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  • Alistair Tait

Big Questions for Strategic Alliance

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has laid his cards on the table. No PGA Tour play for the rebels who’ve jumped to the LIV Tour. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Meanwhile European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley (above) is still shuffling the deck trying to find a few aces to get through probably the biggest crisis professional golf has ever seen, one that could rip apart the "strategic alliance" agreed between the tours in November 2020. So far he hasn’t come up trumps, and faces an existential crisis with serious consequences for the future of the tour he leads.

Can Pelley do likewise and ban players from competing in European Tour events? It’s not part of the European Tour’s constitution. More importantly, it’s not going to meet with approval from many sponsors.

Let’s start with the next month’s Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, held the week after the LIV Portland tournament at Pumpkin Ridge, the second on this year’s LIV schedule and first on American soil. The Scottish is the first co-sanctioned tournament between the PGA Tour and European Tour, now the DP World Tour, as part of the much heralded “strategic alliance.” No doubt Monahan would love to see the rebels he’s banned and those who have resigned their PGA Tour membership excluded from the Scottish Open too. How is the PGA Tour’s head honcho going to feel if Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Bernd Wiesberger and Louis Oosthuizen compete in a tournament that has the PGA Tour logo all over it?

Surely the words “slap in the face” are apropos?

Perhaps more importantly, how would Genesis feel about the possibility of losing the above cast of characters? Westwood (1998), McDowell (2008), Kaymer (2009) and Wiesberger (2019) are past champions. Poulter and others have historically used the Scottish to prepare for The Open for years.

Phil Mickelson is former Scottish Open champion. He won in 2013 and triumphed in The Open the following week. Monahan has said rebels like Mickelson can't receive sponsors' invitations to PGA Tour events, but what's to stop Genesis inviting Mickelson and other so-called rebels to compete in its marquee European tournament? Surely Genesis and Scottish golf fans want to see Phil and the above players teeing it up just south of Edinburgh and to hell with the politics?

I can just imagine the transatlantic discussions currently taking place between Virginia Water and Ponte Vedra, respected headquarters of the European and PGA Tours. They must be frazzled.

How must Monahan feel when he looks at the entry list for next week’s BMW International Open in Munich and sees the names Kaymer, Garcia, Wiesberger, Pablo Larrazabal, Oosthuizen, and other LIV London participants like Oliver Bekker and Laurie Canter on the entry list? And how will those players be received by their European peers? I'd love to be a fly on the wall when European Tour statesman Thomas Bjorn chats with Kaymer and co.

Let’s extrapolate further. Do you think sponsors of the two Spanish tournaments in October, the Spanish Open and Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucia Masters, won’t want Garcia in the fields? Of course they will. So will Spanish golf fans.

The field for the Nedbank Challenge, the penultimate event on this year’s DP World Tour schedule, would be decimated if star South African LIV competitors Charl Schwartzel (champion of the inaugural series tournament), Brandon Grace and Oosthuizen were banned from the event.

Monahan, rightly or wrongly, has told PGA Tour members who jumped to the LIV they can’t have their cake and eat it too. Pelley isn’t in a position to do likewise. He doesn’t have the luxury of upsetting long-term sponsors.

Remember, Pelley had the chance to take the Saudi shilling and declined to join forces with the PGA Tour. But the “strategic alliance” is under severe pressure from the upstart league, pressure Pelley might not have anticipated. He might just now be regretting that Malta meeting he and Guy Kinnings allegedly had with with Saudi golf officials.

The world of golf awaits Pelley and the DP World Tour’s response to the LIV circuit. Those answers need to come soon, and they need to be good ones. Otherwise the strategic alliance faces massive challenges going forward.

Those of us who have grown up with and are European Tour aficionados – yes me – await the next chapter in this sorry saga with interest, and much trepidation.

#JustSaying: “We felt partnering with the PGA Tour was the best option for our members and for global golf,” Keith Pelley in November 2020

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