PGA, DP World tours are now united against LIV Golf threat

The PGA Tour has formed an alliance with the aim of stopping defecting players from jumping ship to Greg Norman’s rebel LIV Golf Tour.

Leaders of other tours are trying to gain ascendancy against Greg Norman’s LIV Golf. Picture: Chris Trotman/LIV Golf/Getty Images
Leaders of other tours are trying to gain ascendancy against Greg Norman’s LIV Golf. Picture: Chris Trotman/LIV Golf/Getty Images

The PGA Tour struck back in its war with LIV Golf on Tuesday, and it did so by strengthening its alliance with the DP World Tour, formerly known as the European Tour.

The PGA Tour, which has been staggered by the recent defections of a number of its star players to the Greg Norman-led, Saudi-backed tour, believes strength in numbers will help it steel against the threat that LIV Golf has presented with its bottomless financial resources that have been attracting players likes moths to a flame.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and his equal at the DP World Tour, Keith Pelley, conducted a teleconference with reporters on Tuesday to announce their “strategic alliance’’ has been extended for 13 years as an “operational joint venture partnership.’’

“The game of golf is rallying,’’ Monahan said. “Our members, partners and fans are rallying. Today’s announcement should serve as further evidence that the ecosystem of professional golf continues to innovate and thrive.’’

CEO of the DP World Tour Keith Pelley. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
CEO of the DP World Tour Keith Pelley. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The timing of this announcement, shortly after 2pm. Eastern time, was no coincidence. It took place at the exact time that LIV Golf was conducting player press conferences with its newest additions — Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Matthew Wolff — in advance of its second tournament, which takes place this week outside of Portland, Ore.

It was the latest episode in what has become a petty pissing match between the two sides.

At the very moment the LIV tour began its first event, Monahan announced the suspensions of the 17 PGA Tour members playing in the tournament. Then, in retaliation, LIV Golf announced Koepka joining its tour at the exact time Monahan was conducting his state-of-the-PGA press conference last week in Connecticut ahead of the Travellers Championship.

So, on and on it goes.

What does it all mean?

The biggest winner to come out of Tuesday’s announcement was the DP World Tour, and Pelley’s giddiness was a telling sign of that.

“Our joint operational partnership with the PGA Tour gives us a degree of security that is almost unimaginable,’’ Pelley said. “Simply put, we are stronger together.’’

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan. Picture: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan. Picture: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With rumours swirling about the DP World Tour possibly jumping into bed with LIV Golf, this was a good get by Monahan and the PGA Tour, because had that happened it would have been another bad look in a series of them for him and the PGA Tour of late.

Pelley insisted that “this was always the road map’’ for the two tours to lengthen their alliance, but admitted, “The existential threat in LIV Investments escalated what we had already planned.’’

In this new joint venture, the PGA Tour will increase its existing stake in European Tour Productions from 15 per cent to 40 per cent, while using the DP World Tour’s recognised international credentials to continue to co-ordinate a worldwide schedule. This gives the DP World Tour guaranteed growth in purses to its membership.

The biggest boon for the DP World Tour is that, beginning in 2023, the top 10 players at the end of its season rankings (in addition to those already exempt) will earn PGA Tour cards for the following season.

In essence, that makes the DP World Tour a feeder program to the PGA Tour, like a European version of the Korn Ferry Tour.

Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, speaks during the LIV Golf Invitational in Portland. Picture: Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via Getty Images
Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, speaks during the LIV Golf Invitational in Portland. Picture: Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via Getty Images

“I’m certainly not looking that we are a feeder tour to the PGA Tour,’’ Pelley said.

The reality, though, is that for decades the best players from Europe have migrated to the richer, more prestigious PGA Tour, though in most cases they continued to play in the top events in Europe.

Interestingly, Pelley was vague about whether he would follow Monahan’s stance and suspend members of the DP World Tour who play in the LIV events.

“[We] will not change our rules and regulations and will not change how we deal with this issue,’’ Pelley said. “This is a conversation that Jay and I have not had and we don’t plan to have it going forward. We have different rules and regulations, we have different boards, and different tournament committees.’’

Translation: The DP World Tour, which is not nearly as strong as the PGA Tour, needs these players in its events to remain relevant and it cannot afford to suspend its members the way Monahan has.

Originally published as: PGA, DP World tours are now united against LIV Golf threat