DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley has responded to a letter from LIV Golf players threatening legal action over fines and suspensions, saying it “contains so many inaccuracies that it cannot remain unchallenged”.
Pelley tore into the letter and questioned how much the LIV Golf players care about the DP World Tour when one of them has broken a “signed agreement” to play in key events, including this week’s Irish Open, and others have only played in a handful of events in the last five years.
In Friday morning’s statement, Pelley also rejected suggestions that the DP World Tour would become a feeder to the PGA Tour, describing it as a vibrant, independent and global Tour”, and said that while it would not be appropriate for him to discuss any pending legal action, all players knew and had accepted the Members’ Regulations.
The letter which sparked the response was sent by 16 LIV Golf players and DP World Tour members, including Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, and Sergio Garcia. It was leaked to the media on Thursday and gave Pelley until 5pm on Friday to redact the £100,000 fines and tournament suspensions that were announced earlier this week.
DP World Tour members were each fined £100,000 and banned from next week’s Genesis Scottish Open and two other events co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour after playing at Centurion Club earlier this month, despite being refused permission.
In an open letter published by The Telegraph, the players implored the DP World Tour to reverse the penalties, claiming the strengthened partnership between the PGA Tour and DP World Tour leaves the latter playing “second fiddle”.
The letter said: “In Mr Pelley’s latest communication, he uses the statement that every action in life comes with a consequence.
“We agree, and we are concerned that the actions of the Tour against us, LIV Golf and golf in general will have adverse consequences on the DP World Tour, a tour and an organisation that, despite our recent interactions, we care deeply for.
“The intention of this letter is not to further divide us, but to respond to Tour statements and to pose questions that the Tour should answer and we should discuss in detail.
“Instead of spending our time, energy, financial resources and focus on appeals, injunctions, and lawsuits, we would implore you, the custodians of the DP World Tour, to reconsider your recent penalties and sanctions, and instead focus our energies on forging a path forward that is better for the DP World Tour members and the game of golf.
“To this end, we ask that you rescind your fines and suspensions by 5pm on Friday, July 1, 2022.
“In addition, we represent over five per cent of the DP World Tour membership and, under its articles of association, we ask you to convene a meeting of Tour membership to discuss these important matters further.
“If not, you will leave us with no choice but to employ the various other means and methods at our disposal to rectify these wrongs.”
Pelley responded on Friday morning, saying that the players all knew and accepted that there would be punishments for joining LIV Golf, before questioning how much they really do care about his tour.
“Indeed, as one player [Richard Bland to BBC Radio Solent] named in the letter said in a media interview earlier this year; ‘If they ban me, they ban me,’ Pelley said. “It is not credible that some are now surprised with the actions we have taken.
“The letter claims that these players ‘care deeply’ for the DP World Tour. An analysis of the past participation statistics on our Tour in recent years of several of the leading players named, suggests otherwise.
“One player in particular named in the note has only played six Rolex Series events in the past five years [Sergio Garcia]. Another one [Charl Schwartzel], only four. I wish many of them had been as keen to play on our Tour then as they seem to be now, based on the fact they have either resigned their membership of the PGA TOUR or, if they are still in membership, have been suspended indefinitely.
“Furthermore, given how deeply these players say they care about the DP World Tour, perhaps some of them could have played in Ireland this week in support of our new title sponsor, in particular one player who gave us a signed commitment to play at Mount Juliet.
“With that player currently in action at Pumpkin Ridge, you can imagine the allegation in the letter that we are in the wrong, is hard to accept.”
While that player hasn’t been named, Graeme McDowell is the only Irishman in this week’s LIV Golf field and is believed to be the player in question. G-Mac also played in the first event, missing the RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour. McDowell, along with Dustin Johnson, were both stripped of their roles as RBC ambassadors in response.
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“We also take great exception to an allegation made near the end of the letter which states we are somehow playing ‘second fiddle’ to the PGA TOUR,” goes on. “Nothing could be further from the truth.
“We held a player meeting in Ireland on Tuesday where we outlined in great detail all the many benefits of our expanded relationship with the PGA TOUR.
“One of those is an unprecedented ten cards on offer to the PGA TOUR, cards that many of the players named in this letter desperately wanted to attain in the early stages of their careers. Why now be critical of those trying to do the same?
“The letter also expresses supposed concern about the future of the DP World Tour. Rest assured no-one should have any worries on that score.
“The DP World Tour is a vibrant, independent and global Tour with increasing and guaranteed prize fund growth over the next five years. We have fantastic tournaments across the year including a host of wonderful national Opens, all played in front of huge crowds, illustrated perfectly by this week’s Horizon Irish Open.
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“Finally, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on any potential legal matters.
“I will simply reiterate that our Members’ Regulations which have been in force for more than 30 years, have been accepted by all the players, are there to protect all of our members, and we will use them to take all necessary steps to protect their interests.
“The sanctions for those members who knowingly broke our rules by playing at the Centurion Club without a release are proportionate, fair and, I believe, considered necessary by the majority of our members.”
Meanwhile, Justin Thomas has again hit out at LIV Golf players and has called on them to be honest about their reasons for joining the rebel series.
Speaking on the No Laying Up podcast, the two-time Major champion said: “For them to say this is all for the betterment of the game… I mean, to be completely honest, I wish someone had the balls to say, “I’m doing this for money.
“Like, personally I’m going to gain a lot of respect for that, but the more they keep talking, the players keep talking and saying this is for the sake of improving the game the more I get upset and angry about it.”
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Thomas pointed to the fact that he’s spent less than 10 years on the PGA Tour and feels “strong” about the situation, so he wonders how strong players like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are feeling.
The US Ryder Cup star said he thinks McIlroy and Woods feel “betrayed and hurt” by developments in professional golf.
“I do a little,” Thomas said. “The more I thought about it, the more annoyed and annoyed I got about the men who did it again.
“But so be it, they took their money and the Saudis came up with their number. But, like I said, my whole life I’ve grown up wanting to play the PGA Tour and play in the Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups.”
The second LIV Golf event, being played at Pumpkin Ridge, Portland, got underway on Thursday, with Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Abraham Ancer, and Matthew Wolff among those making their debuts.
Carlos Ortiz leads after the opening round on five-under par, with Dustin Johnson one shot back.
This is a breaking news story. More to follow.