LIV Golf players send letter to OWGR President Peter Dawson requesting inclusion in world rankings. But the obstacles to accreditation remain numerous | Golf News and Tour Information

EDITOR’S NOTE – A version of this story first aired Aug. 1 after LIV Golf officials formally applied for accreditation with the Official World Golf Ranking. The OWGR board later announced it was reviewing the application, a process that regularly takes one to two years.

Last Friday, the Full List of LIV Golfers wrote a letter to Peter Dawson, Chairman of the OWGR Board, asking him to immediately award OWGR points to LIV events as well as retroactive points for all five tournaments. which have been played since the series began in June. There is nothing in the OWGR procedures, however, that would allow this to happen, and there are several criteria required for accreditation that the LIV Golf Series does not appear to comply with.

The new LIV Golf Invitational series has undeniably built a head of steam, incorporating new players (many with major championship credentials), generating publicity and, apparently, gaining ground in its bid for legitimacy.

But as gold rains down on the select few who populate LIV Golf’s roster, a cloud of uncertainty continues to hang over the fledgling company led by Greg Norman and generously underwritten by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. , and that could dampen its future prospects. viability for years. Despite all the billions at its disposal, LIV Golf cannot buy the most basic and necessary authentication in men’s professional golf.

Without being able to offer Official World Golf Ranking points, the LIV Golf Series will remain a relative exception on the world golf stage, which can offer its players a future of financial wealth in return for, on the face of it, which appears to be dwindling opportunities in the game’s big events. So it’s no surprise that the upstart circuit sent an application for accreditation to the OWGR board on July 6, submitted through the sponsorship of the Asian Tour. OWGR President Peter Dawson acknowledged receiving it after the board meeting at The Open Championship in St. Andrews, saying “a review of the bid will begin.”

On Sept. 16, the same day the fifth of eight LIV Golf Invitationals scheduled for 2022 held its first round at Rich Harvest Farms outside of Chicago, several LIV Golf players signed a letter to Board Chairman Peter Dawson. of Directors of the OWGR, lobby for LIV’s inclusion in the OWGR.

“To maintain confidence, we urge you, as true statesmen of the sport, to act appropriately to retroactively include LIV Golf event results in OWGR ranking calculations,” wrote the players. “An OWGR without LIV would be incomplete and inaccurate, the equivalent of leaving the Big 10 or the SEC out of the US college football rankings, or leaving Belgium, Argentina and England out of the FIFA rankings.”

The letter noted that Dustin Johnson, winner of the LIV event in Boston earlier in the month, had dropped from 13th in the world rankings to 22nd despite finishing eighth, third, second and first in his first four LIV starts. He also noted Johnson beat 15 golfers who finished first or second in all four men’s majors. “For the ranking to be accurate,” the letter read, “DJ deserves to go up, not down.”

However, it would seem that in its current form, LIV Golf does not have the necessary organizational elements to be licensed. Golf Digest has obtained information that identifies various parameters that must be met for approval, several of which LIV Golf appears to lack if its application to the OWGR reflects its current rules and governance. The following mandatory elements seem to be missing:

1. An adherence to inclusion and the promotion of non-discriminatory practices.

2. Competitions played over 72 holes, with the exception of development tours (such as the Abema TV Tour, Alps Golf Tour or EuroPro Tour, among others), which are permitted to be 54-hole events.

3. An annual open qualifying school held prior to the start of each season.

4. A field of 75 players on average during a season.

5. A 36 hole cup whether you play 54 or 72 holes.

6. A clear opportunity to progress to a full member tour, i.e. to one of the six members of the International Federation of PGA Tours.

7. Reasonable access for local and regional players (i.e. Monday playoffs) to each of its tournaments.

Additionally, LIV Golf is not meeting the requirement for a minimum 10-event schedule, although it should next year with its 14-tournament plan. This bit of early myopia is important because a prospective tour must meet OWGR guidelines for at least a year immediately prior to inclusion. So even if approval were to be expedited in some way, OWGR guidelines suggest that the earliest date points could be distributed would not begin until 2024.

Typically, the OWGR approval process can take up to one to two years. The application is first reviewed by the OWGR’s 10-person technical committee, who will work with the applicant to resolve points of contention. Then the review is supported by the seven-member Board of Directors made up of representatives from the four major championships, the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and a representative from the Federation Tours (Asian Tour, Australasian Tour, Japan Golf Tour, Sunshine Tour).

Norman spoke out, suggesting that representatives of the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and other organizations represented on the board who have expressed reservations about LIV Golf should recuse themselves from voting. The September 16 Players’ letter to Dawson also expresses concern that the current board is biased against LIV Golf.

LIV Golf meets – or is assumed to meet – some of the requirements, including playing by the rules of golf, offering an average minimum purse of $30,000 (yes, that’s covered), having a player committee as well tournament eligibility criteria and to meet various administrative necessities such as timely reporting of accurate player data.

LIV Golf officials may well address its list of shortcomings by citing a few exceptions that exist in the PGA Tour schedule. The PGA Tour runs five non-cut tournaments, two of which – the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Tour Championship – fall short of 75 players. But the tour has 37 full tournaments with a cup, and those tournaments feed into the non-cup events.

Then there’s the 20-player Hero World Challenge, hosted by Tiger Woods, which also awards OWGR points, but didn’t until it changed its on-field eligibility system.

The fact that these exceptions are one-time or apply to a tour that meets all other criteria does not in any way imply endorsement by LIV Golf, which in its entirety would seek certification with all of these exceptions.

A few of the above points require further explanation.

It is unclear whether LIV Golf can be considered an entity that promotes non-discriminatory practices, which is the very first item on the OWGR criteria list. His series might embrace the philosophy, but it’s safe to say Saudi Arabia, the source of his funding, doesn’t. LIV Golf’s ‘relegation plan’ apparently aims to address the third element, a qualifying system. But it’s hardly an open system when some players are exempt from the process. Point #6 is also a real picky one, as the Asian Tour is LIV Golf’s sponsor for OWGR, the de facto senior partner in their relationship. And yet, LIV Golf does not feed the Asian Tour; it is installed exactly opposite.

LIV Golf players have discussed the possibility that they could seek to supplement their World Ranking points by playing Asian Tour events, but the idea has considerably less merit now than a reconfiguration of the distribution metric. OWGR points start from next week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship. . The new system, which has been in the works for several years, will no longer award the minimum first place points to tournaments with weak fields; each event is self-contained. Thus, the Asian Tour’s 14-point minimum for the winner disappears and its events will not be as lucrative on the OWGR scale. Adding LIV players who drop in the rankings during a drawn-out application process won’t noticeably improve the strength of the field – a vicious spiral of diminishing returns.

Should LIV Golf make the necessary changes, a trial period of at least three years would follow, according to OWGR procedures. And meanwhile, LIV Golf could not return to its original program once accepted or it would lose OWGR accreditation.

The bottom line is that LIV Golf will need to significantly alter its organizational model if it hopes to earn the OWGR inclusion stewardship seal of approval. Can it exist without the OWGR? Access to an estimated $620 billion war chest suggests it can. But what use would that be? With its July 6 application and player follow-up letter to Dawson, LIV Golf has already provided the answer.

Michael C. Ford