Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the European Tour, has moved to reassure all of those planning to attend this week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth that security remains “the highest priority” following last night’s terrorist attack in Manchester.
Addressing the media in the wake of news that 22 people – including children – had been killed in a reported suicide bombing following a concert by popstar Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena, Pelley said that this week’s tournament will go ahead as planned and that keeping fans, players and officials safe remains the tour’s primary concern.
“I woke up this morning, looking at the weather, thinking about the golf course, thinking about the strength of the field, excited about today – and then I turned on Sky News and heard about the tragedy in Manchester,” said Pelley.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s only 160 miles away. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families.”
As a mark of respect to the victims and their families, the Union Jack flying above the Wentworth clubhouse has been lowered to half-mast and the planned music on the driving range has been scrapped for today. It is also expected that players will wear black ribbons on their caps this week.
Defending champion Chris Wood described the mood around the tournament this morning as ‘sombre’ following the attack.
“We definitely have a heavy heart today,” added Pelley. “I’ve been here now 21 months and one of the things that I’ve learnt about the British is incredible resilience and that resilience demands today that we keep calm and carry on, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do today and the rest of the week.
“As with any event, security is the highest priority. It was before last night and it remains so. We’re in constant dialogue with the police and security services. We obviously are families with issues in times like this. We have several meetings later on this afternoon but we are comfortable that we will react the right way if, in fact, we need to significantly increase our security."
"Chris Wood summed it up perfectly when he described the mood around Wentworth this morning as sombre. The air of excitement that started to build yesterday has given way to a more reflective, subdued atmosphere.
"The driving range has remained busy with players preparing for this week’s tournament – Martin Kaymer, Thomas Bjorn, Padraig Harrington and Russell Knox have been amongst those out there this morning – but minus the loud music that created such a buzz yesterday.
"Pleasingly, there are lots of fans out there, too, and security around the clubhouse and range remains very tight. For the most part, people seem determined to go about their day in as ‘normal’ a fashion as they can."
Michael McEwan • Assistant Editor • At Wentworth