Iona Stephen: “Loss of Pelley and star names is a blow, but DP World Tour’s future remains bright”

Iona Stephen explains why she’s excited about the DP World Tour’s future despite Chief Executive Keith Pelley’s resignation and players departing for LIV and the PGA Tour.

Understandably there is some concern about the future of the DP World Tour after a tough couple of months. Big names Jon Rahm, Adrian Meronk, Lucas Herbert, and Tyrrell Hatton have all gone to LIV Golf, last year’s leading players are now on the PGA Tour, and Chief Executive Keith Pelley, who has played such a huge role in strengthening the Tour, is moving back to Canada to become president and chief executive of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. But let’s keep this blether positive because, while the moves will impact the tour, it creates space for new stars to break through and new ideas to be developed.

Iona Stephen believes Alex Fitzpatrick  is one of the reasons for the DP World Tour to be positive.

Let’s look at the field for the Bahrain Championship, which is happening as I write this, and there a few names stand out. Alex Fitzpatrick, brother of Matt and a player that has been climbing the ranks in recent months. He’s a proven winner on the Challenge Tour and a player I first saw at the Walker Cup at Hoylake in 2019. To this day I am yet to hear a 2-iron make a better noise than his did. There’s clearly high expectation around Alex who, despite his star sibling, is making a name for himself. Luke Donald invited Alex and Rasmus Hojgaard to be part of the build-up at the Ryder Cup, allowing them to get a feel for the event, so we can only assume he envisages them kicking on and being part of a future European team.

David Micheluzzi is a reason to be feel positive about the DP World Tour's future according to Iona Stephen.

Australia’s David Michelluzzi is a star from the amateur ranks and is a really exciting prospect, capable of both entertaining and performing at the highest level, and I’m expecting to see his name on leaderboards for years to come.

Dan Bradbury is another player I’d recommend keeping a close eye on. He started his time on the DP World Tour with a bang, getting a win under his belt at the 2022 Joburg Open in just his third start and the Englishman has proved he’s capable of contending every week.

Iona Stephen expects big things of Marco Penge.

Marco Penge, who I know my fellow columnist Beef is backing to have a big 2024, is incredibly talented. The 2023 winner of the Challenge Tour is another Englishman with top pedigree and a classic swing that’s a joy to watch. He’s already had a couple of impressive finishes in South Africa and I’m excited to see what the year holds for him.

Iona Stephen is expecting big things of Sam Bairstow on the DP World Tour.

I don’t want to end up naming the entire field, so I’ll stop with Sam Bairstow – a tough no-nonsense left-handed Yorkshireman, with an exceptional amateur career and scoring record behind him. The point is that for new talent to break through, there has to be space created and that opportunity is one of the silver linings of the big-name LIV departures.

Keith Pelley’s decision to move on during this period of golfing turbulence is undoubtedly a blow. The Chief Executive will remain in the job he started in August 2015 until April and says he’s committed to and confident of finalizing the deal between the DP World Tour, PGA Tour, and PIF (Public Investment Fund) before he leaves. It could prove more difficult following the PGA Tour’s $3bn deal with the Strategic Sports Group, but if he helps to achieve a positive outcome, then it will be another excellent addition to his already impressive legacy.

Keith Pelley succeeded George O'Grady as Chief Executive of the European Tour Group in 2015.

I’ve been fortunate to work alongside Keith and believe that anyone who has had the same opportunity will be equally sad to see him go. He is charismatic and has brought a wonderful energy to the tour at a time when it was needed.

Many believe his legacy will be acting as a true leader through the incredibly challenging years of Covid-19. Only those directly involved in the inner logistics will be able to fully comprehend what it took to keep the tour alive and moving through such challenging circumstances.

I applaud him for that but believe there is much more to his legacy. There has been criticism from many for his role in creating the pathway for DP World Tour players to become PGA Tour members, but the strategic alliance has simply formalized a route that most top European players have wanted to follow over the past 20 years.

Matthieu Pavon claimed his maiden victory on the PGA Tour in just his third start as a PGA Tour member at the Farmers Insurance Open

I’d have loved to be in the room with Keith when Matthieu Pavon holed the winning putt at the Farmers Insurance Open to become the first French victor on the PGA Tour since 1907 in just his 11th event. That was a fantastic outcome for the DP World Tour and serves as proof of the quality of the players it is developing.

What’s more, it was impossible to miss how many names from the DP World Tour inhabited that leaderboard, most notably Nicolai Hojgaard, who was just one place back.

It highlights the strength and depth of talent Europe’s tour can produce and what can and will happen when players are given the opportunity to progress to the biggest stage in golf. I’m delighted to see that Pavon has already committed to tee it up at his home open at Le Golf National later this year and I can’t wait to watch him play because I believe a French superstar has been born. I understand he even took the time to message “Thanks, boss” to Keith Pelley, straight after he lifted the winner’s cheque for 1.6 million.

Luke Donald with Ryder Cup Europe director Guy Kinnings.

Guy Kinnings (pictured above with Luke Donald), who has been Deputy CEO, Ryder Cup Director & Chief Commercial Officer at European Tour Group & Ryder Cup Europe, will step into Pelley’s shoes when he heads home, and they are big shoes to fill, but it seems a sensible path forward for the tour right now. These are some of golf’s most tumultuous times so the Tour needs a leader who is among the most respected and authoritative figures in the world of golf, and in Guy we have that. His track record is exceptional – just look at the success of the Ryder Cup during his time as director – and he has a great chance of continuing the momentum created by Pelley.

– Read more from Iona Stephen, including her views on the ball rollback, slow play, her hopes of playing in the AIG Women’s Open, and her 2024 golf predictions!

About the author

Iona Stephen is a golf broadcaster and writes for Today's Golfer.

Iona Stephen – Broadcaster and Today’s Golfer contributor

A former professional golfer, who has played on the Ladies European Tour, Iona is a highly respected golf broadcaster.

She joined Today’s Golfer as a regular contributor in 2023 and offers insight into the professional game from her life working on the world’s biggest tours.

The Scotswoman is as comfortable covering the game from the commentary booth as she is broadcasting in front of the camera and from the course, where she is regularly seen interviewing the world’s best players during their rounds.

Alongside her television work, Stephen also has her own YouTube channel – On The Road With Iona.

Follow Iona on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and TikTok and find out more at

- Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this page, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us.