LIV Golf’s fight for world ranking points took a truly unexpected turn this week when the league announced it has established a “strategic alliance” of its own. Enter the MENA Tour.
You’re forgiven if you are not aware of the Middle East and North Africa Tour, but you may want to acquaint yourself. LIV Golf has established what it calls a strategic alliance with the MENA Tour, based in Dubai, which is one of the 23 global golf tours currently sanctioned by the Official World Golf Ranking.
As a result, this week’s field of 48 players at the LIV Golf Invitational in Bangkok are expecting to earn world ranking points via their performance in the 54-hole event. As a matter of process, though, this is not the final word. Each week, the OWGR accepts fields from tours and approves them for the ranking. Based on the players in the field and their recent performances, a number of points are available to be dished out upon the conclusion of the event.
The alliance, as it was announced by the MENA Tour Wednesday afternoon, focuses on a couple of the aspects that were theoretically keeping LIV Golf from entering the ranking. The MENA Tour typically hosts 54-hole events — a notable difference from the majority of ranking events across the world — and also exists as a feeder tour for Asian Tour events.
“We are taking this mutually beneficial action to support the game at the developmental level and because of the importance and fairness of LIV golfers qualifying for OWGR points,” LIV Golf President Atul Khosla said in a press release.
The world ranking point debate has simmered at times and blown up at others this summer as the golf world awaits a final decision from the OWGR board. The announcement is particularly relevant for LIV players, many of whom need points to qualify for major championships, the four main events in the game.
In MENA, LIV finds a tour that has existed for 11 years, but has hosted tournaments only intermittently since the start of 2020, when the global pandemic began. MENA last hosted an event in the middle of May, but has been receiving world ranking points for its tournaments since 2016. In announcing the new strategic alliance, the tour dubbed LIV Golf Bangkok the first event of the new MENA Tour season and gave all LIV Golfers MENA Tour membership. And if Jena Sims, Brooks Koepka’s wife, is any evidence, players have been told they will be finally playing for points this weekend.
It’s now up to the OWGR to decide how to proceed. The ranking committee has remained quiet in recent months as the debate around ranking points has only grown in prominence. Various LIV golfers have competed on the DP World Tour during LIV off weeks in order to bolster their ranking while they remain suspended from the PGA Tour. Even their mere presence at the BMW PGA Championship stirred up controversy with members of that tour who saw their attendance as a points-grab. Talor Gooch was the most successful, propping up his rank via a T5 finish at Wentworth.
But even if LIV’s players do receive world ranking points this week, the bigger question remains: should they? Recent weeks have seen plenty of players on each tour asked if LIV Golf tournaments should be awarded points, and if so, when. Even Rory McIlroy, the most staunch supporter of the PGA Tour in its fight against LIV, acquiesced to say the world ranking should include the best players in the world, even if they’ve committed to LIV. “I think Dustin Johnson is somewhere around 100th in the world,” McIlroy said last week at the Dunhill Links Championship. “It’s not an accurate reflection of where he is in the game.”
LIV’s event in Bangkok kicks off Friday afternoon in Thailand — either very early Friday morning or very late Thursday night in America. The week’s biggest winner might be decided even before then.