Dustin Johnson said they deserve them and Phil Mickelson declared it was a “win on all parts”, but Greg Norman’s shrewd move to get his LIV golfers crucial world ranking points hasn’t worked just yet.
On Thursday, it was revealed Norman and LIV had aligned with a little-known Middle-Eastern golf tour that once folded and didn’t hold an event for more than two years in his latest bid to get his players official world ranking points.
As part of the “strategic partnership” with the MENA Tour – Middle East and North Africa – all LIV golfers, including Johnson, Mickelson and Aussie Cam Smith, were made immediate tour members.
That brought suggestions that this week’s LIV event in Thailand would be played for world ranking points, which are crucial for most LIV members, who took megabucks offers to join, to qualify for major championships.
The MENA Tour added two LIV events, in Bangkok and Jedda, and applied for them to be given world ranking points.
But that move was shut down by the Official World Golf Rankings, which is still considering an application, made in July, for Norman’s 54-hole, 48-player, no-cut events to be recognised despite them not meeting several crucial elements of the criteria.
“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,” a statement said.
“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’.
“Regular official MENA Tour events conducted over 54 or 72 holes with a cut after 36 holes, and its Tour Championship, typically conducted over 54 holes with no cut, remain eligible for inclusion in the OWGR.”
Norman applied to the OWGR in July, but the LIV events fall short in two key criteria for qualification, namely that rules demand events must have a cut after 36 holes as well as average fields of at least 75 players over the course of each season.
LIV, which Norman has branded as the future of the game, will never meet either criteria.
But Johnson, playing in Bangkok, said the events deserved world ranking points because of the quality of the field, with 12 major champions, regardless of the criteria.
“Yeah, I mean, for me, I think we deserve them. I think obviously with the quality of players we have out here, the events we’re having, we should have them,” the former world No.1 said.
“I think it’s fair. Obviously the way … I think it’s very smart and strategic the way they’re going about it, but hopefully they make the right decision and give us world ranking points.”
Mickelson said for “their credibility”, the OWGR should recognise LIV events.
“The reason I‘m not concerned is that the number of points are based on the quality of the field and not the organisation that’s running the tournament, and the quality of our field is remarkably strong, and I’m sure for the world golf rankings to maintain their credibility, they’ll continue to award the proper number of points that the tournaments deserve for all tours,” he said.
The MENA Tour resumed in 2022 after not holding an event for more than two years, co-sanctioning with the Asian Tour.
Scotsman Ryan Lumsden won the last full MENA Tour event in Aqaba, Jordan, in 2020 and earnt just three world ranking points for his win as well as $20,000. The winner of the LIV Golf Invitational in Thailand gets $6m.
By comparison, last week’s winner on the US PGA Tour, Mackenzie Hughes, was rewarded with 35 points and jumped more than 30 places in the rankings.
The MENA Tour was only founded in 2011 and has no tournaments listed beyond this week’s LIV event on its 2022 schedule, which gives way to cynicism about LIV’s partnership.
There was outcry when LIV players turned up to the European PGA in the UK last month, with players including major champions Jon Rahm and Shane Lowry declaring they were only there “for ranking points”.
Norman and LIV Golf sent a letter to the OWGR last month, signed by all the players, demanding its request for ranking points be accepted to reflect a “a transparent, credible, and accurate ranking based on the relative performances of players.”
But as LIV players await the news on their quest for world ranking points, the MENA Tour stands as the early winner in Norman’s latest move.
“This is a very exciting day for the MENA Tour and our players,” Commissioner David Spencer said.