European Tour CEO Keith Pelley was asked but he politely, and given the occasion, also rightfully declined one particular controversial question from the media on the announcement in the renaming of the European Tour to the DP World Tour.
The news from within the DP World exhibition at EXPO 20 caught the great majority of Tour members off-guard, including the four players who travelled in separate spanking new Lexus courtesy cars the short distance from Jumeirah Estates.
Two of those players were former European No. 1 Tommy Fleetwood and Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher, who this week will celebrate teeing-up in a 600th European Tour event.
Each was in the dark when asked by the Tour to end any practice by around 1.30pm, then shower and change into long trousers ahead of jumping into their own allocated ‘social distancing’ courtesy car around 2pm local time Tuesday.
“I honestly know very little about what the announcement will be all about,” said Fleetwood.
“All I know is that the Tour is going to be renamed the DP World Tour and I think it sounds like a good thing for the Tour, so other than that I want to know more about it until we get there”.
Gallacher seemed to be even more unaware of what was to be revealed to the sports world.
“I just don’t know what is to be announced and for me, it’s all pie in the sky at the moment and I’ve been told we’ll be briefed once we get there ahead of the formal announcement,” said the Scot.
“Honestly, we have not been told anything other than at around 3pm today (UAE time) there will be a big announcement but I think the entire membership will be advised via email just before the announcement.”
When the rebranding of the Tour was confirmed, Pelley indicated the Tour had been working tirelessly for many months with the executive of DP World ticking every box and dotting every ‘i’ ahead of today’s formal confirmation of the name change later this month for the opening event of the 2021/22 DP World Tour season.
However, as mentioned in the opening paragraph, Pelley was presented with one question related to golf’s biggest off-course discussion at present and that centres around the role Saudi Golf will play as the ancient club-and-ball game goes forward in the coming years.
Here was the question from one member of the media to Pelley:
Obviously there’s a big elephant in the room, a Saudi elephant. Can you just say, do you think now that with the bigger prize funds, the players will not be as likely to join the Saudi tour?
And here is Pelley’s reply:
“Thank you for your question, and please understand that today is about the DP World Tour. We are focusing on the importance of today’s announcement. I’m sure you will understand that I won’t be distracted by speaking on any other subjects, but I will give you some comfort that next week at the DP World Tour Championship, we will have the ability to have that conversation.
“But today is all about an incredible celebration. It is about momentum for The European Tour, now the DP World Tour as our main tour, and we are not going to — we are not going to at this particular time comment on anything but the DP World Tour at this point.”
So, my question. Was this announcement a pure coincidence or is news the European Tour will from next year be under the banner of the DP World Tour the fruits of a well-executed exercise between both the European Tour and PGA Tour in countering any Saudi Golf challenge?
In speaking earlier today (Wednesday) to former Tour player Nick Dougherty, who hosted Tuesday’s formal announcement from Expo 2020, he indicated to Irish Golfer Magazine he provided the voiceover at the 2019 DP World Tour Championship, a short video clip ‘suggesting’ DP World could eventually one day take over naming rights of the European Tour.
And it should be remembered the Tour announced in the late 1990s Volvo Event Management had signed sponsorship rights of the Tour in being named the Volvo European Tour. So, news of a DP World Tour is not necessarily a first in the 49-history of the European Tour.