Controversial decision leaves LIV Golf players without world ranking points, raising questions about the fairness and structure of the Official World Golf Ranking system.
LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed golf league, has been denied world ranking points by the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) board. The decision, which was based on technical rather than political reasons, has left the 48-man league unable to be ranked alongside other tours around the world. This development has sparked debate about the equitable measurement of performance in the golfing world and has raised questions about the future of team golf.
Technical Limitations of the OWGR System
The OWGR board, led by chairman Peter Dawson, stated that the decision to reject LIV Golf’s application was not based on politics but rather on technical considerations. The unique format of LIV Golf, with its 48 players competing over 54 holes with no cut and a fixed roster for the entire season, presented challenges in terms of ranking equitably with other tours. The OWGR system typically requires a 36-hole cut and an average field size of 75 players over a season, which LIV Golf does not adhere to.
Closed Shop and Lack of Turnover
One of the main concerns raised by the OWGR committee was the lack of turnover in LIV Golf. With the same 48 players competing throughout the season, there is limited opportunity for new players to enter the league. This lack of turnover goes against the typical turnover rate of 20% to 25% seen in most tours around the world. The committee also highlighted the issue of lucrative contracts that guarantee players a spot on the roster regardless of their performance, further limiting the opportunity for new talent to emerge.
Impact on Player Rankings
The absence of world ranking points has had a significant impact on the rankings of LIV Golf players. Many players who joined the league were suspended by the PGA Tour and European Tour, leaving them with only the majors as a source of ranking points. As a result, the number of LIV Golf players in the top 100 rankings has significantly decreased. This has led to criticism from LIV Golf players who argue that the OWGR lacks credibility without offering them ranking points.
Concerns Over the Team Aspect of LIV Golf
The committee also raised concerns about the team aspect of LIV Golf. A specific incident involving Sebastián Muñoz highlighted the potential conflict between individual performance and team success. Muñoz, faced with a birdie opportunity that could have forced a playoff, chose to lag his putt to secure a par and maintain his team’s one-shot lead. This raised questions about the integrity of individual performance in a team-based format.
Reevaluation and Commercial Partnerships
While LIV Golf has the option to reapply for world ranking points, the OWGR board has made it clear that turnover, objective access to LIV Golf, and relegation of underperforming players are crucial considerations. Additionally, the PGA Tour, European Tour, and Saudi backers of LIV Golf are currently working on a commercial partnership that includes the evaluation of the future of team golf. The outcome of these discussions could have far-reaching implications for the structure and recognition of team-based golf leagues.
The decision by the OWGR board to deny LIV Golf world ranking points has brought to the forefront the challenges of measuring performance in a league with a unique format. While the technical limitations of the OWGR system have been cited as the primary reason for the rejection, questions about fairness, turnover, and the integrity of team golf have emerged. As LIV Golf continues to navigate its second season, the golfing world awaits a resolution that balances the interests of individual players, team dynamics, and the need for a robust and equitable ranking system.