The tone was set for the peak week of the DP World Tour on a fiery AGM Monday morning, when LIV rebels – including Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio García – questioned CEO Keith Pelley.
Eighteen players from the Saudi Arabian-funded series will play in this week’s BMW PGA championship at the West Course and, despite not starting until Thursday, have already made their presence felt.
As revealed by Telegraph Sport last week, the Tour teased awkward scenes when LIV Golf chartered an overnight plane from Boston to make sure its golfers would be at the Wentworth clubhouse in time for the match.
The game didn’t end at The International until just before midnight UK time, with Dustin Johnson giving 40 feet for an eagle to take the $ 4 million first prize and Westwood raising more than $ 1 million. to the fourth – but they were just beyond Surrey 10 hours later.
Westwood, García, Poulter and others challenged Pelley to reveal details of the “strategic alliance” with the PGA Tour, as well as issues such as potential sanctions coming to LIV players after the US circuit issued indefinite bans.
However, Pelley was able to protect himself with the court case taking place in February, in which the renegades will try to overturn the $ 100,000 fines and suspensions imposed by the DP World Tour, formerly the June European Tour.
“KP beat well,” a Tour player told Telegraph Sport. “He blocked his land and managed it with ease. However, a LIV player had a different interpretation of the procedure.
“We didn’t get all the questions we wanted and Keith kept replying that ‘we’re in the middle of an ongoing lawsuit, so I can’t give you an answer,'” the player told Telegraph Sport. “He also said that the DP World Tour was a path to the PGA Tour, but he didn’t say ‘feeder tour’. At least, his answers are now in writing. “
Westwood declined to comment when asked his opinion on the meeting, although he clarified his feelings about the closest ties to the PGA Tour in an interview with Golf Digest last week, particularly with the new relationship that will see the top 10 pros of the DP World Tour end-of-season ranking which has earned PGA Tour cards.
“I mean, which company or organization gives away its top 10 assets at the end of each year, especially to a rival or competitor?” Westwood said. “I am not convinced of the strategic alliance because I have seen how the PGA Tour has performed over the years. There wasn’t much ‘giving’. They’ve always been bullies … I’ve been telling Keith and other board members about him how this is going to be for 12 months now. I told him that getting into bed with the PGA Tour was a mistake. “
Westwood and Co’s contention is that the Tour should have accepted an offer from Saudi Arabia in 2021 which, according to them, would have amounted to over $ 1 billion and could have created Wentworth headquarters as serious rivals to American domination. .
Pelley, however, dismissed this, informing his members in June that “materially this was not a good deal for the European Tour” and that “the figures were nowhere near what has been heralded in the media and players’ halls in the past. a couple of months”. The subject became more and more personal and this inevitably fueled resentment on both sides.
Many in the loyal locker room are angry that the LIV players have decided to appear at the $ 8 million event in Wentworth, taking seats for their lower-ranking colleagues. A fortnight ago, Rory McIlroy said he would “fight for his stomach” seeing the rebels in Wentworth and Matt Fitzpatrick called it “embarrassing, a little weird and disappointing”.
On Sunday Paul McGinley, the former Ryder Cup captain and Tour council member, said in an interview that “no golfer on the European tour wants LIV players to be involved in our tournaments,” albeit after Gonzalo. Fernández-Castaño, the seven-time Tour Winner, took to Twitter to object to that comment, he was forced to clarify that he meant “every player past and present I have spoken to”.
The tension is high and the events of the AGM are intended only to fuel enmity. Westwood and company have been barred from appearing in Wednesday’s pro-am and will not be among the featured groups on TV. They view these as unnecessary offenses and have promised to go head-to-head with Pelley again at the players’ meeting on Tuesday night.
“Keith said he will spend the entire hour asking questions about the” strategic alliance “and about LIV and any other concerns,” an insider said. “The rebels may find it easier to sound their answers in a less formal setting. It should be even spicier. “