Chief executive Keith Pelley has hit back at the 16 players who have threatened the DP World Tour with legal action unless their sanctions for competing in the first LIV Golf event are rescinded.
In a strongly-worded, 550-word response to the letter which “implored” the Tour to reconsider the penalties before 5pm today, Pelley criticises the claim from the players that they “care deeply” about the Tour, citing limited appearances in Rolex Series events in recent years.
He also says that one player – understood by the PA news agency to be Graeme McDowell – gave a signed commitment to play in this week’s Horizon Irish Open, but is instead contesting the second LIV Golf event in Portland.
Pelley declined to comment in detail on the threat of legal action but said he feels the sanctions handed out are “proportionate, fair and, I believe, considered necessary by the majority of our members.”
“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 in a statement.
“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. Indeed, as one player named in the letter said in a media interview earlier 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 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 in particular 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, if they are still in membership, 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 support of our new title sponsor, in particular one player who gave us a signed commitment to play at Mount Juliet.
“With that player currently in action at Pumpkin Ridge, you can imagine the allegation in the letter that we are in the wrong, is hard to accept.”
The PA news agency understands that the reference to Rolex Series appearances relates to former Masters champions Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel.
Pelley added: “We also take great exception to an allegation made near the end of the letter which states we are somehow playing ‘second fiddle’ to the PGA Tour. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“We held a player meeting in Ireland on Tuesday where we outlined in great detail all the many benefits of our expanded relationship with the PGA Tour.
“One of those is an unprecedented 10 cards on offer to the PGA Tour, cards that many of the players named in this letter desperately wanted to attain in the early stages of their careers. Why now be critical of those trying to do the same?”
DP World Tour members, including Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, were each fined £100,000 and banned from next week’s Genesis Scottish Open and two other events co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour after playing at Centurion Club earlier this month, despite being refused permission.
As well as asking for the sanctions to be rescinded, the 16 players also want a meeting of the Tour membership called to discuss the matter further or “you will leave us with no choice but to employ the various other means and methods at our disposal to rectify these wrongs.”
Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, who is a DP World Tour board member, fears legal action is now inevitable and that the rebel players would not be welcome back if they prevailed.
“I don’t understand the logic where they think they can go and build up a competitor, leave the collective, and then want to come back and play in the collective as well,” McGinley told Sky Sports News.
“You can’t be on two sides of the fence here, you’ve got to play one or the other. The other thing to bear in mind is that there is a real resolve about the players who have remained loyal to the Tours to say ‘We don’t want these guys back’.
“All of us within the game (thought) the inevitable court case was going to happen and we may well be now on such a collision course. It’s a really sad day for professional golf that it’s come to this.”
Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington said he has no problem with some of his friends joining LIV due to the “incredible amount of money” on offer, but added that they knew sanctions would be forthcoming.
“They might have wished something different but I do know that everybody who went, they expected this,” Harrington said after his second round in the Irish Open.
“I think from a general perspective, the players who haven’t gone feel the sanctions haven’t gone far enough, 100 per cent.”