DP World Tour in bullish mood for 2023 with home Ryder Cup looming

DP World Tour in bullish mood for 2023 with home Ryder Cup looming

Keith Pelley (centre) took over as DP World Tour chief in 2015

In Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, European golf boasts two superstars of the modern game while US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick appears on track to join that elite status.

Officials of the DP World Tour were thrilled that all three featured prominently in their season-ending Tour Championship, with Rahm claiming victory in the tournament last Sunday and McIlroy taking the rankings title for the fourth time.

It was a big finish to a difficult golfing year, dominated by the implications of the breakaway LIV Tour arriving on the scene, which has not made life easy for the circuit formerly known as the European Tour.

The Wentworth-based organization faces a number of what corporate types like to term “headwinds”. With changes to the world ranking system also likely to adversely affect the tour, it must feel like it is facing a three or four club gale.

The ongoing commitment of the superstars is a help but it is utterly unrealistic to expect the likes of McIlroy, Rahm and Fitzpatrick to make the old world circuit their base. Those sort of days are long gone.

The United States continues to dominate the calendar and has strengthened that position by announcing a raft of $20m events next year in an attempt to throw a Saudi Arabia funded LIV setup which is backed by the deepest of pockets to the tune of $2bn.

The DP World Tour has bolstered its finances by joining forces with the PGA Tour and to strengthen both organizations for the ongoing LIV battle.

From next year part of the deal provides a pathway to the US for leading players on the European tour. But it is far more than a mere feeder circuit.

Events such as last week’s tournament in Dubai as well as the BMW PGA at Wentworth and the jointly sanctioned Scottish Open are among the biggest in the world and remain attractive to the stars.

LIV may yet deprive both tours of more big names, but for the DP World Tour another big fight has to be over the world rankings. Yes they needed remodelling, but the system that came into play last August is unjustly skewed against them.

Rahm branded the rankings “laughable” at the start of the week and “a joke” by the end of it.

Three of his past four tournaments have been on the continental tour, winning twice and finishing second in the other while his ranking at fifth in the world has not altered.

Tour chief executive Keith Pelley is in an awkward position because he sits on the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) board that approved the changes. “We will evaluate it, not on one or two tournaments but over a six month or year long process,” the Canadian told BBC Sport.

“And number one priority that I have as an OWGR board member is to do what is right for the game at large – that’s the hat you wear.”

Rahm said it was “laughable” that last week’s Dubai event attracted only half the points on offer in the simultaneous full field PGA Tour tournament in the US. And he is correct.

The rationale that a 50-man competition is easier to win than one with 156 players might have some merit, but not when those 50 have beaten hundreds of rivals to be eligible to play the tournament.

This was the case on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates last week. “We always look at not only the system but all new practices and evaluate what is working and what isn’t,” Pelley promised.

As for whether LIV events should attract points, Pelley is saying nothing because of the legal hearing that will determine whether he can impose bans on players who have gone to the breakaway tour.

The case is heard in early February. “We’re in the midst of a legal situation and as a result I’m not at liberty to talk about LIV, the players, OWGR management or any of the other issues,” Pelley said.

But he remains upbeat about how his tour has performed in 2022. “What we’ve been able to control has been sensational,” he stated. “We’ve had one of the greatest years we have ever had.

“When you look at a performance-based meritocracy, you see the likes of Oliver Wilson and Jordan Smith and Tommy Fleetwood with the emotional victories that they had.

“We’ve had players from 17 different countries and four different continents win, and seen our new relationship with the PGA Tour working more closely together.

“It allowed us to have 14 of the top 15 [in the world] play at the Genesis Scottish Open – the biggest event in our history.”

Pelley added that next year will see record prize funds and the introduction of a guaranteed $150,000 for tour members with a new players’ assurance programme.

“Some people forget in the midst of everything that is going on, it’s been an absolutely spectacular year on the DP World Tour, with a very, very bright future moving forward,” Pelley claimed.

Nevertheless money is being diverted from the tour into lawyers’ pockets because of the ongoing legal proceedings. “The focus should be on what’s going into the players pockets,” Pelley countered.

“And that’s more than ever before and will be for the next five years as our prize funds increase on an annual basis.”

He is a naturally bullish character and despite the headwinds is looking forward to 2023 and especially a home Ryder Cup in Italy.

“In this world of the saturation of content, bigger events are getting bigger and smaller events are getting suppressed,” he said.

“The Ryder Cup is going to get bigger and bigger and bigger, that’s just the world we are living in right now.

“The biggest challenge we’re having in Rome is whether there is any more room for hospitality and how we can get more people into the venue. We had north of 700,000 request tickets.

“It’ll be the highlight of 2023 for sure.”

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