March 29, 2024

26 March 2024; Pictured during a media day, in advance of the OFX Irish Legends tournament, is Legends Tour ambassador Paul McGinley. The tournament will take place at Seapoint Golf Links in Termonfeckin, Louth, from 19 - 22 June. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

After nearly nine years leading the DP World Tour, the premier professional golf circuit in Europe, Paul McGinley thinks Keith Pelley will leave the organization in far better shape.


As president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs of ice hockey, the Toronto Raptors of basketball, and Toronto FC of Major League Soccer, Pelley is going back to his home country of Canada.


Starting on Saturday, Guy Kinnings, the executive director of the Ryder Cup and Pelley’s deputy, will lead the DP World Tour. McGinley believes the Canadian will be passing over the keys to an organization strengthened by his stewardship, having fulfilled the remit set forth for him by the Tour’s members, its touring pros, despite some criticism regarding his handling of relationships with the PGA Tour and Saudi Golf.


The 2014 Ryder Cup winning captain, McGinley, told the Irish Examiner this week, “I worked a lot with Keith Pelley for six years when I was on the (European Tour) board, I know him very well, I spent a lot of time with him personally.” McGinley was launching the OFX Irish Legends seniors event this June at Seapoint Golf Links in County Louth.


“The players made the decision that we needed a prominent businessperson to take over as Tour director, along with a new chairman.” Thus, a complete regeneration was required. Although I wasn’t there, I entered the field as a result of that.


The board was regenerated, and that’s when I joined it as a member of the new board. Keith Pelley also joined as the new CEO, and the players briefed him on two things. Increasing prize money and making it sustainable was one of them; creating avenues to the world’s major events was the other. And he has succeeded in achieving those two goals.


“Thanks to our 12-year strategic alliance with the PGA Tour, we now have record prize funds on the European Tour that are guaranteed. This means that we have partnered with the largest commercial force in golf, the PGA Tour, and we have that security.”


“He has checked that box, and in addition, by making 10 cards available for players to advance to the PGA Tour, he has also made sure that the top players can go try their luck on the PGA Tour and return to play on the DP World Tour whenever they so choose.


“So, he’s accomplished the two objectives the players set for him, and I find it difficult to take fault with anything he’s done. Never before has the Tour’s financial situation and balance sheet been better. I believe he has done a fantastic job, and the Ryder Cup is a significant portion of our balance sheet with a value that has never been higher.


McGinley is aware of the critiques aimed at Pelley, such as Sergio Garcia of LIV Golf’s claim that the DP Tour is really a “feeder tour” for the American circuit due to the strategic relationship with the PGA Tour, which was established in 2020 and updated two years later. However, he disregarded that as well as the “false narratives” spread by social media to disparage the output of the departing CEO.


“I believe that since he’s been there, the dynamics have shifted. The DP World Tour and the PGA Tour now operate differently. People tend to forget that prize money on the European Tour was not all that different from the PGA Tour in the days of Seve, Langer, Woosie, Monty, and even me when I played with Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood. There wasn’t much of a difference.


However, the PGA Tour’s prize money skyrocketed right when Keith Pelley took over (in 2015), more than doubling, tripling, or quadrupling what we were offering on the European Tour. As a result, players moved directly to the United States.


“The new dynamics at play, where players as free agents could leave and pursue the money in America because that had exploded, was one of the jobs that Keith Pelley and I had to deal with when we joined the Board. However, what would it mean for the European Tour and what steps would we take to rebuild ourselves as a legitimate and long-lasting company?


“Considering that the dynamics of the top players migrating have worked against us, I believe we’ve done a very good job of that with the agreement we reached with the strategic alliance to secure prize funds guaranteed at record levels for a minimum of 12 years.”


“I think we’ve done very, very well in very difficult circumstances when some very, very big dynamics turned against us as a Tour. We’ve continued to sustain some huge tournaments with Wentworth, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and DP World, and we’re still able to produce some big events at the right times of year, like the Irish Open in September/October.”


“You even consider other competitions such as the Dutch Open, which sold out the previous year, the Swiss Open, which also sold out, and the Irish Open. People forget that we never had sell-out crowds like we do now, not even in the days of Seve and Langer.


“A lot of that gets lost because of the false narratives that are spread against the Tour on social media. I deal in reality and the reality is the balance sheet of the DP World Tour has never been in a better place and the players on the DP World Tour have never had better opportunities to graduate and play in some of the biggest events in the world along with record prize funds.


Well, that’s the truth. Keith Pelley is largely to blame for the fact that you are free to spin it anyway you please. I believe he’s done a fantastic job, and even though I’m no longer on the board, I am aware of how tight the governance is on the DP World Tour.


“And having been a part of that, I stand by every decision made, and I believe that the DP World Tour will overcome all obstacles, including Covid, and emerge stronger at the end of that very tough period of time.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *