The new European Tour CEO has acclaimed Rory McIlroy as a terrific ambassador for the Tour following his decision to grant McIlroy special dispensation to keep his Tour card despite not playing in enough events this season.
“Rory is one of the greatest ambassadors to the game of golf and his value to the European Tour is significant but his value to the world of golf is even more significant,” said Keith Pelley, who took over from Irish-born George O’Grady at the EuropeanTour’s Wentworth headquarters in April.
“He’s charismatic. He’s intelligent,” Pelley continued, “he’s well-spoken and he is everything you want in an ambassador for a game and we are fortunate he is a member of the European Tour.
“There’s no question Rory and some of the elite players are critical in the plans of the European Tour going forward.
“But more importantly any time Rory plays golf and any time that Rory talks and speaks with the media it is positive for our game, and anything that is positive for our game must be positive for our Tour.”
Pelley had been in discussions with McIlroy’s management team earlier this month, as the four-time Major champion had only played nine European Tour counting events, four less than the mandatory yearly requirement of 13.
Despite McIlroy being sidelined for six weeks with an injured ankle, that should have ruled him out of competing in the lucrative Final Four Series and the conclusion to the Race to Dubai that McIlroy currently leads by €306,000.
However, Pelley released a statement on September 2 stating that due to ‘exceptional circumstances’ McIlroy would be permitted to contest the Final Four Series.
Then 12 days later, the Tour announced McIlroy had agreed to play in the Turkish Airlines Open and the opening event of the Final Four Series, meaning he will now contest three of the four events.
The 51-year old Canadian previously worked as CEO of the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts and Canadian TV company Rogers Media, which screens NHL hockey.
He has immediately been busy in his new role. There have been dealings with the Asian Tour with a view to both Tours working much closer together and, observers might suggest, cutting off further moves by the PGA Tour to spread its tentacles further into Asia.
But he accepts the McIlroy situation put him on a steep early learning curve in his new job.
“Often when you come in as a CEO, you have a little chance to sit back and listen and learn from speaking with all the stakeholders but I found myself operational very quickly with some key decisions we had to make and certainly the players’ support has been fantastic.
“Dealing with the entire McIlroy situation was a good learning experience for me given it gave me the opportunity to understand all facets of the Tour’s regulations and how different they are when compared to the PGA Tour, and what medical exemptions are and how they work and so on,” Pelley said.
“At the end of the day, we forensically looked at the entire process from a real open and a transparent side and made the decision we felt was best for the Tour, and it’s been supported by the players.
“We looked at Rory’s overall schedule and realistically after chatting with independent doctors and Rory’s team, and then after analysing it from all sides, we were of the opinion he could play no more events than he’s now agreed to play.”
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