If there feels like a bit of desperation in LIV Golf’s latest attempt to find a way for its events to offer Official World Golf Ranking points—partnering with the developmental MENA Tour that hasn’t held an event in more than two years—perhaps that’s understandable. Among the upstart Saudi-backed circuit’s remaining hurdles to legitimacy is being able to have its players earn OWGR points, primarily so that they can remain eligible to qualify for major championships in 2023.
With LIV golfers cut off from playing PGA Tour events over the past few months, many have begun to see their place in the World Ranking fall. Last month, after missing the cut at the Open de France, Patrick Reed tumbled out of the top 50 in the World Ranking for the first time since 2014. Dustin Johnson, despite winning the LIV Golf Invitational Boston early last month, is down to 23rd in the OWGR, his lowest point since February 2015.
Other players are seeing their rankings impacted as well. Here’s a look at some of the more prominent golfers to have jumped to LIV Golf since the inaugural event outside London in June and where they stand:
World Rankings are from the first week of each month. Source: OWGR
In July, LIV Golf formally applied for OWGR accreditation, and OWGR chairman Peter Dawson said the board has begun to review the application. That process, however, typically takes one to two years to complete and requires a group to meet specific criteria that LIV’s present tournament schedule/format (limited fields, 54-hole events, no cuts, no direct system to qualify for the tour) seems to fall short of in several areas.
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman has been outspoken about the fact he thinks LIV Golf events should immediately be approved for World Ranking points. And last month, 50 LIV golfers signed a letter to Dawson, lobbying for OWGR inclusion and not only for upcoming events on the 2022 schedule but retroactively for events played since the tour’s launch.
In recent years, three of the four men's majors have formally used the World Ranking as a criteria for entry into their fields. The Masters takes the top 50 at the end of the calendar year and a week prior to the tournament. The U.S. Open takes the top 60 players at two points in the weeks ahead of its championship. And the Open Championship takes the top 50 players in the ranking eight weeks prior to its tournament. The PGA of America doesn't use the OWGR for an exemption into the PGA Championship, but has previously invited players inside the top 100 not already qualified shortly before its championship.
Opinions vary on whether LIV events should get points. Even one of LIV’s biggest critics, Rory McIlroy, thinks the tour has a case to be recognized in some fashion.
“I certainly would want the best players in the world ranked accordingly,” McIlroy said last week while playing in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. "I think if Dustin Johnson is somewhere around 100th in the world then it's not an accurate reflection of where he is in the game.”
That said, McIlroy believes that LIV Golf shouldn’t be given special treatment, but rather needs to follow the specific process in place to receive accreditation.
“You can't make up your own rules. If they want to pivot to meet the criteria, they can … I certainly have no problem with them getting World Ranking points, at all,” McIlroy said. “But if you don't meet the criteria, it's going to be hard to justify why you should have them.”
Matt Fitzpatrick, another player who has remained loyal to the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, reiterated McIlroy’s points.
"I understand why they think they deserve points because of the players they've got, and don't disagree with that, but if you look at the all the other tours in previous years that have gone through the official process then it takes a year or two," Fitzpatrick told Sky Sports News.
"You've just got to wait two years—that's what I've been told is the process and that's what it is. I did read somewhere that they should backdate the points to when they had the first event, which is just ridiculous.”