bunkered.co.uk has learned that the Saudi-backed circuit intends to submit an application to the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) next week.
The news comes hot on the heels of the PGA Tour's decision to ban current and future LIV Golf players from its tournaments for an undisclosed period of time and effective immediately.
If approved, OWGR status would make LIV events eligible for world ranking points and solve one of the major outstanding issues facing the start-up.
The application will be proposed on LIV Golf’s behalf by the Asian Tour per the OWGR’s rules that require any new applications to be effectively ‘sponsored’ by one of the six full member tours.
The board that will ultimately vote on the LIV Golf application comprises Augusta National Golf Club, the DP World Tour, the PGA Tour, the R&A, the PGA of America, the USGA, and the International Federation of PGA Tours (which is made up of ‘smaller’ tours such as the Sunshine Tour, Japan Golf Tour, Asian Tour and so on).
Interestingly, the latter’s vote will reportedly be cast by Keith Waters, the COO of the DP World Tour.
Whether or not organisations or competing tours who have a conflict of interest will be asked to abstain from the vote is not yet known.
There are numerous criteria that an OWGR application is required to meet. It is our understanding that LIV Golf meets all bar a handful of those – one being the requirement to have been established for a defined period of time – but those are not thought to be deal-breakers.
It is in the OWGR’s constitution, indeed, that new applications that meet either all or none of the criteria can be approved or denied at the discretion of the OWGR board. The board also reportedly reserves the right to amend those qualifying criteria when and how they choose.
Another sticking point for LIV Golf is the fact that the series comprises 54-hole tournaments with no cut and is, by its own definition, an invitational circuit. It would, in essence, be guaranteeing world ranking points for its invited participants.
That, though, is not without precedent. The PGA Tour’s Tour Championship, as well as the DP World Tour Championship, World Golf Championships and Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge, are all no-cut events that offer OWGR points.
All that said, the most compelling point is surely this.
The OWGR’s value is diminished greatly if it is not a credible and accurate representation of who the best players in the game are.
If, for example, Dustin Johnson wins this week’s LIV Golf event but doesn’t make any world rankings gains as a result, is next week's ranking truly representative and, therefore, a robust enough tool to determine the fields for major championships in particular?
There is no clear timeline as to when the LIV Golf application will be voted upon but this is unquestionably another significant moment in a seismic week for men’s professional golf.
This is lowkey one of the most important battles within this burgeoning war between LIV Golf and the rest of the golf world.
A (maybe not so) quick lesson for those who don't know how the Official Golf World Ranking works. The OWGR is the organization that has developed (and subsequently tweaks as necessary) the formula that creates the world golf rankings. They decide how much weight a given golf event holds as it relates to earning OWGR points, which determines who is better than who in the world of golf.
There are a handful of main factors as it relates to determining how much weight a given event holds. One is merely a calculation that takes the world ranking of all the players in the field of said event and spits out a number. Another is the Tour that is hosting said event.
Many events have a fixed minimum as it relates to how many OWGR points are up for grabs. Major tournaments are fixed at 100 points. Other prestigious events (like the PLAYERS, the BMW PGA on the European Tour, etc) hold lesser fixed amounts, but more than your typical Tour event. But most importantly, ANY given PGA Tour and European Tour event has a set minimum point value of 24. Lesser tours like the Japan and Sunshine (South Africa) Tours have a minimum point value of 16. It seems complicated, but you get the picture.
Why is all of this important? Well... caught in the crossfire of the PGA Tour and LIV Golf are the major championships. What many casual sports fans aren't aware of is that while the major championships have partnerships (and strong ones, at that) with the PGA Tour, none of the 4 are actually controlled and run by the PGA Tour. Augusta National is the most independent by far and can really do whatever they want, the PGA is actually a separate entity from the PGA Tour, the US Open is run by the USGA, and the Open Championship is run by the R&A, which more or less serves as the international version of the USGA.
All 4 majors use the OWGR as a qualification tool as they set their fields. As it stands, if you're in the Top ___ in the world at a given date, you're in the tournament as follows:
The Masters: Top 50
The PGA Championship: Top 100 (this isn't an official rule, but the PGA has traditionally honored this as a rule)
US Open: Top 60
Open Championship: Top 50
Plenty of other tournaments use the OWGR as a qualification tool as well (including the Olympics).
As it stands, LIV Golf is being awarded NO points (and may god have mercy on their souls) from the OWGR. That comes with being the new kid on the block. Their next stop towards becoming legitimate is gaining that status, which is what they're applying for now. But guess who comprises the board of the OWGR?
That's right, basically the heads of all of these major golf tours. They are very much in position to spitefully turn LIV Golf's application down and tell those guys to fuck off. If Dustin Johnson and all these other top guys are suddenly banned from all the events (save for the majors that they've already earned exemptions into) that would typically accumulate them OWGR points and the LIV Golf events are also getting no points, then they're guaranteed to freefall down the rankings and miss the majors too. At first glance, that feels like a verrrry useful leverage tool for the established Tours to keep guys in place.
Problem is if they do so, they risk undermining the credibility of the OWGR as a whole. It's really tough to consider the OWGR a true reflection of the world's very best if it's excluding players who we all know are near the top. And with each big name that's making the switch, a decision to box them out becomes more difficult for everyone involved.
The major championships are in a difficult spot because they pride themselves on hosting the world's best golf fields. It would be really hard for them to take the OWGR seriously as a qualification measure if they want to keep things that way. If the OWGR turns down LIV Golf's application, they will have a tough decision as to whether they can even consider the OWGR a useful tool at all.
So as I'm typing this and thinking about it more and more, I just don't see a way that the OWGR can turn LIV Golf away on this. Not at the pace at which they're poaching top 50 players. Which of course, will only further LIV Golf's status as a very legitimate golf entity. The PGA Tour has played hardball with LIV Golf at every turn so far and while LIV Golf has blinked a few times, they continue to regroup and come back harder and harder. And this is one very large battle that I think LIV Golf has the OWGR (and subsequently the other tours) by the balls.
I'm fascinated by what the OWGR will do here. There's no guarantee that the PGA Tour won't dig their heels in deeper here, but they're in a tough position for sure. Just another situation where we just gotta sit back and watch the drama unfold.