McGinley defends tour boss Pelley Over ‘false narratives’

Paul McGinley believes outgoing DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley has done a wonderful job and leaves the tour in a good place.

Paul McGinley believes Keith Pelley will leave the DP World Tour in a much better place for his almost nine-year tenure as the chief executive of European professional golf’s flagship circuit.

Pelley is returning to his native Canada to become president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owners of ice hockey’s Toronto Maple Leafs, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and MLS side Toronto FC.

DP World Tour’s new chief executive, starting on Saturday, will be Pelley’s deputy and Ryder Cup executive director Guy Kinnings and despite some criticism over his handling of relations with both the PGA Tour and Saudi Golf, McGinley believes the Canadian will be handing over the keys to an organisation made stronger by his stewardship having fulfilled the remit laid out for him by the Tour’s members, its touring pros.

“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, the 2014 Ryder Cup-winning captain, told the Irish Examiner this week as he launched this June’s OFX Irish Legends seniors event at Seapoint Golf Links in County Louth.

“The players decided we wanted a top business person coming in and running the Tour and that involved a new chairman as well. So the whole thing had to be regenerated. I wasn’t part of that but I came in on the back of that.

“So they regenerated the board and that’s where I came in, as part of a new board and Keith Pelley came in too as the new Chief Executive and he was given a brief by the players of two things. One of them was to increase prize funds and make that sustainable and the second thing was to open pathways to the bigger events in the world. And he has achieved both of those two things.

“We now have record prize funds on the European Tour that are now guaranteed because of the strategic alliance with the PGA Tour for 12 years, so we have aligned with the biggest commercial juggernaut in golf that is the PGA Tour and we have that security.

So he’s ticked that box and secondly with the 10 cards that are now available for players to graduate onto the PGA Tour, he has also secured the pathway for the best players to go and try their luck on new horizons on the PGA Tour but also come back and play on the DP World Tour whenever anybody wants as well.

“So he has achieved the two goals the players set out for him and I find it very hard for anybody to be critical of what he’s done. The Tour has never been in a better financial place, it’s never had a better balance sheet. The value of the Ryder Cup has never been higher, which is a big part of our balance sheet and I think he’s been a huge success at what he’s done.”

McGinley has heard the criticisms levelled at Pelley, including LIV Golf player Sergio Garcia’s accusation that the strategic alliance with the PGA Tour forged in 2020 and upgraded two years later, makes the DP Tour merely a “feeder tour” for the American circuit. Yet he dismissed that and social media’s “false narratives” for maligning the outgoing CEO’s body of work.

“I think the dynamics have changed while he’s been in. The dynamics between the PGA Tour and DP World Tour have changed. What people forget is way back in the days of Seve and Langer and Woosie and Monty and even me when I played with Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, when we all played on the European Tour as it was then, the prize funds were pretty similar with the PGA Tour. There wasn’t a big disparity.

“But just as Keith Pelley came in, (in 2015), the PGA Tour exploded in their prize funds and they became double, triple, and quadruple what we were giving on the European Tour and with that, players migrated straight to America.

“So one of the jobs I had when I went onto the Board and that Keith Pelley had to deal with was the new dynamics at play, where players as free agents could go and follow the money in America because that had exploded. But where was that going to leave the European Tour and how are we going to regenerate ourselves as a proper, sustainable business?

“I think we’ve done a very good job of that bearing in mind the dynamic of the top players migrating has gone against us, with the deal we did with the strategic alliance to secure prize funds guaranteed at record levels for 12 years minimum.

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

“You even look at some other tournaments like the Dutch Open, it was sold out last year, the Swiss Open, sold out last year, as was the Irish Open. Even back in the days of Seve and Langer, people forget, we never had sell-out crowds back then like we do nowadays.

“Because of the social media that comes in and the false narratives that are peddled against the Tour, a lot of that is lost. 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.

“That’s the reality. You can spin it any way you want and a lot of the reasons for that is Keith Pelley. I think he’s done a wonderful job and I’m not on the Board now but I know the governance is absolutely watertight on the DP World Tour.

“And having been a part of that I stand by all of the decisions made and I think in time that will be proved to be a very, very strong period of time in difficult circumstances that the DP World Tour will come through, including Covid, and out the other side.”


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