LIV Golf’s bid for world ranking points denied by OWGR board

by Joanne Miller

LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed 48-man league, will not be eligible for Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points after the OWGR board determined that it could not measure the league fairly against the other 24 tours around the world. The decision was made after LIV Golf’s application was rejected by the OWGR in July 2022. The league had already played two events at that time.

Peter Dawson, chairman of the OWGR board, clarified that the decision was not political but rather technical. He stated that LIV players are indeed talented enough to be ranked, but they are not playing in a format that allows for equitable ranking with the other 24 tours and their thousands of players.

To avoid any conflict of interest, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, European tour CEO Keith Pelley, and Keith Waters of the International Federation of PGA Tours recused themselves from the decision regarding LIV Golf.

The committee responsible for rejecting LIV’s application included representatives from Augusta National, the PGA of America, the U.S. Golf Association, and The R&A, which run the four majors. The majors utilize the OWGR as part of their qualifying criteria.

LIV Golf has two events remaining in its second season. The league features 48 players competing over 54 holes with no cuts and a $20 million purse, plus an additional $5 million awarded in a simultaneous team competition.

Dawson mentioned that the OWGR could have worked around some of the requirements, such as a 36-hole cut and an average field size of 75 players over a season. However, the committee raised concerns about the closed nature of LIV Golf. The league maintains the same 48 players throughout the season, with several players signed to contracts that secure them a spot on the roster regardless of performance.

Notable players outside the top 24, who are not guaranteed a spot for the next season, include Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Bubba Watson, Paul Casey, and Ian Poulter.

To promote turnover, LIV Golf plans to add three players for the 2024 season through a promotions tournament. Additionally, Andy Ogletree will advance through the International Series on the Asian Tour. LIV Golf has the option to recruit other players, such as Mito Pereira and Thomas Pieters.

Comparatively, most tours worldwide have a turnover rate of 20% to 25%.

The lack of world ranking points has taken a toll on LIV Golf since its debut in June 2022. Players who joined the rival league were suspended by the PGA Tour and European tour, and their only access to ranking points was through the majors.

At the end of LIV Golf’s inaugural season, it had 12 players from the top 50 in the world. Currently, Cameron Smith (No. 15) and Brooks Koepka (No. 18) are the only players from the top 50, with LIV Golf having just six players in the top 100.

Players like Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, and Talor Gooch, who have achieved success in LIV Golf, are no longer in the top 100. LIV players have criticized the credibility of the OWGR for not offering them ranking points.

Dawson acknowledged the need to find a solution to include players like Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia in the ranking. However, he emphasized that the challenge lies in finding solutions for the qualification and relegation processes, rather than the league’s format.

Concerns were also raised regarding the team aspect of LIV Golf. A particular incident involving Sebastián Muñoz at a LIV Golf event in Florida a week before the Masters drew attention. With a 1-shot lead on the final hole, Muñoz had to decide between playing aggressively for a birdie or lagging his putt to secure a par and maintain his team’s lead. He chose the latter.

LIV Golf has the option to reapply for inclusion in the OWGR system. The board, however, highlighted that turnover, objective access to LIV Golf, and the relegation of underperforming players would be crucial factors in obtaining ranking points.

Another important consideration for LIV Golf is the commercial partnership announced in June between the PGA Tour, European tour, and the Saudi backers of LIV Golf (Public Investment Fund). This partnership will involve evaluating the future of team golf.

The exclusion of LIV Golf from the OWGR system raises questions about its standing and legitimacy within the broader golfing community. While the league offers substantial prize money and a unique format, the absence of world ranking points presents a significant obstacle for players seeking global recognition and opportunities. Whether a compromise can be reached between LIV Golf and the OWGR remains uncertain, but the issue highlights the complexities of balancing commercial interests with the integrity of the sport.

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