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When the threat of the rumoured Saudi-backed Super Golf League came to light, it was expected that an approach would be made to Keith Pelley and the European Tour - now the DP World Tour - in the hope of forming some sort of mutually beneficial collaboration.
After all, on the European Tour schedule is where the controversial Saudi International initially found a home in 2019. However, the first offer to land on Pelley’s desk came from the Premier Golf League (PGL), another upstart organisation looking to launch an F1-style circuit featuring both team and individual competitions.
It was described by Pelley as “very compelling” and one that would “take the Tour to another level but in a different direction”. Perhaps we’ll never know what that direction would have been, but what we do know is a little bit about how the newly named DP World Tour has responded to the threat of this big-money attempt to alter the golfing landscape as we know it.
Back in November of 2020, it was reported that the European Tour had declined the PGL’s approach. Instead, Pelley and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan acted swiftly in strengthening their ties by forming a “strategic alliance” with the intention of maintaining their respective positions - that being the PGA Tour at the pinnacle of the professional game and the DP World Tour somewhere and some distance behind.
At the beginning of May 2021, after reports had emerged that as many as 11 players had been offered tens of millions to join the Saudi’s SGL, the European Tour then released a statement backing Monahan, who warned mutineers they would face lifetime PGA Tour bans, also making them ineligible for future Ryder Cups.
“We are aligned with the PGA Tour in opposing an alternative golf league, in the strongest possible terms”, the statement read. Those terms also included lifetime bans and Ryder Cup exile.
Shortly after, details of the aforementioned strategic alliance were released. New for this season, three events will be co-sanctioned, meaning they will count towards the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai. These are: the Barbasol Championship, the Barracuda Championship, and the Genesis Scottish Open.
Fifty DP World Tour members will have access to the Barbasol and Barracuda Championships for the first time, while the Irish Open was also given a major boost, with its prize purse set to nearly double to $6m for the 2022 staging.
As part of their alignment, the Saudi International was subsequently dropped from the schedule and European Tour members were informed that any requests for permission to tee it up at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club would be denied.
This was first reported back in July 2021 but fast forward to last month and that position had softened. Sensing the need to play the long game, Pelley and co. followed the PGA Tour’s lead in granting releases to players eager to cash in on appearance fees believed to be in seven figures, the caveat being that the “decision is not precedent setting”.
So, where do we stand now?
Well, with the announcement of Europe's next Ryder Cup captain already overdue, the tour's threat to enforce bans seems legit. So much so that a report in the Telegraph uncovered the dilemma facing Sweden's Henrik Stenson: Saudi millions or a chance to lead Europe in Rome in two years' time?
And fellow Ryder Cup veterans Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood appear to be in a similar position to the Swede. The former has been told he faces a lifetime ban from both main tours and the Ryder Cup if he accepts an offer to join the SGL rumoured to be in the region of $20m to $30m.
Westwood, another who is considered a shoo-in for a future captain's berth, refused to discuss the matter when questioned, revealing he has signed a non-disclosure agreement.
In fact, if we are to believe Phil Mickelson, “pretty much every player” in the top 100 has been approached. And of all the figures being mooted, the claim that Bryson DeChambeau was mulling over a $135m deal that would make him the rebel’s poster boy was the most outlandish. That sum has since been refuted by the man himself.
So, what's perhaps next on the agenda for the DP World Tour is how to respond to news that the Asian Tour is set to land on UK shores for the first time. During the Saudi International, it was announced that, as part of the $300m investment into a new 10-event International Series, a $2m tournament would be staged at Centurion Golf Club - which is located not too far from DP World Tour HQ at Wentworth.
No official response has yet been forthcoming, but you can bet this won't have been received well by the sport's two premier circuits. We await to see whether they will be so lenient as to grant their members another free pass.
A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade M1 (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
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