DP World Tour chief hits back at LIV Golf players over threat of legal action

The DP World Tour chief executive, Keith Pelley, has hit back at the 16 players who have threatened the tour with legal action unless their sanctions for competing in the first LIV Golf event are rescinded.

In a strongly-worded response to the letter which “implored” the tour to reconsider the penalties before 5pm on Friday, Pelley dismissed the players’ claims that they “care deeply” about the Tour, citing how many times some have played in Rolex Series events in recent years.

Pelley added that one player gave a signed commitment to play in this week’s Irish Open, but is instead contesting the second LIV Golf event in Portland, Oregon. He declined to comment in detail on the threat of legal action but added that, in his view, the sanctions handed out are “proportionate, fair and necessary”.

“There has been a leak to the media of a letter we received on behalf of a number of LIV Golf players which contains so many inaccuracies that it cannot remain unchallenged,” Pelley said. “Before joining LIV Golf, players knew there would be consequences if they chose money over competition.

“Many of them at the time understood and accepted that,” Pelley added. “Indeed, as one player named in the letter said in a media interview this year: ‘If they ban me, they ban me.’ It is not credible that some are now surprised with the actions we have taken.”

The 16 DP World Tour members, including Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, were each fined £100,000 and banned from next week’s Scottish Open and two other events after playing at Centurion Club last month, despite being refused permission.

As well as asking for those sanctions to be rescinded, the players also want a meeting of the tour membership called to discuss the matter further, and have threatened to “employ the various other means and methods at our disposal to rectify these wrongs”.

Pelley’s statement continued: “The letter claims that these players ‘care deeply’ for the DP World Tour. An analysis of the past participation statistics on our tour in recent years of several of the leading players named, suggests otherwise. One player named in the note has only played six Rolex Series events in the past five years. Another one, only four.

“ I wish many of them had been as keen to play on our tour then as they seem to be now, based on the fact they have either resigned their membership of the PGA Tour or have been suspended indefinitely.

“Furthermore, given how deeply these players say they care about the DP World Tour, perhaps some of them could have played in Ireland this week … in particular one player who gave us a signed commitment to play at Mount Juliet. With that player currently in action at Pumpkin Ridge [on the LIV Tour], you can imagine the allegation in the letter that we are in the wrong, is hard to accept.

“Finally, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on any potential legal matters,” the 58-year-old Pelley concluded. “I will simply reiterate that our members’ regulations, which have been in force for more than 30 years, have been accepted by all the players, [and] are there to protect all of our members.

“The sanctions for those members who knowingly broke our rules by playing at the Centurion Club without a release are proportionate, fair and, I believe, considered necessary by the majority of our members.”

The second event of the controversial, Saudi-backed breakaway tour continues on Friday at Pumpkin Ridge, where Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz leads after the first round. US golfers Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed are all making their debuts after signing up to the tour following the first event.