Keith Pelley Vows to Keep Growing European Tour
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley insists he has no intention of reducing the number of tournaments in the schedule, even though he faces the challenge of competing against the PGA Tour to attract the world’s best golfers.
Justin Rose recently hinted that he felt there were too many events on the European Tour, but the 2019 schedule has just been announced and it contains 48 tournaments. Pelley admits that it does not make sense to stage the European Tour’s biggest events when the United States hosts three majors, the Players Championship and two World Golf Championship events between February and June. But he utterly rejected Rose’s suggestion that his organisation should consider a condensed schedule and focus on quality over quantity.
European Tour Unveils 2019 Schedule
“All our tournaments are incredibly important and they are all incredibly important to different members,” Pelley said. “Our two critical KPI’s (key performance indicators) are playing opportunities and prize funds. The 100th-ranked player in 2016 made 275,000 euros, this year they are going to make over 400,000 (£350,000).
“We know the challenges with the global calendar, we have studied it forensically. When you look at three majors in the US and three WGC’s it is very difficult for the top players to come back for a week. If we wanted to put a strong tournament in there, every top member we spoke to said ‘I wouldn’t do that’.
“We have to look at what I see as the four areas of the schedule which are very strong - the beginning of the year, prior to the Open Championship, after the FedEx Cup ends and the end of the season. If we were to try to compete at that time when there are three majors in the US, I’m not sure that would be a wise way for us to spend our money and our efforts. I don’t think we would get top player participation.”
There have been eyebrows raised at news of a new tournament in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi International. The Saudis have, of course, come under renewed scrutiny after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Pelley said: “I can simply say the Saudi International is on our schedule and the region is very important to the European Tour. We have heard some of the criticism of the region, we have listened and will continue to monitor the situation. We have had no dialogue with our partners, our own government, the golf federation or anyone from Saudi Arabia.”European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley gave a wide-ranging interview ahead of the third day’s play in the Turkish Airlines Open.
In a far-reaching press conference, Pelley addressed a number of key areas. These included:
Staging big events between February and June, when there are three majors, the Players Championship and two WGC events in America.
“If we were to try to compete at that time when there are three majors in the US, I’m not sure that would be a wise way for us to spend our money and our efforts. I don’t think we would get top player participation.”
Naming the 2020 Ryder Cup Captain.
“There will be no meetings until after the DP World Tour Championship. There are a maximum of three names in contention. Even if there is a name that that individual has not put forward, as happened with Colin Montgomerie, if we feel this person would be better here and we should expedite this, that’s the conversation that we would have.”
Using European Tour Money to Stage Tournaments.
“We support tournaments that we feel are beneficial to our players or to that region. For example, we funded the Belgian Knockout this year and will next year at a lower rate with the hope that it will be self-sustainable long-term.”
The 2022 Ryder Cup in Italy.
“I’ve said all along the Ryder Cup in 2022 is going to Italy. We have seen the animated video of what Marco Simone will look like when it’s finished. Our team at European Golf Design is there on a weekly basis, construction has started, the owner is redoing the entire clubhouse. We had conversations this week about whether the opening ceremony can be in the Colosseum. These are serious conversations with Italian decision-makers and officials. The only concern is that we were late getting the course started and we want to have at least one Italian Open at Marco Simone before the Ryder Cup. Timelines are tight.”
The 2026 Ryder Cup Venue.
“After France we had three or four calls regarding 2026 and there are some options. I think it’s going to move very quickly. I think 2026 will be announced in the next three to four months.”
“From our perspective the only effect that Brexit can have is on FX (foreign exchange), in my opinion.”
“We still have to find a way to have one of the new formats grow. GolfSixes is going to Portugal next year because the government wanted to fund it. They only have about 16,000 golfers there and they believe it’s a way to showcase golf to a younger generation.”
“The Discovery Channel is launching a very strong golf product in the new year and we are in discussions with Discovery on a number of different ways we can work together. They love our content.”
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