The DP World Tour – formerly the European Tour – is anticipating golfers from the Saudi-funded series showing up at key players’ meetings at next week’s BMW PGA Championship to question the “strategic alliance” with the PGA Tour.
Eighteen players from LIV Golf – including Ryder Cup heroes Sergio García, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood – have entered the Tour’s flagship event, but it is feared they might not only create a storm on the fairways of the West Course but also in the boardroom at Wentworth HQ.
On Monday morning, the Tour stages its annual general meeting, where the chairman David Williams will present the financial performance, with votes taken to approve the resolutions, including a “special resolution” changing the articles of association to take in the updated relationship with the PGA tour. This includes the top 10 non-exempt players on the DP World Tour’s end-of-series standing earning their full cards on the US circuit.
Yet, as in any AGM, disgruntled stakeholders can raise objections and there can be no doubt that the likes of Westwood, Poulter and Co are against the ever closer ties with the PGA Tour, which has issued indefinite bans to any of its players who have joined LIV.
In July, Poulter launched an injunction against his home tour after it suspended the LIV recruits from appearing at the Scottish Open, as well as hitting the rebels with $100,000 fines. Poulter won that temporary stay, pending the verdict in the overall case that will not be heard until February.
That means the LIV players can tee it up at Wentworth, as well as use their membership rights to make their points known at meetings.
Westwood’s position became yet clearer last week in an interview with Golf Digest. “I’m very worried for the European Tour,” he said. “I have been telling Keith [Pelley, the DP World Tour chief executive] and other members of his board how this is all going to go for 12 months now. I told him that the strategic alliance and getting into bed with the PGA Tour was a mistake… I mean, what company or organization gives away its 10 best assets at the end of every year – especially to a rival or competitor?”
Pelley, himself, will front the players meeting on Tuesday at Wentworth and told his members in an email last week that he wants “to devote the entire hour to answering any questions you have on any topic including our long-term strategy, our partnership with the PGA Tour [and] the situation regarding LIV Golf…” It could be a lively gathering, if the rebels have the gumption to attend.
However, Pelley would be confident of huge support in the room from the loyalists. In his letter, Pelley spoke of the “strong opposition” to the LIV entrants at Wentworth and explained how they were not invited to appear in the Wednesday pro-am, despite the profile of Westwood, Poulter, Garcia, McDowell and Americans such as Patrick reed Pelley has requested that no LIV logos be worn in the tournament, although he is powerless to stop them.
The fourth £20million, 54-hole LIV event starts in Boston on Friday with most eyes on Open champion Cameron Smith, who makes his debut following a £100m-plus switch in the wake of his glory at St Andrews in July.