Here’s why the Global Ranking System is so critical to the long-term viability of LIV Golf | Golf News and Tour Information
For now, the threat of the upstart LIV Golf series seems to be focused on a seemingly endless source of cash that it can throw at potential players. But there’s one thing the Saudi-backed Tour currently doesn’t have, and probably needs, to further disrupt professional golf: Official World Golf Ranking points.
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman said the Saudi-backed upstart tour offering huge purses, as well as bonuses for signing up, asked for OWGR points. More than two dozen circuits are integrated into the OWGR universe, and LIV Golf seeks the same authentication. It’s a long shot, and the history and mechanics of the OWGR offer clues to the challenges Norman’s enterprise faces.
The Official World Golf Rankings made their debut in April 1986, but arguably the most significant event in its history – and arguably the most significant in today’s chaotic environment that is professional golf – occurred in 2004. IMG founder Mark McCormack had died the previous year, and in due course administration of the men’s grading system passed from IMG to an entity known as OWGR Limited. Seven organizations, the first players in men’s golf, founded this institution. This group was made up of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the International Federation of PGA Tours and the organizations that organize the main men’s championships – Augusta National Golf Club, the PGA of America, the R&A and the USGA.
The precursor to the OWGR was something McCormack created in 1968 and published annually in his book, “The World of Professional Golf.” The rankings he compiled, at first based primarily on income, took into account the results of golf tours around the world, but had no specific purpose, such as determining eligibility for major championships. That changed in 1986 when the R&A adopted McCormack’s system to help determine Open byes for golf’s top players. The PGA Tour boarded in 1990 with what was then known as Sony Rankings, and by 1997 all major tours recognized the system.
Fast forward to 2004 and Alastair Johnston saw a problem. IMG’s new co-CEO grew increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of IMG continuing to oversee the rankings. After all, IMG has managed dozens of golfers, including perennial world No. 1 Tiger Woods.
“Grading had become incredibly important to the landscape of golf,” Johnston recalled this week. “It was related to exemptions for major tournaments and World Golf Championships and bonuses in equipment contracts etc. etc., and we could not be considered to have a conflict of interest and be exposed to a potential legal liability that we might favor our customers in some way.
Eventually a deal was reached, a business arrangement in which the consortium of circuits and major organizations took ownership of the leaderboard in exchange for certain financial reimbursements related to maintaining the system and continually updating the formula. “There was a lot of trial and error over the first 20 or so years and a lot of complaints as a result,” Johnston said, “and the only thing I can’t hear anymore is the noise depending on which it is biased or unfair.
“Today you can argue that has become everything.”
Today, the controversy over the direction of professional golf seems to rest on the rankings. In the showdown between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, which has poached many of the Tour’s most recognizable names, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, the OWGR represents the stamp of legitimacy for the new venture which for now can be considered a collection of exhibits.
The OWGR issue looms large, and through sponsorship of the Asian Tour, LIV Golf has requested OWGR points for its 54-hole events. DeChambeau, a former US Open winner who joined LIV two weeks ago, told reporters at the US Open in Boston that LIV Golf “has got it all covered” when it comes to OWGR accreditation.
Too much confidence? Or a foreshadowing of things to come? Time will tell us. Here are some of the most pertinent questions about the OWGR and its outsized influence on ongoing debates as the LIV Series moves to Portland, Oregon, for its second event next week at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.
Why are OWGR Points important for players participating in the LIV Golf Invitational Series?
The OWGR is one of the eligibility criteria for the four major golf championships. At the moment, several players who have moved on to the new tour are exempt from majors solely based on their respective global rankings. Others have exemptions as former champions, such as Masters winners, at least for now; Augusta National has not decided whether it will continue to invite its winners to compete. If LIV golfers cannot earn points, their ranking will drop and they will eventually lose their entry into the majors, which could diminish the attractiveness of the league, no matter how big the purses.
The OWGR operates from DP World Tour’s offices in London and is governed by a Board of Directors made up of many founding circuits and major championships. This means that board members include Jay Monahan (PGA Tour), Mike Whan (USGA), Seth Waugh (PGA of America), PGA Tours International Federation Official Keith Waters, Martin Slumbers (R&A) , Keith Pelley (DP World Tour) and Buzzy Johnson (Augusta National). It is chaired by Peter Dawson, former managing director of the R&A. In other words, the status quo stakeholders are in control here.
There have been constant changes in the algorithm that determines how points are distributed to arrive at the ranking of the best male golfers in the world. Currently, without getting too deep into the mathematical weeds, a player’s world ranking is based on the accumulation of OWGR points over a rolling two-year period. The number of points is determined by its final position in a tournament and the strength of the field of this tournament. This system is flawed in that the strength of a field includes artificial ratings and does not accurately reflect the value of the more than 5,000 players eligible for points.
But isn’t the formula about to change?
Strangely, it is pure coincidence that the time for a major change in the world ranking calculation is coming in just a few months after three years of research. Again, it’s best to boil down to the fact that on August 14, each player’s global ranking will be calculated using a new “Global Strokes Earned Ranking” based on actual scores in in-game events. by strokes adjusted for the relative difficulty of each round played. This rating impacts a tournament’s field rating, which in turn determines the number of points awarded to players who make the cut. (Under the previous system, players who made the cut might not collect OWGR points.) The new system is designed to better gauge each player’s skill level in a tournament. It’s unlikely to have a dramatic impact at the top of the leaderboard or even in the top 50. The real changes will not materialize for two years.
What is the process for applying for OWGR Points?
LIV was to be sponsored by another member tour, in this case the Asian Tour, with which it is aligned. Norman said LIV applies, but the OWGR would not confirm this, and the process is a mystery. “The OWGR does not comment on the application process, or whether or not applications have been received,” OWGR Technical Committee Chairman Ian Barker told Golf Digest.
What are the potential sticking points in the LIV app?
It is believed that the OWGR would struggle to weigh the results in LIV Golf’s 54-hole format which includes a shotgun tee. That alone might be reason enough not to include the series in the OWGR. Another could be its limited field of 48 players, although PGA Tour events with fewer players, like the Tour Championship and Sentry Tournament of Champions, award world ranking points. Limited Field Tournaments are approved by the Board of Directors on an individual basis. Then there’s the fully invitational aspect of the LIV series. Current OWGR critics argue that players invited to an exclusive series of events are automatically rewarded with ranking points, which skews the system.
What if LIV met all the inclusion criteria? Wouldn’t that mean that the council has to give its approval?
Not necessarily. Reports indicate that the OWGR constitution gives the board latitude to approve or deny points, whether a candidate meets all, some or none of the criteria they use for such decisions. . The council may also modify its list of criteria.
Which tracks are currently eligible to receive World Ranking Points?
Here is the full list of tours in the OWGR system (via the OWGR website): Abema TV Tour, All Thailand Golf Tour, Alps Tour Golf, Asian Development Tour, Asian Tour, Big Easy Tour, China Tour, EuroPro Tour, European Challenge Tour , Japan Golf Tour, Korn Ferry Tour, KPGA Korean Tour, MENA Golf Tour, Nordic Golf League, PGA European Tour, PGA Tour, PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour China Series, PGA Tour Latinoamérica, PGA Tour of Australasia, ProGolf Tour, Professional Golf Tour of India and Sunshine Tour.
How could it be that LIV Golf, with several great champions, does not eventually join this great group and become an eligible golf tour?
Several longtime golf watchers believe it’s inevitable that the LIV series will gain accreditation, although it may need to alter its current format. The two main players, LIV Golf and the PGA Tour, would probably have to learn to co-exist, although what that might ultimately look like in terms of schedules, major events and prize money is anyone’s guess.
Is the OWGR really that important to the long-term success of LIV Golf?
Just listen to Norman, who said in a recent TV interview that “the OWGR points should be awarded, and if we get the OWGR points, then everything else takes care of itself.”
Yeah, that’s a really big deal.
John Huggan contributed to this story.