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The LIV Golf vs. World Rankings Battle Is Becoming Increasingly Testy

Chris Trotman/LIV Golf. Getty Images.

LIV Golf tried to pull a fast one earlier this week. There's really no other way to put it. The upstart Saudi-backed circuit submitted an official application to the Official World Golf Ranking board back in July in hopes of offering their players world ranking points, which are still the currency in world golf. For guys who haven't won a major, being in the OWGR's top 50 is the main avenue into the major championships, and not being able to rack up OWGR points up has been one of the main drawbacks for the guys who have joined LIV. Consider Dustin Johnson, who has finished fourth or better in four of his five LIV starts…and tumbled down to No. 23 in the world rankings. DJ doesn't have to worry about getting into majors given his five-year major exemption for winning the 2020 Masters, but others aren't so fortunate. LIV is clearly feeling the pressure from its players to get OWGR points, and to do so quickly. 

Which explains the loophole they tried to exploit earlier this week. On Wednesday, they announced a "strategic alliance" with the MENA Tour—a circuit that plays its events across the Middle East and Africa but hasn't held an event since the pandemic—a move that was clearly trolling the PGA Tour's "strategic alliance" with the DP World Tour. LIV suggested that tying themselves to the MENA Tour, which offered OWGR points back when the MENA Tour was a thing, should result in LIV giving out OWGR points immediately. Like, this week, with their event in Bangkok. The OWGR responded with a non-responsive statement. 

"OWGR notes that the first two tournaments in this series appeared to be the same as the LIV Golf Invitational Series tournaments in Bangkok and Jeddah," the statement read. "Communication from the MENA Tour included a starting field data file for the Bangkok tournament, confirming that to be the case. A review of the changes to the MENA Tour is now underway by the OWGR.

"Notice of these changes given by the MENA Tour is insufficient to allow OWGR to conduct the customary necessary review ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok (7-9 October) and LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah (14-16 October).

"Only after the review is complete will a decision be made on awarding points to the MENA Tour’s new “Limited Field Tournaments”, defined by the MENA Tour in its Regulations as “any MENA Tour-approved tournament, which comprises of a player field of less than 80 players."

The OWGR clearly doesn't know what to do, and they're essentially buying themselves time. We should note that the OWGR's board includes a bunch of men who've been vocally anti-LIV Golf, including PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, DP World Tour chief Keith Pelley and R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers. That alone makes this a sticky situation, and there are some aspects of LIV Golf that flout the clearly stated guidelines tours must follow to offer points—things like average field size, number of tournaments, the ability to qualify for an event, being operational for over a year, and the length of the tournament itself. But these guidelines were written with small upstart tours in mind, not an oil-money backed behemoth paying its top players over $100 million in guaranteed money. 

The situation at hand is truly unprecedented—you have a number of the best golfers in the world playing regularly on a tour with richer payouts than the PGA Tour, and yet there are no points at stake. The event that Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Abraham Ancer, Jason Kokrak, Talor Gooch and Paul Casey are playing in doesn't offer world ranking points, but this week's Players Championship presented American Express hosted by Government of Haryana & Panchkula Golf Club on the PGA Tour of India does. 

Then again, the PGA Tour of India has gone through the OWGR certification process and LIV has not. But LIV's not buying the whole process for the reasons laid out above—there's never been an upstart tour with this much juice, and they're imploring the OWGR to open their eyes and acknowledge the new golf landscape. 

"We've hit every mark in their criteria," Bryson DeChambeau said (erroneously) after the first round of the Bangkok event. "So for us not to get points is kind of crazy with having the top—at least I believe we have the top players in the world. Not all of them, but we certainly believe that there's enough that are in the top 50, and we deserve to be getting world ranking points. They're delaying the inevitable."

"We're going to keep dropping down in the rankings to where our points won't ever matter. That's what they're trying to accomplish, and I hope that people can see right through that rather than believe the lies that they've been told."

LIV commissioner Greg Norman agreed with his $100+ million man. 

"My players should have them. There's 22 tours that have world ranking points, and there's only one that's even equal or a little bit superior to this. Only one out of those 22. It doesn't make sense from a majors perspective, it doesn't make sense from a broadcast perspective. You're paying and investing for the strength of field. And by degrading the strength of field by not allowing LIV players to get OWGR points is not doing the game of golf any good."

On this issue, I find myself agreeing with Max Homa, who at the Presidents Cup basically said the LIV guys should get world ranking points…but not at the snap of their fingers. 

"I was thinking about this the other day," Homa said in Charlotte. "If us four went out, and we're four very good golfers, we went out and played, that's four great golfers. We've got 48 of them in my home club, and I put on a golf tournament, do we get World Ranking points? If the OWGR decides they get World Ranking points that's great. 

"I have no problem with them getting ranking points. To my eye, it seems like they should get World Ranking points. You can't just we should get them. You can't just say, as I read on Instagram, the number 1 and 2 best players in the world competed against each other, great. That's what the thing's for. I hope for them that it does go through and they get World Ranking points. It seems like if 48 great golfers play in tournament, week in and week out, to my eye, should get points. But there is a criteria. That's how the world works."