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A world ranking is not always the best indicator of where a player stands in their golf career. In fact, OWGR – Official World Golf Ranking – has long been criticized for how it measures rankings, with some critics believing the points system rated across two years can do a disservice to players who are currently in good form.
Nonetheless, rankings are important, and they do more than just act as a reference point. A higher ranking can lead to automatic entry into a tournament, help secure sponsorship deals, and even act as a trove of data to help punters with betting strategies before a tournament. The statistic matters to players and fans alike, so OWGR has an important role to play in professional golf.
So what, then, happens when, as we see today, we witness a breakaway tour that attracts some of the world’s best players away from the traditional tours? As those behind the LIV Tour seem to be learning, seamless access to OWGR is not guaranteed. A – let’s say – a disagreement has been playing out over the media between LIV and OWGR, with the former claiming that conditions have been met for OWGR to start awarding points to LIV participants, and the latter claiming otherwise.
Players demand for ranking points
As mentioned, this is important – and it was perhaps an overlooked issue when the LIV golf project started gathering pace. Moreover, it matters for the players. None of the best golfers on the traditional tours will want to see an asterisk beside their names, suggesting that they are world number one but only when discounting players from LIV. Lest we forget, Cameron Smith had been flying up the rankings (he is currently world number three) before he agreed to join “the rebels”.
Indeed, players did take matters into their own hands by writing a letter to the OWGR chairman, Peter Dawson. The players had asked for points to be awarded immediately and retrospectively by OWGR. Last week, another solution was found by LIV – a link up with MENA, the Middle Eastern and North African Tour. LIV promptly announced that this link-up, providing LIV players with an OWGR-recognized tour, meant that ranking points could therefore be awarded. But OWGR shot back, saying that there were still conditions to be met.
OWGR will relent – eventually
To be clear: None of this seems to be sour grapes on behalf of OWGR, although, as we know, a lot of golf traditionalists aren’t fans of the breakaway tour. Nevertheless, there are logistical problems. For example, LIV tournaments are played over 54 holes and no players are cut, so it’s not exactly like for like when it comes to competition. Other issues include the size of the field and compliance with other minor rules. But you get the sense that these matters can be overcome if the will – on both sides – is there to meet them.
For some, there is a sense that OWGR will eventually relent. At the time of writing, it is being relatively obstinate about the conditions that LIV must meet, but it is also keeping the door open. There is, of course, not much in the way of trust between LIV and organizations like the PGA, but OWGR is supposed to be a neutral body. Its job is to provide a “rating system for the performance level of professional golfers”. LIV is a professional golf tour, featuring some of the best players in the world, so OWGR will eventually reflect that truism, particularly if more top players sign with LIV.