Tommy] Fleetwood. So I’m totally in the Rory camp as I can only see it as a positive.”
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