Why LIV Golf doesn’t have world ranking points. And why it’s all so complicated

greg norman cam smith

Greg Norman poses with Cameron Smith following the latest LIV Golf event in Illinois.

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There is never a dull week when it comes to LIV Golf. Even while the PGA Tour takes center stage again with its Presidents Cup, LIV Golf has once again sent a letter.

By LIV Golf, in this instance, we mean the group of 50 players who have led that tour this summer. From Phil Mickelson to Phachara Khongwatmai. Fifty players signed a letter this week which was sent to Peter Dawson, chairman of the Official World Golf Ranking. Their main gripe is clear: they want world ranking points dished out at LIV Golf events, which is currently not the case, but is being considered by the OWGR board. One side is being patient; the other is running out of patience. 

“An OWGR without LIV would be incomplete and inaccurate,” the letter reads, ”the equivalent of leaving the Big 10 or the SEC out of the U.S. college football rankings, or leaving Belgium, Argentina, and England out of the FIFA rankings.”

For those of you new to this scene, world ranking points have been a simmering issue all summer long. LIV Golf has hosted five tournaments, each of them 54 holes in length, and each generally with a stronger field than the preceding one. LIV has added talent to its fields each step of the way, but no ranking points have been issued. The reasons why are myriad and complex, so before you rush to choose sides in this “should they” or “shouldn’t they” debate, take the time to hear every point below. 

Why LIV’s case is complicated 

LIV Golf has launched itself into pro golf’s ecosystem in as brash a way as possible. Paying massive sums of guaranteed money to some of the best players in the world to convince them to play your tour despite threats of suspension by the PGA Tour is a brazen move. It is a completely legal maneuver and it’s entirely the players’ right to play where they prefer. 

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In the process of doing so, LIV applied to be recognized as a sanctioned tour by the OWGR, the process of which is arduous and the timeline lengthy. That seems fitting for what is ultimately a very complex system. There are currently 23 sanctioned men’s pro golf tours, and LIV wanted to be the 24th. Why? Because the world ranking holds significant weight for entry into the sport’s four biggest events: the major championships, each of which are governed by different entities (Augusta National, the PGA of America, the USGA and the R&A), which all hold a seat on the 7-person board of directors. 

The Simple Discourse

Below is the most boiled down communication sequence of events that matter: 

LIV Golf in early July: Here’s our application. Please give us points.

OWGR: We have a process. It’s detailed and it takes time. At least two years. 

LIV last week: We don’t agree with that process, given everything we’ve detailed. You’re slow-playing us.

LIV players’ letter: Also, some bodies on your board of governors represent a conflict of interest. 

It make seem like LIV and its players are making a simple case, but nothing about the ranking is simple. There are obviously important criteria to be considered. Things like the ability for pro golfers to qualify onto said tour. A qualifying school or something like it is a stipulation for acceptance. Or other stipulations such as the tour must administer events using the Rules of Golf. Another suggested piece of the puzzle is an average of 75 players or more competing in your tour’s events. That is an example of a flaw in LIV Golf’s system. It’s not bulletproof. Cam Smith beating a field of 47 others where only 20 or 30 would be good enough to sustain membership on, say, the PGA Tour is one thing. In the eyes of the OWGR board, adding 40 more golfers to that field makes it all the more substantial. For an even more in-depth look at the important criteria, click here. Exemptions can be made by the OWGR, both in timetable and various criteria, but that is at the sole discretion of the board of directors.

To take the side of LIV Golf and its players, or to take the side of the OWGR — which, to be fair, is not directly in opposition to LIV — might be easy. Just know that each has various implied meanings.

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To tell the OWGR that LIV tournaments should earn points (both now and retroactively) is to say one or more of the following things, but not necessarily all: 

1. The best players in the world are clear to us. When they play events, they should be eligible to earn points.

2. Fifty-four holes is a sufficient length of a pro golf event; perhaps all golf events.

3. Having a mid-tournament cut is not necessary to determine the OWGR points that should be issued.

4. If the best players in the world are playing good golf against some of the other best in the world, the current ranking itself is flawed to disclude that. 

To tell LIV golfers they do not yet deserve points is to say one or more of the following things, but not necessarily all:

1. Rules are rules, be patient. 

2. You knew this was the case, and you knew the consequences of your actions.

3. Fifty-four holes are not enough to consistently constitute a pro golf tournament.

4. There is no cut in your events, thus no clear way to cut off who should get points.

5. I support the PGA Tour in this civil war and don’t stand for LIV’s inclusion.

Dizzy yet?

Hopefully it’s clear that OWGR points is one of a number of complicated issues that LIV Golf has ushered into the ecosystem. That list includes perhaps the biggest lawsuit in the history of the PGA Tour’s existence. That’s not to say that anything LIV has done is legally wrong. The term “independent contractor” is and has long been used to describe the precious freedom pro golfers employ. Joining LIV was their right.

Ultimately, LIV Golf and its contracted players are bound to find out that there are rules. Are the rules fair? We’re not going to tell you they’re the fairest rules in all of sport. But they are the rules, both in the OWGR and on the PGA Tour. Rules in the same way it seems unfair to stand at the corner of a still intersection simply waiting for a walk symbol. There are no cars, it’s safe! But jay-walking is a violation of public code put in place to keep people safe. It is what it is. 

The OWGR has operated like this for decades to uphold an unimpeachable level of integrity. There’s a reason why when the OWGR’s algorithms needed an update last summer, a 12-month holding period of the old system was maintained until those changes were initiated last month. Nothing about the OWGR moves fast. But nothing about LIV Golf has been normal.

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