DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley has one foot out the door on his way to his next gig as the president and chief executive of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and the 60-year-old has some thoughts to get off his chest before he leaves the golf industry later this year.
Pelley called out the PGA Tour and its players for a lack of global vision while speaking with reporters ahead of the DP World Tour’s Hero Dubai Desert Classic this week and seemed to hint that his opinions weren’t taken seriously in the past.
“This is a global game. Every business now that is growing wants to be global. What I would like to see is the game becoming unified with a global strategy,” said Pelley, who has held his current title since 2015. “I think the PGA Tour is coming to the realization is global is the key for the growth. They have heard me say it once or twice.”
Pelley echoed PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan with his belief that progress has been made towards a deal with the Strategic Sports Group and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to create a for-profit golf entity – known as PGA Tour Enterprises – that would aim to reunite the professional game. The initial framework agreement was announced on June 6, 2023.
“Our goal is to unify the game,” Pelley added. “I don’t think all of the dialogue that has happened has been positive for the game and I think that the game is growing at a rapid pace coming out of Covid. The professional game needs to be unified to capitalize on the growth of the amateur game. There’s so many wonderful things happening in our game.”
“That’s what the whole concept was behind the framework agreement, and I think some of the top players in the US are starting to realize that that’s exactly what the purpose of the framework agreement was. It was to unify the game,” he continued. “Unfortunately after that framework agreement, some of the top players in the United States didn’t support it, which we needed them to support. I think they are realizing now that the best way forward is to unify the game. I think we will know the direction of travel over the next couple of months.”
The direction of travel towards an agreement with the SSG and PIF may be clear, but the destination sure isn’t. ESPN has reported that anywhere from $3 billion to $7 billion may be in play if an agreement is reached, but what will a schedule look like? Will the PGA Tour need to cut events? Do LIV Golf and the delayed TGL get placed under the PGA Tour Enterprises umbrella? What will players who resigned membership need to do to regain status? It’s easy to point the finger when you won’t be around to solve the problem.
“If the game didn’t unify, I would be quite disappointed. I’ve believed that we should unify and all work together. I’ve believed that for years,” said Pelley. “So I was overjoyed with what transpired in June, and that was the right direction. I still believe it’s the right direction. What that means in terms of what the product looks like down the road, that’s the second step.”