Wars involve alliances.
And on Tuesday, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour moved to strengthen theirs, marshaling forces in their escalating conflict with a Saudi-funded circuit that is fast reshaping the professional game.
In the joint press conference, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and DP World Golf Tour CEO Keith Pelley detailed a new 13-year operating agreement between their organizations, which designed to provide a new pathway for players on the PGA Tour while increasing prize money in DP World Golf Tour events. As part of the arrangement, the PGA Tour will increase its ownership stake in European Tour Productions from 15 percent to 40 percent, providing a cash infusion to boost purses. The arrangement also guarantees that, starting in 2023, the top 10 finishers on the DP World Tour will receive a PGA Tour card for the following season. Because the DP World Tour also has alliances with the Sunshine Tour and the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia, the partnership will open pathways towards the upper echelons for players from around the world.
The two joint tours are planned for 2020, including the Genesis Scottish Open, which will take place next week.
“We will continue to organize our organizations and memberships even closer together while innovating to provide the most entertaining and compelling golf possible to fans around the world,” Monahan said.
Word of the strengthened alliance comes at PIVkin Ridge Golf Club, outside Portland. In recent weeks, the Saudi-backed circuit has bolstered its ranks with a growing number of household names, including Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Abe Ancer and, most recently, Matt Wolff, all of whom will make their LIV debut at Pumpkin Ridge. LIV is expected to announce more additions to its roster in its second US event, at Trump Bedminster, in New Jersey, at the end of July.
At Tuesday’s joint press conference, Pelley described the strategic alliance as a “natural extension and progression of what we have been doing over the past several years.” But he has been forced to move more quickly and aggressively in response to a rival circuit that continues to poach talent.
The PGA Tour and the DP World Tour have already acted separately to sanctioned players in the first LIV event, outside London, earlier this month, by issuing fines and suspending tour memberships. But such efforts have not put an end to defections.
Just last week, the PGA Tour brought the fight over another major event, including a $ 25 million bump in the Players Championship purse and a $ 20 million increase in several other tournaments . The Tour also unveiled plans for a new lucrative series for top 50 players in the Official World Golf Rankings.
But even as the increases were announced, Monahan made clear that the Tour could not hope to win its Saudi-funded rival on dollars alone.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Pelley echoed that point, stressing the value of history and the legacy of a traditional golf ‘ecosystem’ that has long featured the best players in the game.
These were Pelley’s first public comments about LIV, and he used the opportunity to dismiss rumors that his tour had been entertained and formalized to join forces with the Saudi-backed circuit. The DP World Tour board reviewed a presentation — not the Saudis in September of 2021 but found that presentation unappealing and disregarded it.
As part of its new joint operating venture, the DP World Tour plans to work with the PGA Tour on the implementation of its new international series of events. Under the arrangement, DP World Tour members will be able to play their way into those competitions.
“I passionately believe that this move is the right thing for our players, our Tour, our fans, and the game of golf in general,” Pelley said.
Pelley was speaking from Europe, where the Irish Open gets started this week. Monahan was in the Quad Cities area of Illinois, where practice rounds for the John Deere Classic were being played. At the same time, LIV players were descending on a sylvan course just outside Portland.
It’s a global golf war. Where it’s headed next is difficult to say, but it shows no sign of slowing.