A year ago, it would have seemed unimaginable that Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau would stand side by side for a post-round interview. But these are different times, and it’s certainly a different era in golf.
Koepka and DeChambeau – the antagonistic headliners of the 2021 golf season – have been relatively quiet since bolting for LIV this summer, but two of the rival tour’s marquee names were called in front of the microphone Friday to offer their thoughts on the Official World Golf Ranking declining to offer world-ranking points for the next two LIV events as it reviews LIV's new partnership with the obscure (but OWGR-accredited) MENA Tour.
“I don’t think it really was much of a response,” Koepka said. “I just hate when you sit on the fence. Just pick a side. If it’s a yes or no, just pick one. So I’m not a big fan of that. … If it’s a yes, if it’s a no, it’s fine. We’ll figure it out from there.”
After the MENA Tour – which has held only one event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – announced a strategic alliance with LIV Golf, the upstart league believed that it had discovered a loophole that would allow the players to begin receiving world-ranking points starting this week in Thailand. (LIV plays its final individual event next week in Saudi Arabia.) But the OWGR ruled Thursday that it needed to conduct a further review of the new partnership and that no points would be allocated for at least the next two LIV events, meaning that players won’t be able to improve their world ranking through LIV until 2023, at the earliest.
LIV’s official application to the OWGR is currently under review, but that process could take up to two years.
“They’re delaying the inevitable,” DeChambeau said. “We’ve hit every mark in their criteria, so for us not to get points is kind of crazy with having – at least I believe – we have the top players in the world. Not all of them, but we certainly believe that there’s enough that are the top 50 and we deserve to be getting world-ranking points.”
LIV does not meet multiple points of the OWGR criteria, with its 48-man, no-cut events and limited access to tournaments. But this week’s LIV event in Thailand boasts 12 of the top 50 players in the world, including third-ranked and reigning Open champion Cameron Smith.
Without world-ranking points, LIV players will plummet in the rankings and endanger their prospects of playing in the major championships. Though major exemption criteria is subject to change each year, currently the top 50 in the world receive invitations to the Masters and Open, while the U.S. Open automatically exempts the top 60.
“When they keep holding it back, they’re going to just keep playing a waiting game where we’re going to keep dropping down in the rankings to where our points won’t ever matter,” DeChambeau said. “That’s what they’re trying to accomplish, and I hope that people can see right through that rather than believe the lies that they’ve been told. From my perspective, I think we deserve points.”
Both DeChambeau and Koepka are exempt into the 2023 majors by virtue of their recent major victories. DeChambeau, who battled a hand injury at the beginning of the year, has dropped from fifth to 48th in the rankings, while Koepka has fallen from 16th to 32nd.
David Spencer, commissioner of the MENA Tour, who is now working in concert with LIV officials, issued a statement Friday lashing out at the OWGR decision-makers, writing that “not including our event in this week’s OWGR render the results and subsequent player movements inaccurate.”