On Wednesday, ahead of this week’s LIV event in Saudi Arabia, Harold Varner listened to Graeme McDowell make an impassioned plea as to why the new circuit deserves World Ranking points.
“The word ‘Official’ has to go away from OWGR if they don’t take care of the players out here,” McDowell concluded.
Varner paused in admiration of McDowell’s monologue before he spoke.
“That was unbelievable, your answer,” he said. But when it came his turn to address the same issue, Varner came at it from a different perspective.
“For me, I think we knew what we were getting into. I think it’s easy to sit here and say what could happen and what should happen, but obviously, I knew what was going to happen. It wasn’t going to be easy,” he said.
In this case, what Varner — and his fellow LIV signed — were getting into was a new league with a new format and a disregard for any existing golf institution, the OWGR included. The process for OWGR approval typically takes one to two years, and although LIV boasts an impressive slate of top talent, its 54-hole, no-cut, shotgun-start format make it different than other sanctioned tours.
Several LIV pros, including McDowell, have made the case that LIV should get points immediately. Several PGA Tour pros, from Rory McIlroy to Viktor Hovland to Matthew Fitzpatrick to Hideki Matsuyama and more, have suggested LIV should be considered for points but should go through the OWGR process like any other tour.
But Varner acknowledged that the pros who left the PGA Tour knew that this limbo — a time where LIV would be without points — was a real possibility. No world ranking points means some pros won’t qualify for major championships, and the longer they go without points, the less those points will mean if and when they are awarded. They weighed that possibility and went anyway. That’s what the money was for.
“I think the people at LIV have done an unbelievable job of just trying — because I don’t know the check marks. I could care less. I knew exactly what was going to happen. I knew what could happen in my career and I accept that,” Varner continued.
“I’ve had a great time out here. So the World Ranking thing, it’s just been a part of golf for so long, and now all of a sudden some feathers have been ruffled. So it’s just awkward. It’s funny, though, I think. But it is what it is.”
Earlier this summer, Varner earned praise for his forthrightness when he announced his departure to LIV and the financial motivations behind it.
“The truth is, my life is changing,” he wrote in a statement at the time. “The opportunity to join LIV Golf is simply too good of a financial breakthrough for me to pass by.”
His comments on Wednesday came in the context of LIV’s recent attempts to expedite the process. Last week, LIV announced a “strategic alliance” with the developmental MENA Tour, which already dishes out OWGR points. (The OWGR said in a statement that it would need to review the partnership before ruling on points.) LIV has also been considering some sort of limited cut to comply with OWGR protocol; after his win at LIV’s Bangkok event, Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra said in an interview that LIV was thinking about trimming from 48 to 45 after 36 holes.
Varner, when asked on Wednesday, wasn’t crazy about the idea of a cut.
“No man! Calm down. I’m not trying to get cut.”
Dustin Johnson, who like McDowell and Varner is a past winner at Royal Greens, the site of this week’s LIV event, was the third member of the press conference. He gave a succinct breakdown of the state of LIV’s world ranking affairs.
“We’re going to get World Ranking points, right now it’s a matter of when,” he said. “The longer it takes, obviously the more irrelevant it becomes for us. If you wait too long, all our rankings are going to drop so much that it’s not going to matter. So hopefully they do the right thing and we’ll know something here in the next week or so. Hopefully they do the right thing and give us points and this will all be over.
“And then we won’t have to talk about it any more,” he added with a smile. “Jeez.”