The Official World Golf Ranking governing board is reviewing LIV Golf’s new alliance with the MENA Tour but said in a statement Thursday that it won’t make a ruling before the start of LIV Golf’s next two events, in Thailand and Saudi Arabia.
LIV Golf officials hoped its newly formed partnership with the little-known MENA Tour, a developmental circuit that has staged events in the Middle East and North Africa and has been recognized by the OWGR since 2016, would allow its players to earn world ranking points, starting with this week’s LIV Golf Invitational Thailand.
In the statement, the OWGR said “the first two tournaments in this [MENA] series appeared to be the same as the LIV Golf Invitational Series tournaments in Bangkok and Jeddah. The communication from the MENA Tour included a starting field data file for the Bangkok tournament, confirming that to be the case.”
“Notice of the changes given by the MENA Tour is insufficient to allow OWGR to conduct the customary necessary review ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok (7-9 October) and LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah (14-16 October),” the OWGR statement said. “Only after a review is complete will a decision be made for awarding points to the MENA Tour’s new ‘Limited Field Tournaments.'”
A LIV Golf spokesperson declined comment when reached by ESPN on Thursday.
LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman has become increasingly frustrated that the OWGR has not recognized his startup circuit, which is being funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
The series has signed 12 of the top 50 players in the world rankings, including reigning Open champion Cameron Smith, the No. 3 player in the world, as well as past major winners Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed.
In a news release Wednesday, the MENA Tour said the “alliance will boost the MENA Tour’s development programs and immediately qualify LIV Golf for OWGR points, starting with the LIV Golf Thailand event at Stonehill this week.”
On Sept. 20, each of the 48 players who competed in the LIV Golf event outside Chicago signed a letter sent to OWGR chairperson Peter Dawson asking that the OWGR retroactively include LIV Golf results in its rankings.
“To maintain trust, we urge you — as one of the true statesmen of sports — to act appropriately to include, on a retroactive basis, the results of LIV Golf events in OWGR’s ranking calculations,” the LIV players wrote. “An OWGR without LIV would be incomplete and inaccurate, the equivalent of leaving the Big 10 or the SEC out of the U.S. college football rankings, or leaving Belgium, Argentina, and England out of the FIFA rankings.”
Johnson wasn’t confident that LIV golfers would receive retroactive ranking points for past tournaments.
“I don’t see that happening,” Johnson told reporters in Thailand on Thursday. “Obviously, yeah, that would be nice. Obviously, none of us are playing events where you get points, so we kind of keep slowly moving down, where if the world ranking points are supposed to be nonbiased for golfers, we should. I don’t see that happening, though, which is OK, but at least going forward, hopefully we’ll have them, because like I said, it’s supposed to be a fair and nonbiased organization that is for golf, which is exactly what we’re doing.”
Mickelson said he believed the OWGR would recognize LIV events.
“I think from a player standpoint, it feels great to have everyone at LIV fighting so hard for the players and their best interests,” Mickelson said during a news conference Thursday. “I think for the World Golf Rankings, this is a great way to keep its credibility while not bringing in politics into the decision-making process. I think it’s good for all parties.
“The reason I’m not concerned is that the number of points are based on the quality of the field and not the organization that’s running the tournament. The quality of our field is remarkably strong, and I’m sure for the World Golf Rankings, to maintain their credibility, they’ll continue to award the proper number of points that the tournaments deserve for all tours.”