Leading LIV Series players have enquired about the possibility of joining the European circuit after being banned from the PGA Tour. Any big-named defectors would put the spotlight on Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the DP World Tour, and on the strength of the “strategic alliance” signed with his US counterpart Jay Monahan 18 months ago.
While Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, acted decisively on Thursday – the first day of the Saudi rebel circuit here at the Centurion Club – indefinitely suspending all the members, past and present, who are playing in this $25million opener of the LIV Golf Series, the silence from Wentworth HQ seemed deeply significant.
Two Ryder Cup veterans in Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood have pleaded with the DP World Tour – formerly the European Tour – to allow them to retain their memberships and so retain their eligibility to play or captain the European team in future biennial dust-ups.
However, it would obviously also mean that they could still play on their home tour and be blessed with a schedule that would guarantee access to world ranking points and thus give them a path to the major championships. But it would undoubtedly also lead to a huge escalation in this golfing civil war.
It is an understatement to call this a “predicament” for Pelley and his board. Telegraph Sport exclusively revealed earlier this week that Bryson DeChambeau had signed for LIV in a $100m-plus deal, joining Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter as well as Garcia, Westwood and world No 21 Louis Oosthuizen and will play in the next LIV event, in Oregon in three weeks time.
If the DP World Tour performed a U-Turn with the “strategic alliance” and managed to extricate itself, then its sponsors might relish the chance to feature big US names at its events; particularly as LIV is ready to announce Patrick Reed as another capture and is close to sealing Rickie Fowler, as well as other US pros in Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak and Harold Varner.
An insider called this is “a tremendous opportunity”.”The European Tour needs to grasp the nettle and allow all these guys to play and it will survive,” they said. “The legalities are unclear but Pelley and his board have a chance to enbrace this. Johnson, Mickelson, De Chambeau, and all those like Westwood, Poults, Louis, GMac…. I think the sponsors would be delighted.”
Former world No 1 Martin Kaymer has also resigned his PGA Tour membership and is pinning hopes on Europe. Along with Garcia, Bernd Wiebsberger, the German is down to play in the BMW International in his homeland a fortnight and is waiting to see if his home circuit follows the Sawgrass lead.
“We’ll see what the DP World Tour does next week,” he said. “I guess they just want to wait until the tournament’s over until they have their own tournament finished in Sweden [the Scandinvian Mixed]. I haven’t heard anything, but I’m planning to play in Munich.
“I don’t see why they should ban us because we should focus on the big picture, and the game of golf that we promote. It doesn’t matter where you play in the world, it’s the greatest sport out there. There’s no reason to continue to get upset.”
That event at Golfclub Munchen Eicenried has now taken on ludicrously important status. “The PGA Tour will expect Wentworth to fall in behind,” the source said. “But there is a growing group who believe that Pelley should sit down with LIV and talk.”
The accusation of “sportswashing” – and all the extreme negativity that spins off it – might be a major turn-off to sponsors, but there can be no questioning that DeChambeau is a significant addition. Greg Norman, the LIV chief executive, celebrated his new signing.
“Bryson is passionate about the sport, innovative in his approach and committed to pushing the boundaries in pursuit of excellence,” Norman said in a statement. “He’s not afraid to think outside the box and supports our mission of doing things differently to grow our game. The power and energy he brings to the course will deliver added electricity to our competition in Portland and beyond.”
In the 54-hole tournament, itself, Charl Schwartzel has a three-shot lead over countryman Henni Du Plessis going into the final round. Should Schwartzel hold on and win the $4million first-prize here on Saturday evening, as well as take his $750,000 share of the $3m team prize, then it would be a cheque almost four times larger than he received for winning the Masters in 2011.