Here’s what’s happening to LIV golfers’ world rankings — and how their major chances look
Who decides the World Ranking? How many points should LIV players get? What’s the MENA Tour?! There’s some chatter in pro golf these days that has nothing to do with golf shots and has everything to do with the two-year long leaderboard we call the OWGR (Official World Golf Ranking).
There are a lot of opinions flying around about whether or not LIV Golf events should award ranking points and whether or not the OWGR board of directors are slow-playing the rebel league. Some argue that LIV should follow the rules set out by the OWGR, while others are even suggesting that the OWGR shouldn’t exist at all. While all of that gets straightened out in the coming months (and potentially in a court room), we have a ranking that currently doesn’t reward LIV Golfers for playing well in their events.
It isn’t entirely killing their chances of qualifying for the 2023 Masters, either. There’s a middle-ground result taking place where some LIV golfers are actually doing just enough in the ranking to potentially qualify for the Masters. The other majors? Well, that’s another story.
Example A: Kevin Na
On paper, this week Kevin Na moved up from 35th to 34th in the ranking, despite having played just two OWGR-sanctioned events since joining LIV Golf. In each of those events — the U.S. Open and the Open Championship — Na missed the cut. But because of how the ranking works, Na actually moved up from 34th to 31st during the four weeks between those events. Why? His divisor. The OWGR awards points to specific events based on a player’s result that week, and then accumulates all those points from a two-year rolling schedule and divides them on a per-event basis with a maximum divisor of 52 and a minimum of 40. Each week, points decay by 1.09% so that the 2021 Shriners Children’s Open is not weighted as heavily as the 2022 version.
Throughout his LIV Golf summer, Na conveniently had “counting events” from two years ago stripped from his point total and in the process had his divisor decrease, making his average (and his ranking) increase. This is simple algebra, folks. In fact, Na was ranked 34th in the world when he joined LIV Golf. Today he is ranked 34th. Unfortunately for him, this is as good as it’s going to get.
Na’s divisor will remain at 40 for the foreseeable future unless he plays DP World Tour or Asian Tour events. He’s intimated he’s interested in the latter. If he doesn’t, his total points will decay and his rank will fall. Importantly for him, he will be right on the edge of the top 50 in the OWGR by the last week of the year, which has historically earned an exemption in to the Masters. Depending on the other players in the 50-60s of the OWGR, Na could be on the outside looking in next April. Na will not be exempt into the PGA Championship, per typical qualification criteria. As it stands, he will need to compete in some Asian Tour events (and play well) to hold onto a top 60 world rank by the U.S. Open cutoff in mid-May.
Example B: Patrick Reed
This week, Reed spoke at LIV Golf Jeddah, saying, “I’m getting hammered,” which referred, in this case, to his world ranking points.
Reed’s world rank has decreased in the last four months from 36th to 56th as he has played only major championships, DP World Tour events and a single Asian Tour event. But certainly his rank hasn’t been hit quite as hard as, say, Branden Grace, who has played well in LIV events and seen his world rank drop from 123 to 161. Reed’s golf has been fine, but not great. He contended at the BMW PGA Championship and benefitted from it, but his T31 finish at the International Series Singapore was a net negative move for the 2018 Masters Champion. Playing an event with a weak field and not playing well dropped him from 46th to 49th that week alone.
Reed has cause for concern, despite having a free pass to the Masters in April. His exemption from that victory has run out at the other major championships and will find himself in a similar situation to Na, pending any DP World Tour action he signs up for this fall, hopeful to rank in the top 60 by mid-May’s U.S. Open cutoff. It’s not looking good at the moment.
Example C: Abe Ancer
Ancer was a nice pull for LIV Golf, ranked 20th at the time of his commitment. His ranking has dropped all the way down to …
Ancer’s rank is going to decay like any of the LIV players, but will do so a bit slower. His victory at the 2021 WGC-FedEx St. Jude is going to do a lot of work for him over the coming months; ditto for his finishes at the WGC-Match Play this spring and majors this summer. His divisor will decrease by one next week which means he’s likely to move up a spot to No. 24 in just a couple days. And if Ryan Fox doesn’t play well in Spain, Ancer could even jump to 23rd. But this is a forward-looking, long-term issue. Ancer is not qualified for any 2023 majors. He will hold on for a top 50-year-end qualification into the Masters, play in the PGA Championship thanks to a T9 finish at Southern Hills, and then try to scrounge up some points to hold on to a top 60 ranking by mid-May. Unfortunately for Ancer, he could have qualified for next year’s Open Championship with just one more birdie this year at St. Andrews. The top 10 and ties from the Old Course all qualified for 2023 at Royal Liverpool. Ancer finished T11.
Example D: Joaquin Niemann
Niemann’s ranking is much more solid, for the moment. He ended his PGA Tour season ranked 19th and in the last month and a half has dropped down to 22nd. He’ll finish the 2022 year ranked right around that spot, too. Maybe even higher! But like many LIV golfers, Niemann’s ranking will begin to plummet in early 2023 as past performances are wiped from his record. He will likely maintain a top 60 ranking by the time the U.S. Open cutoff takes place, earning him a spot at Los Angeles Country Club. As for the Open at Royal Liverpool? Niemann is all good there, too, thanks to his qualification for the Tour Championship. By that point next year, perhaps LIV events will be getting points, and Niemann won’t need that qualifier. Perhaps not! Nine months from now, players like Phil Mickelson — who has exemptions for years to come, even if his OWGR ranks outside the top 300 by then — will be fine. But if all remains the same, many LIV golfers will be on the outside looking in.