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As Saudis and PGA Tour look to strike deal, Euro tour CEO reportedly quits

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PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, left, and DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley in 2022.

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The DP World Tour’s chief executive officer is resigning, as the formerly named European Tour, the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund continue to negotiate an agreement that could alter professional golf’s landscape.  

As first reported by TSN on Wednesday, Keith Pelley will depart as DP World Tour CEO, and the soon-to-be 60-year-old Canadian will lead Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns a host of Toronto-based sports teams, including the NHL’s Maple Leafs and the NBA’s Raptors. As of early Wednesday evening, the DP World Tour had yet to confirm nor deny the report. 

The news also comes on the same day that the R&A announced that its boss, Martin Slumbers, would step down at year’s end. Both moves can be considered surprising in light of the framework agreement announced early last June among the DP World Tour, the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s PIF.

As part of that deal, the PIF would invest in a new, for-profit entity operated by the PGA Tour, and “the existing and future commercial investments and assets of PIF, DP World Tour and the PGA Tour related to the game of golf will be combined under one umbrella.” But that agreement was largely met with shock at its announcement — notably, the PIF has funded LIV Golf, and for the past two seasons, LIV and the established tours have battled over players and prestige — and the deal has since gone past the parties’ self-imposed New Year’s Eve deadline to finalize terms. 

On Dec. 31, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan released a letter to his players, saying that the sides had agreed to push back the target deadline to a later date that still has not been determined. Shortly before that note, the conversations among the sides had grown increasingly complex. On the Tour’s side, it had agreed to “advance” equity talks with the “Strategic Sports Group,” or SSG, a collection of wealthy investors who include the current and former owners of at least a dozen professional sports franchises. Part of Monahan’s letter to Tour membership on Dec. 31 centered around the SSG investment, which the commissioner said had been undergone “meaningful progress” and was headed toward “finalization.” The SSG investment could infuse billions into the Tour, but the negotiations risked running afoul of the Saudis, who could see the SSG investment as a Tour effort at creating leverage against them. Leverage, of course, was the primary motivation for LIV’s poaching of reigning Masters champion and current World No. 3 Jon Rahm from the PGA Tour early last month in a deal reportedly worth several hundred million dollars. In addition to robbing the Tour of one of its most important players, the Rahm move had the effect of publicly reaffirming Saudi commitment to LIV and pro golf. The move was a boon for LIV, yes, but it was also a thinly veiled threat to a Tour establishment that has openly admitted it cannot financially compete with the Saudis.


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And now Pelley, along with Slumbers, are moving on. Why now? Could that mean a deal is near? Notably, the TSN report was published at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday — which was 2:30 a.m. in Dubai, where the DP World Tour is playing its year-opening Dubai Invitational. 

Pelley had worked as DP World Tour CEO since 2015. Among his moves in his tenure, he strengthened an alliance between the formerly named European Tour and the PGA Tour that included the co-sanctioning of the DP World Tour’s Scottish Open and the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship and Barracuda Championship, and awarding PGA Tour cards to the top 10 finishers on the DP World Tour’s season-long points race.

That last move led some to think that the DP World Tour was losing stature. As for his recent thoughts on the proposed deal, Pelley said this to reporters — including Golf Digest’s John Huggan — at last year’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship:

“I can’t give you much comment. I think there has been a tremendous amount of speculation, a tremendous amount of rumors. But the conversations we are having will be in the best interests of global golf and the best interests of the DP World Tour. I won’t comment on specific formats or seasons as all those conversations are confidential. But, as I’ve said internally, things have heated up since the Ryder Cup. Discussions have intensified. Outside of that, I can’t make any comment or speculate on anything.”

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.

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