LIV halts push for World Golf Ranking recognition

Golf

The LIV Golf League has withdrawn its application for recognition from the Official World Golf Ranking, LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman told players in a letter Tuesday.

The LIV Golf League, now in its third season, had been fighting for OWGR accreditation since July 2022. World-ranking points are used to determine exemptions and other invitations into the four major championships by Augusta National Golf Club, PGA of America, United States Golf Association and The R&A.

“It is now clear that the best way forward for LIV as a league and you as LIV golfers is not through the current ranking system,” Norman wrote in the letter. “A resolution which protects the accuracy, credibility, and integrity of the OWGR rankings no longer exists. We have made enormous efforts to fight for you and to ensure your accomplishments are recognized within the existing ranking system. Unfortunately, the OWGR has shown little willingness to productively work with us.”

The OWGR denied LIV Golf’s application on Oct. 23. In a letter to Norman and LIV Golf COO Gary Davidson, OWGR chairman Peter Dawson said the governing board had concerns about the lack of turnover among players in LIV Golf and the limited pathways for other players to join. It also cited concerns about some of the team aspects of LIV Golf, which has players competing in individual and team competitions simultaneously over 54 holes.

The LIV Golf League made some adjustments to its format to allow four new players to join the league this season through a promotions event and an automatic qualifying spot through the Order of Merit in the International Series on the Asian Tour. It wasn’t enough to satisfy the OWGR’s governing board.

“We are not at war with them,” Dawson told The Associated Press in October. “This decision not to make them eligible is not political. It is entirely technical. LIV players are self-evidently good enough to be ranked. They’re just not playing in a format where they can be ranked equitably with the other 24 tours and thousands of players trying to compete on them.”

Golfers haven’t received world-ranking points for their finishes in LIV Golf League events the past three seasons, causing many of them to plummet in the rankings.

Only four LIV Golf League players are currently ranked in the top 50 in the world. Reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm, who jumped from the PGA Tour to the LIV Golf League in December, is ranked No. 3 in the world. England’s Tyrrell Hatton, who joined Rahm’s team before this season, is ranked 17th.

Former world No. 1 Brooks Koepka, who picked up his fifth major championship at the 2023 PGA Championship after tying for second at the Masters, is currently ranked 30th in the OWGR. Australia’s Cameron Smith, who won the 2022 Open Championship at St. Andrews in Scotland, has fallen to 50th in the world.

“The rankings are structured to penalize anyone who has not played regularly on an ‘Eligible Tour’ with the field ratings disproportionately rewarding play on the PGA Tour,” Norman wrote in the letter to LIV Golf players.

“Even if LIV Golf events were immediately awarded points, the OWGR system is designed such that it would be functionally impossible for you to regain positions close to the summit of the ranking, where so many of you were prior to joining LIV, and deserve to remain based on your performance.”

Other LIV Golf players have watched their world rankings fall even more sharply. Talor Gooch, a three-time winner in the LIV Golf League and the circuit’s individual champion last season, is ranked 476th in the world. Two-time major champion Dustin Johnson has fallen from 13th in the OWGR to 266th after joining LIV Golf in May 2022. Six-time world champion Phil Mickelson is ranked 147th.

“I think it is almost obsolete now,” Smith said in October. “We’ve got some guys out here who are playing some of the best golf in the world and they’re outside the top 100, 200 in the world. It’s pretty ridiculous.”

Norman said the LIV Golf League would work with the governing bodies of the four major championships to get more of its players in fields. Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, ranked 76th in the world, received a special invitation to compete in the Masters after he won the Australian Open on Dec. 3.

After picking up his second LIV Golf League victory in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, Niemann said he also received an invitation from the PGA of America to compete in the PGA Championship in May.

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