Exclusive: Rory McIlroy helped broker new PGA Tour and DP World Tour partnership

Exclusive: Rory McIlroy helped broker new PGA Tour and DP World Tour partnership - Getty Images
Exclusive: Rory McIlroy helped broker new PGA Tour and DP World Tour partnership - Getty Images

Rory McIlroy played a vital role in securing an historic PGA Tour deal for his home circuit that includes a £125million cash injection and a direct American pathway for DP World Tour players, as the traditional powers launched their fightback against the Saudi rebel circuit.

McIlroy is on the players’ advisory committee of the PGA Tour and Telegraph Sport has learned that the  Northern Irishman’s input was crucial in helping the DP World Tour - formerly the European Tour - ensure a package that Wentworth HQ is confident will thwart the existential threat of the LIV Golf Series.

As the 48-man field was assembling for the second $25million LIV event in Portland, Oregon, Keith Pelley, the DP World Tour chief executive, fronted an emergency players meeting on Tuesday at the Irish Open in which he laid out the benefits of the historic announcement.

Inevitably, the two main carrots to satisfy an audience comprising a majority of loyalists but also those who believed Pelley should have gone with the Saudi millions, were money and playing opportunities.

The PGA Tour cards up for grabs is hugely important and it is understood that this is what McIlroy pushed for most passionately with commissioner Jay Monahan. There has never before been a route from the European circuit into what Pelley called “the most powerful entity in the world of golf” and there will doubtless be accusations of Europe becoming “a feeder league”.

Yet Pelley summarily dismissed this, calling it “a wonderful opportunity for our players”, and pointed out that as it is for the top 10 players in the standings who do not already have PGA Tour membership, it is certainly not an avenue reserved simply for the heavyweights.

PGA Tour and DP World Tour strengthen ties with £100m partnership - AP
PGA Tour and DP World Tour strengthen ties with £100m partnership - AP

Last year, Scotland’s Calum Hill, ranked 176th in the world, would have gained his US card, despite finishing 32nd in the Order of Merit.

With LIV dishing out 100s of millions in signing-on fees for names like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka and eight-figure sums for European heavyweights such as Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, the Tour’s finances will have to, at the very least, not appear overly paltry.

And courtesy of Monahan upping the PGA Tour stake in his partner’s media arm - European Tour Productions - from 15 to 40 percent, Pelley now has funds he could not have dreamt off during the pandemic.  The coffers are boosted by an estimated $150million.

Pelley would not divulge the exact purse figures to the media, but to the players he guaranteed of a rise of combined prize funds - not including the majors and World Golf Championship events - to almost £120million in 2014 and nigh on £140million in 2027 .

That is an increase from just over £100million this year. To an ever-more appreciative room in the Mount Juliet clubhouse in Co. Kilkenny, there was also a vow to “once and for all going to deal with your hotel costs”, as well as assisting with travel, both of which were bugbears to the pros.

Pelley and Monahan were keen to stress the independence of the Tours and nowhere is this better seen in their disciplinary systems.

Monahan issued indefinite bans to his rebels as soon as they had teed off in the opening LIV event in Hertfordshire three weeks ago, while Pelley took a fortnight to announce bans from next week’s Scottish Open - the first jointly-sanctioned tournament between the Tours - as well as £100,000 fines.

Appeal letters have already hit the Wentworth HQ mat from aggrieved players threatening lawyers’ involvement, which shows the legal tightrope Pelley must walk.

Monahan, however, did give a glimpse of a future in which the long-mooted global Tour could be a rational graduation of this relationship. “We are only just getting started,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a bad-tempered press conference in Portland, Koepka claimed he only decided to join LIV after the US Open finished on Sunday 10 days ago, despite Telegraph Sport exclusively reporting his defection on the Tuesday afterwards and it being known that the deal, worth more than £100m, had been in the pipeline for months.

Not only that, but at the US Open he was at a sponsors gathering with a high-profile group of pros also including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Scottie Scheffler and  Koepka discussed forming a vocal collective against LIV.

"My opinion changed," Kopeka said as explanation on Tuesday. "I'm allowed to have my opinion change.”