The OWGR is adding a new tour in 2023 that hosts 54-hole tournaments—and it’s not LIV Golf
Charlie Crowhurst/LIV Golf
On Wednesday, the governing board of the Official World Golf Ranking sent out a press release announcing a new golf tour that plays 54-hole events is set for inclusion in the OWGR system in 2023. If LIV Golf players and executives felt a momentary sense of excitement upon seeing the release, it was just that—momentary—after reading the fine print.
The board revealed that the tour being added is the Gira de Golf Professional de Mexicana, a five-year-old developmental circuit supported by the Mexican Golf Federation that has previously run tournaments in conjunction with the PGA Tour Latinoamerica.
“This is a significant milestone for golf and OWGR is deeply encouraged by the achievement and the continued efforts in the advancement of the sport of golf in Mexico," said OWGR chairman Peter Dawson. "We look forward to watching the progress of Gira de Golf Professional de Mexicana as it continues to play a key role in the development of players from the region.”
The release was brief and made no mention of LIV or other tours in search of inclusion into the OWGR system. The details offered, however, did explain why Gira de Golf was being added while also potentially sending a subtle message on why it was different from others seeking OWGR approval.
“Since its inception in 2017,” the release noted, “the [Gira] Tour, along with support from the Mexican Golf Federation, has continually worked toward the standards required to become an OWGR Eligible Golf Tour.”
Official Gira de Golf tournaments are conducted over 54 holes but have 36-hole cuts, something LIV events don’t currently have. The lack of a cut has been cited by officials connected with the OWGR review process as a possible stumbling block in LIV’s application for OWGR status.
The OWGR release also noted that players have access to official Gira de Golf tournaments through an annual open qualifying process and that the tour provides opportunities for local and regional players to compete. “As such, the Gira de Golf Professional de Mexicana is in keeping with long-standing OWGR Eligibility and Format Criteria providing inclusion for professional tours at the development level with available Ranking Points commensurate with the format and anticipated fields.”
Open qualifying and opportunities to progress to full tour membership are considered criteria needed for tours to gain OWGR inclusion and something LIV is seen as lacking. LIV Golf’s "relegation plan" is meant to remedy this, but it’s hardly an open system when some players are exempt from the process.
The OWGR release noted that the application and review process for Gira de Golf took 16 months. That would be quicker than the review time reportedly taken for other tours to be approved, but still longer than the time frame that LIV executives have been hoping for.
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman has argued that the high rankings of several players associated with the tour since its inception last summer would warrant LIV’s inclusion in the OWGR system without delay and that past LIV events should be retroactively awarded points.
"I understand OWGR has got to go through a process with a technical committee and they say there's a time period to go through, I get all that,” Norman said in November. “But at the end of the day, knowing the players who are sitting on the sidelines who are missing out, which is detrimental to the PGA Tour and the majors as well, it shows you that the OWGR was never prepared for a new entity like LIV Golf.”
A letter signed by the entire roster of LIV players was sent to OWGR board chairman Peter Dawson in September also requesting immediate inclusion.
LIV’s anxiousness in having its event offer OWGR points stems from the fact that its players have been prohibited from playing in PGA Tour events that offer those points. Thus, since players began joining the LIV circuit in the summer, they’ve seen their World Ranking plummet. Of the 54 pros who have competed in three or more LIV events, 47 saw their World Ranking drop from the week prior to joining LIV to the final OWGR list of 2022.
Losing their placement in the World Ranking becomes an issue for players hoping to qualify for major championships via their OWGR status. The Masters, for instance, invites the top 50 off the year-end OWGR to compete as well as the top 50 on the OWGR the week the major is played in April. The USGA and R&A also use the OWGR in part for qualifying into the U.S. Open and Open Championship, respectively.
In another attempt to gain immediate access to the OWGR, LIV announced in October that it had partnered with the Mena Tour, a developmental tour in the Middle East that was already within the OWGR system. But the OWGR board announced that it needed more time to review the application and thus denied LIV’s request.