LIV Golf told its players ahead of this week's Invitational Series event in Bangkok, Thailand, that they would finally be getting Official World Golf Ranking points.
Brooks Koepka's significant other, Jenna Sims, shared as much in a caption on social media. The initial thought was, perhaps, the OWGR had decided LIV merited the points and expedited the review process just in time for the final two individual events of the eight-event series and ahead of next year's debut of the LIV Golf League. Turned out, though, that it wasn't that simple.
Soon after Sims' social content caught on, James Corrigan of The Telegraph reported that LIV believed it would imminently receiving points from the OWGR for their events after they formed a strategic alliance (which is a shot at the PGA Tour's relationship with the DP World Tour) with the little-known MENA Tour. The MENA Tour -- which stands for Middle East and North Africa -- had barely been operational since the start of the pandemic, only recently wrapping up their 2020 season with the grace of the Official World Golf Ranking. Now, they were preparing for their full return with a 2022-23 schedule that included sanctioning all the remaining LIV Golf Invitational Series events for this year and all LIV Golf League events next year. Every LIV Golf player would immediately become a MENA Tour member under rejiggered qualification and exemption criteria.
Surely, the argument from LIV went, there was nothing the OWGR could do now to deny these events world-ranking points. After all, MENA Tour events have been granted points for years, running mostly 54-hole events with a cut. Even though the LIV Golf event would continue to have no cut, the MENA Tour events with a cut would help satisfy the OWGR requirement that most events on a circuit have a cut. The blended average field size of MENA Tour full-field events and LIV Golf League events would then satisfy the average size requirement of 75 or more players. Presto, give us points now, please.
However, the OWGR didn't grant that request. Instead, the OWGR put out a statement acknowledging the receipt of the new alliance between LIV and the MENA Tour and said they would be carefully reviewing the new arrangement and proposal to rate LIV events going forward. That process, though, would take weeks, and that meant that the final two individual LIV Golf events of 2022 would not get points. The series-ending team event in Miami wouldn't get points anyway. In other words, the OWGR was saying that the soonest LIV Golf events could offer points would be in 2023, when the LIV Golf League is loosely slated to start in Mexico in February.
The OWGR did the right thing here, of course. Their decision, either way, sets a precedent for not only LIV Golf but also tours (why couldn't PGA Tour Champions events get points then, he asked facetiously) current and hypothetical. Besides, the OWGR folks clearly saw this for what it was: an attempt to find a loophole and exploit it.
There are several questions that come out of this whole episode:
- What do LIV Golf players feel now that they were told they're getting points moving forward and, at least so far, are not until at least 2023?
- Why does LIV Golf care about Official World Golf Ranking points, knowing that the majors can simply change their exemption criteria to not use it for determining fields?
- Was this exercise designed to set up ammo for a lawsuit against the Official World Golf Ranking?
- If LIV Golf subsequently tries to spin this publicly as the golf establishment once again rebuking them, is that a winning message?
- Is the whole point of this not OWGR points, as it seems ostensibly, but rather about trying to get attention?
It makes sense for LIV Golf to want their players ranked against every other golfer on every major tour in the world. The OWGR was originally concocted as a bit of marketing anyhow, and LIV Golf players stacking up well against their peers would be an endorsement for their tour. However, getting OWGR points would likely be a Pyrrhic victory. By the time February 2023 rolls around, LIV Golf players' rankings will continue dropping. If they are granted points from that moment forward, on a tour where the same 48 players largely compete in isolation, then they will effectively drown their own ranking because of field strength remaining largely the same. Their players will also be penalized for not playing often enough to avoid a penalty in the OWGR. All of this would turn the major championships -- assuming there's not another stumbling block to entry there -- into even higher stakes affairs for the eligible LIV players. They would have to come home with a lot of points, or they otherwise could continue sinking the overall rating of the tour.
As I've said before, it makes more sense for LIV to establish its own ranking system and operate from there.