LIV golfers denied world ranking points – for now

LIV golfers denied world ranking points – for now - GETTY IMAGES
LIV golfers denied world ranking points – for now - GETTY IMAGES

LIV Golf's audacious attempt to secure world rankings points for its back-to-back £20million events in Asia over the next two weeks has failed after the official body launched a review into the submission.

Telegraph Sport exclusively revealed on Wednesday that the Saudi-funded rebel league has formed a 'strategic alliance' with the MENA Tour, a previously little-known development circuit based in the Middle east and North Africa, which LIV believed would at last give its players the chance to play for rankings points, starting this week in Thailand.

But with less than 24 hours before the first round in Bangkok, the Official World Golf Rankings released a statement that, for the time being at the least, blocks the avenue.

"Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) received a communication from the MENA Tour... [which] detailed significant changes to the MENA Tour’s membership structure along with an outline of the initial series of tournaments in the 2022/23 MENA Tour season," it said.

"OWGR notes that the first two tournaments in this series appeared to be the same as the LIV Golf Invitational Series tournaments in Bangkok and Jeddah.... A review of the changes to the MENA Tour is now underway by the OWGR.

“Notice of these 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).

“Only after the review is complete will a decision be made on awarding points to the MENA Tour’s new 'Limited Field Tournaments', defined by the MENA Tour in its Regulations as 'any MENA Tour-approved tournament, which comprises of a player field of less than 80 players'."

And so the dispute will get ever more contentious, with the looming possible of legal action from LIV which has long claimed that the OWGR is “a closed shop”, led by a panel including PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley.

Greg Norman, the LIV chief executive, had already demanded the pair recuse themselves from the decision over whether the 48-man series is granted OWGR status and the LIV players - including world No 2 Cam Smith, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood - have written to Peter Dawson, the OGWR chairman, pleading for a “quick and positive” resolution.

The absence of ranking points is seen as LIV’s biggest weakness, because with its members banned from the PGA Tour they are inevitably sliding down the rankings, meaning that they will not qualify for the majors, unless they have other exemptions.

However, LIV believed it had bypassed the lengthy process - which OWGR indicates could take at least a year - by essentially becoming part of the MENA Tour, which was given rankings status in 2016.

As the golfers in Bangkok waited for word from OWGR - the body based at the DP World Tour headquarters in Surrey - Mickelson declared that Dawson, the former R&A chief executive, should see this as good news as the independent head of OWGR.

“I think for the World Golf Rankings, this is a great way to keep its credibility, while not bringing politics into the decision-making process,” Mickelson said at the Stonehill Golf Club in the Thai capital. “I think it's good for all parties.

“Given the many obstacles that we have had to face from those trying to stop it, I think it's a great way to do this in addition to adding in a developmental tour for the Asian Tour who will be our feeding tour going forward. So I think it's a win on all parts.”

Experts estimated there would have been as many as 20 ranking points for Sunday’s winner and indeed for next week’s winner in Saudi Arabia. This would have given Smith the chance to take the world No 1 mantle off American Scottie Scheffler, a nightmare scenario for the Tours which has accused LIV or attempting to “a hostile takeover the elite men's game” with more than £2billion in initial backing from the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund.