European Tour CEO Keith Pelley isn't worried about Wentworth – but he is worried about slow play

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It’s hasn't all been plain sailing for Keith Pelley, the new boss of the European Tour, since he took over last autumn. He made headlines when he bent the rules for Rory McIlroy, changed the Ryder Cup qualifying rules and pledged to tackle slow play – but Pelley is also thinking about the bigger picture... 

How’s it been so far?

Very busy. Often as you come in as a CEO, you look to reflect and understand all facets of the business before you start to move into an execution plan. We became operational on I think day one. 

How have you changed things?

We are in the midst of structuring our overall tour in a more players-first philosophy. We are a members organisation and we will adopt very quickly a players-first philosophy. 

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You’ve talked a lot about slow play – what’s the plan?

I’ve had significant dialogue with Martin Slumbers from the R&A, and they are in agreement this is something we need to deal with. I believe with the world of technology, with what we can do on our phones, what we can do on the internet, certainly we can find a way to monitor slow play in a more effective way. 

How will you get your stars to play more in Europe rather than the US?

We are going to have to increase purses. We are going to have to focus on our diversity. That won’t happen overnight. A lot of people talk about Wentworth as being a flagship event. Wentworth is €5.1 million. The other event in the US that week is $6.1. That’s unacceptable. Wentworth needs to be $8-10 million. 

You’ve also changed the European Tour membership criteria… 

We made a decision to move from 13 to five, excluding the four Majors and the four WGCs. So, as of 2016, you need to play in five events – but none of them are WGCs or Majors. 

You’ve mentioned you are going to experiment with formats. How? 

No question the 72-hole format, the traditional format, will always be a critical format. But, the way that people are participating in golf these days – we talk about slow play, we talk about the speed of the game, we talk about Topgolf, adventure golf, nine holes – there are all kinds of different formats and things that we can do, so stay tuned.

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On one hand, you talk about growing the game, and on the other Wentworth is turning itself into an ultra-exclusive club. Yet that is your base, and the home of your flagship event... 

Our flagship event is the DP World Championship, which is $8 million plus a bonus prize. I’m not sure how you couldn’t say this wouldn’t be our flagship event. The important thing at Wentworth is what they do to the West Course, and the investment that they are making into the West Course. We are continuing onto Wentworth until at least 2018 and expect if, in fact, the West Course becomes exactly what they believe it, and that we can increase the prize purse, then perhaps it can be a flagship event going forward.

Is the changing nature of the Wentworth Club a concern?

I think that the businessmen have the right. They can decide what they want to do and how they want to run the business. For us, the priority is the West Course. 

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