Two years ago, Keith Pelley took on the chal­lenge – or as he prefers to say, ‘op­por­tu­nity’ – of re­sus­ci­tat­ing an ail­ing Euro­pean Tour. We talk to the Cana­dian about the many ini­tia­tives he has im­ple­mented and how he plans to con­tinue car­ry­ing the fight to

Golf World (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Two years into his task of re­sus­ci­tat­ing the Euro­pean Tour, Keith Pelley sits down with John Hug­gan to as­sess the jour­ney so far.

Euro­pean Tour chief ex­ec­u­tive Keith Pelley is a dap­per fel­low. Al­ways im­mac­u­lately dressed – the out­fit in­vari­ably set off by a pair of match­ing eye-glasses – the 53-year old Cana­dian stands out among pro­fes­sional golf’s gen­er­ally dull ad­min­is­tra­tors. He’s full of ideas, too. Dur­ing his two-year ten­ure, sev­eral trend-set­ting ini­tia­tives have bright­ened the Euro­pean Tour land­scape. By way of ex­am­ple, the Tour’s so­cial me­dia team has cre­ated a series of fun and in­for­ma­tive fea­tures that high­light the hu­man and hu­mor­ous side of the play­ers. And next year, the Aus­trian Open will fea­ture a shot clock, with penal­ties in place for any­one tak­ing longer than 40 sec­onds to hit the ball.

But is Pelley re­ally mak­ing any sig­nif­i­cant progress in his quest to create a prod­uct that can re­ally com­pete with the fi­nan­cial jug­ger­naut that is the PGA Tour? On the eve of the 2016/17 sea­son-end­ing DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship in Dubai, Pelley sat down with John Hug­gan to an­swer those ques­tions and a few more be­sides. A day later, Pelley asked if the in­ter­view had gone well. “I’m not sure I was on my best form,” he said. You can judge for your­selves.

You’ve been in your job a wee while now. What are the things you are most proud of so far?

I think we’ve made some pos­i­tive steps as of now. But there is still a lot of work to be done. I’m very ex­cited at how well the Rolex Series of events has turned out this year. It has been a very pos­i­tive as­pect of our busi­ness, one that has cer­tainly been very well sup­ported by our play­ers.

Our com­mit­ment to in­no­va­tion is some­thing that has re­ally res­onated with our staff. They and the play­ers have all em­braced what we are try­ing to do. And it has been nice to see how our in­cred­i­bly tal­ented dig­i­tal con­tent pro­duc­ers have been recog­nised world­wide for the great work they have done and con­tinue to do. We have pro­gressed and we are cer­tainly headed in the right di­rec­tion. You have to be al­ways mov­ing for­ward, to im­prove and to get bet­ter. I’m a per­fec­tion­ist, so that is a big thing for me.

What are the big­gest chal­lenges you face?

There are dif­fer­ent chal­lenges, de­pend­ing on which way you want to look at the busi­ness. I tend to look at many of those chal­lenges as op­por­tu­ni­ties. For ex­am­ple, the 2019 and 2020 sched­ules. We

col­lec­tively in the world of golf face the chal­lenge that the game is some­what fractured with so many dif­fer­ent tour­na­ments and governing bod­ies across the globe. That is true here, as well as in the US.

It is like an al­pha­bet soup out there.

It is. But what we at the Euro­pean Tour face are the same prob­lems... no, make that chal­lenges – I don’t like to call them prob­lems – that the over­all golf land­scape faces. We’re not alone.

How much can you tell us about what is go­ing to hap­pen in 2019? What will the re­vamped sched­ule look like?

I can tell you that we have prob­a­bly had maybe as many as 25 dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tions with play­ers here at the DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship. A lot of play­ers have sat down and looked at what lies ahead. We have given them the sched­ules for 2019 and 2020 and even 2021. We are look­ing that far ahead. I usu­ally say to the play­ers, ‘Let me talk to you about this for 10 min­utes and walk you through it.’ Then an hour later they are still say­ing, ‘Okay, but what if we did this or did that.’ It’s a won­der­ful jig­saw puz­zle. That’s ex­actly what it is.

So what can you tell us about what is go­ing to hap­pen?

I can tell you that we know em­phat­i­cally which way we are go­ing to go.

So which way is that?

Here is what I can tell you. We came in this week know­ing I was go­ing to meet with a num­ber of play­ers and share with them the sched­ule that will change in 2019 when the PGA of Amer­ica moves its PGA Cham­pi­onship to May. That fol­lows many com­pre­hen­sive in­ter­nal meet­ings with Keith Wa­ters, our chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer. In fact, we put to­gether an in­ter­nal com­mit­tee to look at the var­i­ous op­tions.

We came in with a cou­ple of thoughts. Should we do this here, here, here, here and here? Now, af­ter meet­ing with the play­ers – who have such in­cred­i­ble in­sight – we have now de­cided to lis­ten and gain as much in­for­ma­tion as we can. Once we have done that, in a cou­ple of weeks we are go­ing to have a cou­ple of two-day ses­sions and sit down to try to de­ter­mine what is the best way go­ing for­ward.

That’s a per­fect ex­am­ple of one of the things I am in­cred­i­bly proud of – the re­la­tion­ship we have de­vel­oped with our

play­ers through­out the tour. We are us­ing them as our best sound­ing boards.

Okay, I get it, you’re not go­ing to tell me what’s go­ing to hap­pen in 2019. Mov­ing along and speak­ing of re­la­tion­ships, how has your re­la­tion­ship with the PGA Tour evolved since you took over?

Our re­la­tion­ship is pretty good. I went to the Pres­i­dents Cup this year to show re­spect for [com­mis­sioner] Jay Mon­a­han. We share the same chal­lenges. And we both want to grow the game glob­ally. But at the same time we are com­peti­tors.

The PGA Tour wants to grow the game glob­ally? Re­ally? That’s a real shift from what it has done his­tor­i­cally. It has never re­ally been about grow­ing the game any­where ex­cept Amer­ica.

You would have to ask Jay and the PGA Tour about that. I be­lieve the growth of the game glob­ally and the part the Olympics has played in that gives us op­por­tu­ni­ties to think more glob­ally. I think all busi­nesses are do­ing that. Es­pe­cially with new tech­nol­ogy, it is eas­ier to be a global busi­ness, which we are, but at the end of the day we all want to grow the game as much as we pos­si­bly can.

I look at the PGA Tour as com­peti­tors, but I look at them as part­ners as well. We are part­ners in the World Golf Cham­pi­onships, for ex­am­ple. But more so than the PGA Tour, our com­peti­tors are other sports, with whom we com­pete for au­di­ences. Au­di­ences, at the end of the day, are noth­ing more than a form of cur­rency.

The en­gage­ment of dif­fer­ent de­mo­graph­ics, dif­fer­ent in­come tax brack­ets and dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups is some­thing we are all try­ing to in­crease. We hope­fully can work to­gether to achieve all of those things.

Are we in­evitably edg­ing closer and closer to­wards the al­most myth­i­cal ‘World Tour?’

I’m not sure about that. We have not had any con­crete con­ver­sa­tions about it. It is some­thing that is gen­er­ated by the me­dia and their stake­hold­ers.

Would you like to see a World Tour? If so, would you lose your iden­tity if it came to pass?

I guess you’d have to start with what the def­i­ni­tion of such a tour would be. We are a world tour now, play­ing in 27 dif­fer­ent coun­tries. So, what is the def­i­ni­tion? No one has ever been able to tell me ex­actly what the def­i­ni­tion of “World Tour’ is.

What I will say, though, is that I be­lieve at some point – whether that’s two years, five years or ten years away – a consolidation or at least a com­ing to­gether and streamlining of the num­ber of tour­na­ments around the world will hap­pen. That is some­thing that could ben­e­fit all tours.

In fact, that is what we are try­ing to do with the Asian Tour. We are talk­ing about a com­bined Money List, for ex­am­ple. But it’s not easy. Again, I be­lieve that is one of the big­gest chal­lenges golf faces – that it is so fractured.

So you think it will hap­pen?

It’s a pos­si­bil­ity that con­ver­sa­tions could hap­pen over the next two to four years.

Wouldn’t a pos­si­ble for­mat in­volve an elite tour into which the other tours would feed? There would be pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion.

In my first two years here at the Euro­pean Tour, I have to say I haven’t given that any con­sid­er­a­tion. We have been busy build­ing our own busi­ness. The only ques­tion we have looked at is pos­si­bly ex­pand­ing the num­ber of World Golf Cham­pi­onships. But at this point, we haven’t had any se­ri­ous dis­cus­sions at all re­gard­ing a World Tour.

You men­tioned the Rolex Series and how suc­cess­ful that has been. But some of the lower-ranked play­ers ap­pear to have been vic­tims of that suc­cess? There does seem to be two or three dis­tinct Euro­pean Tours go­ing on at once, de­pend­ing on what level of player we are talk­ing about. Is that some­thing you see as an is­sue go­ing for­ward?

To be hon­est, that was why we came up



Pelley flanked by the 2018 Ry­der Cup team cap­tains Thomas Bjorn and Jim Furyk dur­ing a re­cent visit to Paris.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.