Last week, the 48 golfers competing on the LIV circuit, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund-backed series, wrote to Peter Dawson, chairman, Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), to consider the results of LIV Golf events for the world rankings.
In a letter signed by former world number one and four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka, two-time Major winner Bubba Watson, 2022 Open champion Cameron Smith and two-time Olympian India’s Anirban Lahiri, the golfers have urged the OWGR board to not exclude LIV Golf players while awarding points.
The Official World Golf Rankings system was first introduced in April 1986 by IMG founder Mark McCormack after consultation with the Royal & Ancient (R&A) to create an exemption system for The Open. German golfer Bernhard Langer was the first world number one, and the following years would see the PGA Tour and other tours across the world joining the system. In 2004, PGA Tour, European Tour, Augusta National Golf Club, The PGA of America, R&A, US Golf Association and International Federation of PGA Tours formed the Official World Golf Rankings Limited, the new governing body of world rankings.
The OWGR, which decides the eligibility of professional golfers for the four Majors, Players Championships, Olympics as well as World Golf Championships, apart from selection team competitions like the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup, is used by 23 golf tours. The system works on the basis of ranking points awarded on a two-year rolling period.
In their letter to Dawson, the LIV Golf players have stated their dependence on the OWGR to qualify for the Majors as well as Olympics. “As the athletes who are ranked, we depend upon OWGR not just to qualify for the most important events, including the Majors and Olympics, but to tell us where we stand among our peers. An OWGR without LIV would be incomplete and inaccurate.”
Earlier, LIV Golf players had filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA tour in August. In their letter to Dawson, they contended that four members on the seven-member OWGR governing board are closely associated with the PGA Tour.
While the US Masters and The Open offers the top 50 golfers in the OWGR at the end of the year a chance to be in the field with other exemptions and regional qualifiers for The Open, the US Open offers the top 60 golfers in OWGR a spot in the total field of 156 players. The PGA Championship sends invites to the top 100 golfers in OWGR, who are not qualified, apart from other exemptions.
With LIV currently having 13 out of the top 50 golfers on the OWGR in their ranks, they have been seeing their rankings slip post joining LIV Golf. “Some 23 tours are integrated into the OWGR universe, and LIV has earned its place among them. Four LIV golfers have held the number one position on the OWGR, and one is currently number two. LIV’s roster includes 21 of the last 51 winners of the four Majors. The level of competition at the average LIV event is at least equal to that at the average PGA Tour event. We know because we have played in both,” the letter stated.
While LIV Golf has only seen five of its 48-golfer field and 54-stroke play tournaments this year out of the proposed eight with the number set to be increased to 14 next year, the Tour has been fighting for its inclusion in the world rankings. While most of the 23 tours have a cut after 36 holes and a 72-hole format, PGA Tour’s Tour Championship, DP World Tour Championship and Hero World Challenge does not have this format.
In August, LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman had written to his players telling them that the LIV Golf application for OWGR was reviewed by the OWGR technical committee. As per Sports Illustrated, Norman pointed about the Strength of Field (Sof) for the first three events of LIV Golf and stated that the OWGR calculations exceeded that of the PGA Tour events the same week. While LIV Golf currently sees a field of 48 golfers, it is expected to see more than 80 players next year for the LIV Golf International Series and International Series, a series co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the private league. While the OWGR system recognises a Tour normally after two years with a three-year probation for the accepted Tour, LIV Golf has been desperate to include it in OWGR keeping in mind the four Majors as well as the Players Championship and the 2024 Paris Olympics.