World Ranking Rejects LIV
OWGR head cites closed shop while admitting the men's ranking is diminished without the Public Investment Fund-backed players. The news puts the already fraying "framework agreement" in doubt.
The Official World Golf Ranking has rejected the application of LIV Golf to join the list of recognized world tours.
The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia-backed startup league hoped to see its players rewarded for playing in the 48-player team events. Ranking points would have ensured access to major championships for some players and delivered increased relevancy enjoyed by the start-up since Brooks Koepka’s 2023 PGA Championship victory reminded the world that certain defecting stars can still play.
The OWGR’s vote on LIV’s application was made by representatives from the USGA, R&A, Augusta National and PGA of America. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, DP World Tour head CEO Keith Pelley and Keith Waters of the International Federation of PGA Tours recused themselves from the LIV Golf decision.
Of the Grand Slam events, only the PGA Championship does not include a significant world ranking component for filling out its field, instead relying on the listing to fill out select international spots and late invitations.
The ranking news comes as a surprise given last week’s very public and upbeat appearance by Public Investment Fund head
Andrew Waterman Yasir Al Rumayyan at the Alfred Dunhill Links. According to The Scotsman’s Martin Dempster, the PIF controller of hundreds of billions was initially entered last minute under the Waterman pseudonym, then was identified as the equally “H.E.” on standard bearer signage. (That’s “His Excellency” for those forgot how, at least for a brief time, golf leadership pathetically referred to the PIF head by his preferred moniker.)
Al Rumayyan played the Dunhill opening round alongside LIV Golfer Peter Uihlein and in the same group as R&A Chief Martin Slumbers. He called his invitation to the pro-am event a “great thing” before flunkies prevented any additional comment.
Al Rumayyan then played Friday at Carnoustie with OWGR head Peter Dawson.
The PIF head was in St Andrews at the urging of tournament host Johan Rupert. The Chairman hoped to bringing various factions together and end the tension created by LIV Golf’s signings of players from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
“Sport is supposed to unite people, not divide,” Rupert, told The Scotsman. “We need to get peace.”
Nixing the application came just a day after the rain-delayed Dunhill concluded on Monday, with Matt Fitzpatrick winning and Al-Rumayyan having departed St Andrews.
“We are not at war with them,” Dawson, the Associated Press. “This decision not to make them eligible is not political. It is entirely technical. LIV players are self-evidently good enough to be ranked. They’re just not playing in a format where they can be ranked equitably with the other 24 tours and thousands of players trying to compete on them.”
Quoting extensively from Dawson’s letter, Global Golf Post’s Ron Green notes two “broad areas” cited as problematic and minus specific remedies offered by the OWGR. To the surprise of few, the league’s combo of 54-holes and 48 player no-cut events topped the list. That was followed by concerns about “the limited access for players to join LIV, limited relegation for players who under-perform and the emphasis on team competition.”
The “emphasis” wording suggests a direct link to the 2023 tournament where Sebastián Muñoz admitted to not making an aggressive effort at a putt in fear of jeopardizing his team’s chances.
LIV Golf made access concessions via its partnership with the Asian Tour and appeared open to other ideas upon corresponding with the OWGR. However, no agreement was reached nor was it clear what changes would ultimately satisfy the OWGR.
Dawson’s letter suggests this tussle over access, more than the shorter format of LIV events, caused the application to fall apart.
“With contracts and team captains, there are many ways to stay on the LIV tour even if you are not playing well.
“If LIV could find a way to come up with a more open competition style and relegation, we would certainly consider that. There should be many more vacancies than perhaps there are. I don’t think it’s fair to the other 24 eligible tours and the thousands of players trying to get a start each week.”
With high purses, no lucrative media deal or any financial model making the current LIV events appear profitable, the team element remains essential. In a dream scenario of escalating team values, it could deliver the growth envisioned by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He suggested in a recent interview that he did not care whether the Kingdom’s interest was labeled as “sportwashing.”
“Well, if sportswashing is going to increase my GDP by way of 1%, I will continue doing sportswashing,” bin Salman said during the interview with Fox News.