MENA Tour chief wades into LIV Golf’s fight for world ranking points

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Will LIV golfers gain world ranking points soon? The decision is not in the hands of the MENA Tour, but rather the OWGR.

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The war for world ranking points raged on Thursday as the commissioner of the Middle East and North Africa Tour (MENA), which just entered an alliance with LIV Golf, responded to the Official World Golf Ranking’s decision to decline points for this week’s event.

MENA’s message, in short: We’re going to keep pushing. This isn’t right. 

In the men’s pro golf world, where a summer’s worth of unsettling decisions and movement has concluded with two distinct sides — LIV Golf vs. the PGA Tour — the world-ranking debate remains as uncertain as ever. It is true that some of the best golfers in the world are playing tournaments each month for no world ranking points, thus limiting which events — i.e., the majors — some of those players can or can’t play in next year. Taken on its own, that last sentence is enough to enrage even casual golf fans. But it is void of important context. 

The OWGR is a mostly static organization with strict rules, few adjustments and a review process that takes more than a year for new tours to earn points. Those are the rules — we don’t make them, we just remind you of them. So, this week’s “strategic alliance” announced between LIV Golf and the MENA Tour, a hasty attempt to barnstorm the ranking system, put the OWGR in a difficult spot. The MENA Tour has routinely held 54-hole events that the OWGR has accepted. Why not accept LIV Golf’s Thailand Invitational? 

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Not so fast, the OWGR said. It is reviewing the submission from the MENA Tour and will make a decision in due course.

Naturally, the MENA Tour’s commissioner, David Spencer, was none too happy about the OWGR’s response. Spencer released a statement Thursday night, just hours before the LIV event in Bangkok got underway. 

“We have had various communications with OWGR since submitting our 2022/23 schedule, MENA Tour handbook, exemption criteria and our field ahead of our opening event of our new season which tees off today,” Spencer wrote. “None of this communication pointed towards any technical reason for the LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok to be treated any differently to any MENA Tour event, every one of which has received OWGR since we were accepted into the OWGR framework in 2016. 

“We have followed the OWGR Guidelines for our 2022/23 Season. Recently, there has been much talk in the golf world about limited field tournaments and 54-hole tournaments. For absolute clarity, the OWGR itself defines a limited field tournament as a tournament which has less than 30 qualified players. Furthermore, the MENA Tour has always had the OWGR’s blessing to stage 54-hole tournaments.”

You can read the entire statement in the tweet below:

Spencer went on to cite the OWGR’s primary objectives, as outlined on its website, and declare that he believes his tour is doing everything it can to earn points as it has done since it began earning points in 2016. Will that be enough during this contentious time when players are suing media, and leagues are suing other leagues? It’s not implausible that the OWGR could also find itself entangled in a lawsuit as well. Meantime, Spencer noted that the MENA Tour will once again work to gain points for next week’s LIV Golf Invitational held in Saudi Arabia, but patience is clearly running thin.

LIV pros have been asked repeatedly about this issue, which, to be clear, is one of their own creation. Next week’s event is the final individual tournament during this LIV Golf season before a three-month offseason. LIV pros who have not earned points recently would stand to drop even further down the ranking this fall, or be forced to play on the DP World Tour to bolster their spot. Brooks Koepka, for one, is tired of waiting. 

“I don’t think it really was much of a response,” Koepka said Friday of the OWGR. “I just hate when you sit on the fence. Just pick a side. If it’s yes or no, just pick one. So I’m not a big fan of that.

“Yeah, not to say something to where it’s not really an answer and we’ll think about it. I don’t agree with — just pick a side. If it’s yes, if it’s no, it’s fine, we’ll figure it out from there.”

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Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.