Photo via golfdigest.com
Many of the world’s top golfers were enamored with the dollar amount offered to them to join the LIV Tour, a start-up tour attempting to compete with the PGA. Top names in the sport of golf have made the jump from PGA Tour to LIV Tour, including: Phil Mickelson, Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson, Joaquin Niemann, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and more. Even young college stars are choosing the LIV Tour over the PGA, such as David Puig. More on Puig’s story and young golfers following the LIV path can be found here.
One thing all of these players have in common is they were aware of the fact that once they put a ball in play on the LIV Tour, they would be immediately suspended from the PGA Tour. The draw for these players was the money, which includes an undisclosed signing fee, additional prize money depending on where the golfer ranked in each tournament, and appearance fees. The signing fees for the big name players were leaked and ranged from $100-$200 million. Although players were aware they would be suspended from the PGA, something they overlooked is the fact they would no longer be recognized by the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR).
Any competitor knows that being unable to rank amongst the best is challenging to come to terms with, especially for those who have proven to be at the top in the past. On Tuesday, fifty LIV golfers signed a letter sent to the chairman of the OWGR requesting that the LIV Tour receive world ranking points for its events because failing to do so “undermines the historical value of OWGR.” However, the current structure of the LIV Tour does not meet the criteria for the OWGR standard. As it stands OWGR’s standard is based on 72-hole events with a 36-hole cut, a field of over 75 players and those that hold qualifying play for both the tour itself and each individual tournament. The players on the LIV Tour are not arguing against the format, but they assert that they should be recognized by the OWGR because of their talent.
Although the LIV events do not follow the OWGR criteria, the argument is compelling. In the letter written to the OWGR chairman the players noted that “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 players may be some of the most talented in the sport, but that does not change the fact the league’s format does not follow the OWGR standard and may keep them out of the OWGR for good.
If LIV fails to be approved by the OWGR, the stature of its players will begin to descend in professional golf. Rankings are the parameter for whether a player is eligible for the major tournaments. This may not hinder players who are grandfathered into major tournaments for being prior major winners, but all other players may not ever get the chance to step foot on golf’s greatest stage. Although the LIV Tour has offered never before seen money for professional golfers, these players are lifetime competitors and the inability to hold a world golf rank, or to play in major tournaments could be a deterrent to young golfers considering joining the pioneer league. The unlimited funding LIV has at its disposal has proven a threat to the PGA Tour, but that may not last if they cannot get over the hurdle that is the OWGR.