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COMMENT: The DP World Tour’s reality is that it has always been a feeder to the PGA Tour

The Saudis are playing "outside the ecosystem" of men's pro golf, said FP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley.

What has been tough for some to accept cannot be denied now. The DP World, formerly European Tour, has and will never be a competitor to the PGA Tour.

The “strengthening” of the strategic partnership between the two tours announced on Tuesday by chiefs Jay Monahan and Keith Pelley still made play of partnerships and equality.

But instead it’s a bulwark against the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour, and one that largely confirms the DP World as a feeder tour.

‘The pinnacle of the men’s professional game’

There’s an admission of as much in the European Tour’s own statement. In announcing that the ten players not otherwise exempt on the Race to Dubai each year will now get full PGA Tour cards and membership, it describes the US circuit as “the very pinnacle of the men’s professional game”.

Had this arrangement been in place for the 2021 season, Perthshire’s Calum Hill – and Oban’s Robert MacIntyre – would both currently have PGA Tour cards.

That, in some eyes, will be the advance. There’s a tangible route from the DP World Tour to the PGA Tour that previously didn’t exist.

But in other eyes, the DP World Tour just became “PGA Tour Europe”.

Of course the top players from Europe always wanted the better fields, more ranking points and bigger money in America. That’s been true ever since Peter Oosterhuis and Seve Ballesteros blazed their trail in the 1970s. It’s true now, with most players – certainly Hill and MacIntyre – openly aspiring to play in America.

Europe did, and still retains, an order of autonomy. But it’s a junior partner in this alliance, and with this enhanced arrangement it’s basically accepted the junior place in golf’s ecosystem.

Refuting rumours

The alternative, some thought, was a competing alliance with the Saudis and LIV. But Pelley stressed that he hadn’t spoken to them in over a year, refuting rumours that he’d been at LIV’s first event at Centurion earlier this month.

He also drew a clear demarcation between the Saudis’ involvement in other sports and in golf.

“We never received a formal written offer from Golf Saudi,” he said. “Unfortunately Golf Saudi has elected to play outside the ecosystem of golf.

“They play inside the ecosystem of Formula 1, they play inside the ecosystem of the Premier League Football, and they do in women’s golf, where I am a board member of the LET.

“If they are interested to play inside the ecosystem and not launch a rival tour that is detrimental to the game at large, then I personally would be open to having a conversation.”

But that conversation is unlikely to take place now with Pelley and the DP World Tour in so tight with Monahan and the PGA Tour.

Going with the Saudis – a move certain to be hugely unpopular with the majority of fans and, more increasingly, sponsors – was probably a non-starter.

For some – players, agents, officials and fans – who still harbour a belief that the DP World Tour could compete with the US Tour, it will be a bitter pill to swallow.

But really, it’s always been a reality.

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