Keith Pelley had no problem with stars Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson missing the Race to Dubai season-finale – despite the fact world number 10 McIlroy was seen playing golf with friends in the week leading up to the DP World Tour Championship.
McIlroy had earlier announced his decision to withdraw from the final event of the European Tour season in order to recuperate after an injury-plagued year, while Stenson pulled out a week before the event after bruising a rib.
McIlroy, 28, was seen playing with pals at Emirates Golf Club, but European Tour Pelley said there was a huge difference between that and four days of grueling championship golf.
“Rory and I had the dialogue, we’ve had the dialogue about him needing the rest, about taking the rest of the season off,” said Pelley.
“Playing a match with your mates is completely different than playing in a competitive golf tournament. Playing in a golf tournament, getting up, practising, playing four days after you haven’t played, you have to definitely be ready.
“I’m totally comfortable with Rory’s decision that he made some time ago. Henrik looked like he was coming last week after he practiced and the very next day, he was practising again, and he got a twinge in the back.
“I said it to Henrik and I said to Rory, the most important thing for the European Tour and global golf is to have our superstars healthy and playing at the best they possibly can be.
“So I totally respect Rory’s decision. But it is a fundamental difference between hitting balls and playing a fun round with your mates than playing in a competitive tournament.”
And Pelley didn’t feel the absence of two of the top 60 in the Race to Dubai rankings had any detrimental impact on the tournament at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
“I think if you look at, (heading into the final day), the number six player in the world was leading and the number five player in the world was second.
“We would love to have Rory here. We would love to have Henrik here. But we have a very strong field that we’re very proud of.”
Pelley also revealed the European Tour is negotiating with local organisers to safeguard the future of the season finale in Dubai.
“We’re having discussions now, again, as we discuss 2019 and 2020 and beyond,” he said.
“This is a terrific golf tournament. This is where our players want to play. We are very fortunate for it to be called the Race to Dubai and to have somebody like DP World, who has been involved for many, many years as the title partner.
“Dubai is absolutely a critical part of our current success and our future plans. We believe that this tournament here at Jumeirah Golf Estates will be here for many years to come.”
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