The Official World Golf Ranking released a statement Thursday with a clear and direct message for the eager upstarts at LIV Golf. It read three words in length:
Not so fast.
On Thursday morning, hours after LIV announced a sudden “strategic partnership” with the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Tour in the hopes of earning immediate world ranking points, the governing body took the unusual step of announcing publicly that LIV’s efforts wouldn’t quite work as planned.
“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),” a statement posted to the OWGR website and social media handles said. “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.'”
According to the OWGR, world ranking points from LIV events held under the MENA Tour flag will be placed on pause while the governing body reviews whether LIV’s events fit its criteria for inclusion. There is no timeline for how long the review period will take, though the governing body did say that the review is already “underway.”
The Saudi-backed upstarts have been in pursuit of world ranking points, a coveted measure that helps to determine major championship eligibility, for the better part of the last six months. LIV’s decision to partner with the MENA Tour — which is sanctioned by the OWGR to administer points for its events — comes as its own application for inclusion in the rankings remains pending.
In theory, the decision to partner with the MENA Tour, which already has already won approval from the OWGR, allowed the league a workaround to grant its players ranking points while it awaited an official answer of its own from the OWGR. That still may be the case, but those points will not be counted until the OWGR board — upon which members of the PGA Tour sit — grants LIV approval.
For LIV, world ranking points are a vital piece of long-term stability and success at the pro golf level. Most players cannot qualify for any of golf’s four major championships without earning ranking points, and it stands to reason that any league’s ability to attract younger talent is inextricably tied to its capacity to offer a pathway to the majors.
In recent months, LIV’s players have competed in events on the DP World Tour — where the upstarts won a court stay allowing them temporary inclusion in the league — in order to maintain their status. But those appearances, particularly at the BMW PGA Championship, have come under harsh criticisms from the DP World Tour’s full-time members.