LIV will not pursue Official World Golf Ranking points

LIV Golf has dropped its appeal to the OWGR for points, narrowing the pathways for LIV players into golf's majors.

Greg Norman, LIV Golf CEO. (Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via AP)
Greg Norman, LIV Golf CEO. (Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

LIV Golf has given up on its pursuit of ranking points from the Official World Golf Rankings, according to CEO Greg Norman. The rankings points are used to place players in the majors, men's golf's four crown jewels, and without the ability to earn those points, LIV Golf players are at a severe disadvantage in attempting to qualify for those majors.

Norman, in a letter to players first obtained by Sports Illustrated, indicated that "a resolution which protects the accuracy, credibility and integrity of the OWGR rankings no longer exists." He blasted the OWGR for its inability to properly categorize and reward players who clearly are among the best in the world, including three of the past five major winners.

"We have made significant efforts to fight for you and ensure your accomplishments are recognized within the existing ranking system," Norman wrote. "Unfortunately, OWGR has shown little willingness to productively work with us."

LIV Golf first applied for OWGR in mid-2022. The OWGR formally denied that request last fall, with the primary reason being the lack of player movement from week to week — LIV's 54-man field is set, with minor exceptions, for an entire season — or from season to season. LIV's small-field, 54-hole tournaments and no-cut format were also a matter of concern, though one that OWGR indicated could be managed with some mathematics.

OWGR chairman Peter Dawson has indicated that LIV's format, not its formation, is the problem. "This decision not to make them eligible is not political," Dawson told the AP when the initial bid was rejected. "It is entirely technical. LIV players are self-evidently good enough to be ranked. They’re just not playing in a format where they can be ranked equitably with the other 24 tours and thousands of players to compete on them."

There are still pathways for LIV players to reach the majors, however narrow they may be. Players can qualify for the two "open" majors — the U.S. Open and the Open Championship — through the typical qualifying process, which means succeeding in multiple levels of tournament play. Or they can perform well enough in other events around the world, such as DP World Tour events and Asian Tour events, that they can receive invitations from the majors, as Joaquin Niemann has from both the Masters and the PGA Championship this year. Once in the majors, they can stick around for future years by either winning or finishing near the very top of the leaderboard.

Many LIV Golf players already have exemptions into various majors by virtue of prior victories. Prior Masters winners like Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Phil Mickelson and others will be able to play in Augusta for the rest of their careers. Recent major winners like Rahm, Koepka, Cam Smith and Bryson DeChambeau have several years' worth of exemptions at all four majors. But those players are the exception rather than the rule in LIV's 54-man field.

For those without exemptions, invitations or major-level qualifying play, the pathways to majors simply don't exist. While a PGA Tour player can vault into the majors with a single tournament victory — as several have done this year already — LIV Golf players don't have that option. They have their substantial paychecks, but no route into golf history.

LIV Golf's decision to walk away from the OWGR tradition is a further sign that golf is entering a new phase, one not bound to prior conventions and old-school ways of doing business. The fact that both the Masters and the PGA Championship have opened their gates to LIV players — technically, "player," singular — is still an indication that the majors are softening their stance on the breakaway tour.

The more LIV Golf is able to succeed — or, at least, continue to operate — on its own terms, the less relevant some of golf's old traditions remain. The shaky validity of an "official world golf ranking" that doesn't have Rahm, Smith, Koepka and others at the very top of its list is proof that a more comprehensive ranking — DataGolf's rankings, for instance — will be necessary to properly statistically assess the best players in golf going forward.