VIRGINIA WATER, England – Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm’s absence from this week’s $7 million BMW PGA Championship put European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley on the back foot in a week when he should be celebrating.
Pelley is presiding over the first event of the lucrative Rolex Series, eight events this season with a minimum prize fund of $7 million. Something to shout about for any CEO, but Pelley spent most of his pre-tournament press conference trying to justify Garcia and Rahm’s absence.
“I don’t think Sergio gave a specific reason,” Pelley said. “I guess Sergio did his schedule at the beginning of the year, and we always knew that this wasn’t part of his schedule. We know where he’s going to be playing and what Rolex Series events he’s going to be playing in, and we’ll announce those in due course.”
Garcia has only entered the BMW PGA twice in the last 17 years. The 37-year-old doesn’t compete because of complex UK tax reasons. However, as reigning Masters champion, Pelley would have wanted him here this year to help kick off the first Rolex Series event.
Ditto for Rahm. The young Spaniard has scheduled European Tour events later this summer, but his absence this week is a huge blow.
“Jon Rahm is a terrific player, great young Spaniard,” Pelley said. “He has said to us that he wants to play here in Europe. We will embrace him. Any time that he gets a chance to play here in Europe we’ll welcome him with open arms. He’s obviously announced that he’s going to play in the Irish Open. I believe there will be another Jon Rahm announcement in the coming months.
“We’re very comfortable with Jon Rahm and his schedule, and thrilled that he’s going to play our tour and thrilled that he has taken up membership.”
Pelley would not be drawn on what reasons both players gave for not entering an event in the European Tour’s backyard. (The Euro Tour is based at Wentworth).
“We like to focus on who is here, and when you look at who is here, the field, we have The Open Champion (Henrik Stenson), we have the Olympic Champion Justin Rose, we have four former world No. 1s, we have nine major champions, we have nine of the Ryder Cup members.
“This is a terrific field and it’s significantly stronger than the field was last year.”