The Official World Golf Ranking on Thursday squashed LIV Golf’s hopes of earning world-ranking points immediately following its alliance with the little-known MENA Tour.
The MENA circuit (short for Middle East and North Africa) announced Wednesday that it had entered into a strategic alliance with LIV Golf, which has been desperately trying to secure world-ranking points for its players. The MENA Tour received OWGR accreditation in 2016, and LIV officials believed that the partnership should allow them to begin receiving points immediately, starting with this week’s event in Bangkok, the sixth event in its inaugural season.
But in a statement Thursday, the OWGR said that it first received notice from the MENA Tour a day prior and that the turnaround time was “insufficient” for a full review of the circuit’s changes. As a result, LIV won’t receive world-ranking points for at least the next two events (next week’s tournament is in Saudi Arabia), and perhaps longer pending the OWGR’s decision.
“Only after a 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,’” the OWGR said in a statement.
The OWGR said that any regular MENA Tour event – the developmental circuit has played only event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 – will remain eligible for points.
The OWGR decision will surely be disappointing to LIV officials, who believed they had found a loophole in its quest to earn points for its 48 players. LIV counts 12 of the top 50 in the world, but those players, including world No. 3 and reigning Open champion Cameron Smith, are due to slide significantly by the end of the year. LIV officials informed players of the MENA alliance – and the expectation of OWGR points – at the pro-am party on Wednesday evening.
As part of the alliance, the 13 individual LIV events scheduled for 2023 will be rolled into the existing MENA Tour schedule, with the remaining MENA events also open to LIV members. MENA events typically feature a $75,000 total purse – or $45,000 less than the last-place finisher this week in Thailand.
LIV submitted its application to the OWGR board in July but officials had hoped to expedite a process that could take up to two years for review. Last month, 50 members lobbied OWGR chairman Peter Dawson for inclusion, writing in a letter that without LIV players the world rankings would be “incomplete and inaccurate.”
When asked Thursday – before the OWGR issued its statement – about the prospect of now earning points, Phil Mickelson seemed to echo the talking points of the letter.
“From a player standpoint, it feels great to have everyone at LIV fighting so hard for the players and their best interests,” Mickelson said. “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.”
Dustin Johnson called the MENA alliance a “smart and strategic” way to gain points through the OWGR-accredited mini-tour.
“I don’t see how they don’t award us points,” said Johnson, the former world No. 1 who has dropped to 23rd. “I think it’s supposed to be a non-biased organization, so we are playing golf, competing with some of the best golfers in the world, so yes, we should be awarded points.
“Will they do that? Hopefully. I think we deserve them, and hopefully we’ll get them.”
But it now appears that won’t be the case until at least 2023, if at all.