Fifty LIV golfers signed a letter sent to the chairman of the Official World Golf Ranking on Tuesday, requesting the breakaway tour to receive world ranking points for its events.
The letter, signed by Cam Smith, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, among others, argued the exclusion of LIV players “undermines the historical value of OWGR.”
“Some 23 tours are integrated into the OWGR universe, and LIV has earned its place among them,” the golfers wrote to Peter Dawson, OWGR chairman. “Four LIV golfers have held the (No. 1) position on the OWGR, and one is currently (No. 2). LIV’s roster includes 21 of the last 51 winners of the four majors. The level of competition at the average LIV event is at least equal to that at the average PGA Tour event.”
LIV Golf applied for admission to the OWGR in mid-July, but its tournaments do not currently receive ranking points. The controversial tour has three more events in 2022, next convening in Bangkok from Oct. 7-9.
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Why does the OWGR matter, could LIV be included and what happens if it isn’t? Answering those questions:
What’s the criteria for a league to get ranking points?
First off, the OWGR essentially presents a picture representing a two-year “rolling” (104-week) period. Ranking points for each event are derived from each tournament’s total field rating. Ranking points are then weighed to give full value for the most recent 13-week period to place more emphasis on recent performances.
Those strength of field ratings are dependent on the tournament itself. Golf’s four majors, for instance are rated separately and awarded 100 first-place points, while the The Players Championship is awarded 80 first-place points.
Other 72-hole tournaments, meanwhile, are subject to individual ratings. Limited-field tournaments and invitationals are individually reviewed by the OWGR’s Technical Committee and approved for inclusion by the Governing Board. Tournaments limited to 36 holes because of inclement weather or other reasons are reduced in value by 75 percent.
Standards for OWGR points have long been based on 72-hole events with a 36-hole cut, a field over 75 players and those that hold qualifying play for both the tour itself and each individual tournament. Exemptions exist for developmental tours.
How close does LIV come to meeting the criteria?
There’s a reason LIV partnered with the Asian Tour early. That tour is already sanctioned by the OWGR and LIV faces an uphill climb to get there. In its present form, that’s still the case.
As Tuesday’s letter makes clear, LIV’s greatest argument to be included in the OWGR is not its format, but its talent. No matter what the rankings say, it’s without question that players like Smith, Johnson and others are among the world’s best. By not counting their play, LIV argues, the rankings lack validity. It’s not a bad case to make, but in terms of the OWGR’s standards for ranking points to be awarded by how a competition is formatted, LIV otherwise isn’t compliant.
What are the repercussions of not getting ranking points?
Plummeting in the rankings amounts to losing standing in the world of professional golf. Ranking thresholds offer eligibility to play in majors. The impacts for LIV players are already being felt. As Tuesday’s letter from LIV to Dawson noted, Johnson has dropped from No. 13 to No. 22 in the OWGR since joining LIV, despite finishing eighth, third, second, and first in the first four LIV events.
Patrick Reed began the year at No. 25. He’s down to 50th. Lee Westwood has gone from 37th to 100th. Louis Oosthuizen has fallen from 10th to 33rd. And Phil Mickelson? He began the year at No. 33. He’s presently 128th.
How strong are LIV fields compared to other tours?
Let’s look at LIV’s recent event in Chicago. According to DataGolf, the event at Rich Harvest Farms would be easier for a top-five player in the world to win than 31 PGA Tour events, including the majors, and harder to win than PGA Tour events such as the 3M Open, the Mexico Open, John Deere, and some opposite field events. That’s not nothing, but it’s also a far way from being on par with the PGA Tour, in terms of strength of field.
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