Chief executive Keith Pelley has ridiculed the 16 pros who have threatened legal action against the DP World Tour, asking whether joining the Saudi rebel circuit is really the behavior of players who claim they “care deeply about the European circuit”.
Telegraph Sports exclusively revealed on Thursday that Wentworth HQ has received a letter signed by each of the golfers who entered this week’s competition second LIV Golf Series event – including Ryder Cup heroes Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood – who warned Pelley that unless their £100,000 fines and suspensions from next Friday’s Scottish Open at 5 p.m. were lifted, they would engage the lawyers.
And while Pelley in his forceful, scathing response declined to comment in detail on the threat, it’s reasonable to assume that the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, will not yield to the demands. Anything but, in fact.
In addition to the players’ statements in the five-page “open letter” of long-standing loyalty and support to the Tour, which mentions how many times they’ve played in Rolex Series events over the past five years, Pelley has also pointed to the fact that a player has signed a commitment to play in this week’s Horizon Irish Open, but will instead play in the £25 million LIV 54 holes in Portland, Oregon.
In a statement, Pelley said the letter “contains so many inaccuracies that it cannot go unchallenged”. “Before joining LIV Golf, players knew there would be consequences if they chose money over competition,” he added.
“Many of them understood that at the time and accepted that. Indeed, as one player in the letter said in a media interview earlier this year, ‘If they ban me, they ban me.’ It is not credible that some are now surprised by the measures we have taken.
“The letter claims that these players ‘care deeply’ about the DP World Tour. An analysis of past years’ participation statistics on our Tour from several of the leading players mentioned suggests otherwise.
“One player in particular named in the note has played only six Rolex Series events in the past five years. One more, just four. on the basis that they have either canceled their PGA Tour membership or, if they are still members, have been indefinitely suspended.
“In addition, given how much 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, particularly a player who has given us a signed pledge to play on Mount to play Julia.
“With that player currently in action at Pumpkin Ridge, you can imagine that the letter’s claim that we are wrong is hard to accept.”
A quick look through the stats shows that Garcia has only played six Rolex Series events in the past five seasons, while Charl Schwartzel – the South African who won over £3 million at Centurion – has appeared in four. It’s an open secret that Graeme McDowell has committed to competing in the Irish Open this week before signing with LIV and it was England veteran Richard Bland who made the ‘if they ban me’ comment last month.
Pelley continued: “We are also making a big exception to a statement at the end of the letter that we are somehow ‘second fiddle’ to the PGA Tour. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“We held a players’ meeting in Ireland on Tuesday where we set out in detail all the benefits of our extensive relationship with the PGA Tour.
“One is an unprecedented 10 cards being offered to the PGA Tour, cards that many of the players named in this letter desperately wanted in the early stages of their careers. Why be critical of those trying the same thing now? to do? “
LIV has promised to reimburse the players for the £100,000 penalty they incurred for playing in the first $25 million event at Centurion Club earlier this month, despite being denied permission.
But other than requesting an emergency warrant — which experts believe has little chance of success at this late stage — there’s clearly nothing Greg Norman’s series can do to ensure the Rebels can do it at The Renaissance Club next week in the $8 million tournament to be sanctioned along with the PGA Tour for the first time.
The “Sour Sixteen” – as they have already been labeled on the Irish Open range – are not only asking for the disciplinary action to be overturned, they also want a Tour membership meeting to discuss the matter further or “you will leave us no choice but to use the various other means and methods at our disposal to rectify these errors”.
Pelley’s statement concludes, “Finally, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on potential legal matters.
“I just want to reiterate that our members’ rules, which have been in place for over 30 years, have been accepted by all players, are there to protect all our members, and we will use them to take all necessary steps to their interests.
“The sanctions for those members who have knowingly broken our rules by playing in the Centurion Club without release are proportionate, fair and, in my view, deemed necessary by the majority of our members.”