Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of The European Tour at the presentation ceremony of DP World Tour Championship. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Golf will have a successful shorter format to the 72 holes within five years, according to European Tour Chief executive officer Keith Pelley.

“I believe that the 72-hole tournament will always be at our core. It’s what we do and it is something that’s critical to our history and to our future,” said Pelley on the sidelines of the DP World Tour Championship.

“We are all looking for something to engage and grow our audience. And if you catapult ahead in five years, I do believe there will be another format that will be adopted that will be commonplace in the world stage.”

The European Tour has already held a light-hearted three-stage Hero Challenge series on the sidelines of this season, which culminated in Dubai this week with players trying hit a floating green off the Atlantis Hotel’s Nasimi Beach on Palm Jumeirah.

“If we trigger some other Tours to experiment with that, absolutely, we applaud it 100 per cent. And if they develop that format, then we’ll follow alongside.

“I do believe that this is a very special game with incredibly skilled players in it, and it has the makings of just exposing personalities and athletes and I’ve worked with them my whole life, they are great individuals and great role models. But in order to do that to a wider audience, we have to look beyond the 72-hole traditional tournament.”

Talk of combining the European and PGA tours to create a World Tour was also discussed. “Does it make sense to look at it in some point down the road? Perhaps. If, in fact, it is something that our players want us to investigate, we would have a fiduciary responsibility to look at it.

“Would we have conversations with all the other Tours? Absolutely. Sure. If it’s the best way to grow the game of golf globally and it works for us as a members’ organisation.

“Right now, it is not our No. 1 priority. We have a lot of things on the agenda now. The concept of a World Tour, I understand, but right now, it is just a concept. Could it come to fruition down the road? Perhaps. But that would be speculation.”

Pelley also leapt to the defence of Rory McIlroy, who missed this week’s DP World Tour Championship through injury, but was spotted playing with friends just down the road at Emirates Golf Club on Thursday.

“Playing a match with your mates is completely different to playing in a competitive golf tournament.

“I’m completely comfortable with Rory’s decision that he made some time ago. The most important thing for the European Tour is to have our superstars healthy and playing at the best they possibly can be. So take time to get healthy.”

Henrik Stenson also missed the tournament through injury, but Pelley reckoned the event hadn’t suffered due to their absences.

“Heading into today, the world No. 6 (Justin Rose) was leading and the world No. 5 (Jon Rahm) was second; we would love to have Rory and Henrik here. But we have a very strong field that we’re very proud of.”