LIV’s scarlet letter to the OWGR

John Craven
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LIV’s scarlet letter to the OWGR

Donald Trump, Yasir Al Rumayyan, Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, and Majed Al Sorour, CEO of Saudi Golf Federation, (Photo by Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via Getty Images)

For the sole purpose of that headline, I’m scarlet for LIV’s letter demanding Official World Golf Ranking points, penned, if you believe in Santa Claus, by the LIV players themselves.

If you’re not familiar, ‘scarlet for ya’ is Dublin speak for ‘how embarrassing for you’, and if you haven’t read it, the letter in question claims that LIV has “earned its place” among the current 23-tour OWGR universe. That “the level of competition at the average LIV event is at least equal to that at the average PGA Tour event”. And that members of the OWGR board with interests in the PGA Tour “are conflicted and are keeping the OWGR from acting as it should”.

The letter wasn’t signed with an accompanying picture of players on knees begging for points, but it certainly read with an air of desperation as their respective rankings dwindle weekly. If only someone had warned them of the risks before they signed up!

Still, the least surprising thing to come out of this letter is a sense of entitlement. From the outset, LIV players accepting tens of millions of dollars to the detriment of the tours that pole-vaulted them into their positions of privilege have demanded the sun, moon and stars.

The same golfers who claimed to join LIV to play less golf quickly sued to play more. They show up at events like Wentworth where they’re clearly not wanted and some even turn up where previously they had no interest at all.

You’ve seen it written about LIV’s loveable rogues. How they want to have their cake and eat it too. And they are eating it. Gobbling it by the slice. Caramel sauce, ice-cream, sprinkles, the works, but for one precious ingredient – those delicious world ranking points – the gold leaf that their cake is missing. Only there’s no reason to think it will be appearing on the menu any time soon, despite LIV’s claims.

Why? Well, because there are set criteria tours must meet to receive official world golf ranking points and LIV has yet to meet any of them as far as I can see. Let’s take a look.

  1. An embrace of inclusion and promoting non-discriminatory practices.

LIV Golf might blast loud music at their events to attract a younger audience but all the noise in the world won’t distract from the fact they’re owned and run by Saudi Arabia directly, and as Phil Mickelson will tell you, “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay.”

Let’s just say, not a great start. Next…

  1. Competitions contested over 72 holes, except for developmental tours (like the Abema TV Tour, the Alps Golf Tour, or the EuroPro Tour, among others), which are permitted to be 54-hole events.

LIV Golf is not a developmental tour and while Patrick Reed has stated that he’d have no problem returning to a 72-hole format, such a move would compromise LIV’s 54-hole selling point. Not to mention the re-branding headaches that come with LXXII. Sounds more like an obscure Welsh town than the future of golf. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch!

  1. An open annual qualifying school held before the start of each season.

LIV is a closed shop and the door’s not just locked under its current guise, it’s double-bolted and padlocked shut while someone’s blocked the door with a grand piano just in case. I mean, there’s literally no getting in, at least not yet. Qualifying school is certainly doable in future. LIV’s relationship with the Asian Tour could afford a few spots via the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit to LIV but again, this takes time and given how certain LIV players are tumbling down the rankings, Norman and co realise they don’t have it in their quest to qualify for next year’s majors.

  1. A field size on average of 75 players over the course of a season.

LIV’s current 48-man policy falls some way short of 75. Of course they could bulk up field sizes but that won’t be happening this year, while its problematic shot-gun start format won’t run so smooth with deeper fields. Also, don’t ask me how 75 players fit into 12 franchises featuring four-man teams from 2023. I almost failed pass maths for the Leaving Cert and even I know that doesn’t compute.

  1. A 36-hole cut, whether playing 54 or 72 holes.

It’s almost as if Greg Norman didn’t think any of this through! You’d wager introducing a 36-hole cut would be a handy fix, even biting back against a common criticism levelled at LIV that there’s no fear of failure, but how would a cut impact the team aspect of LIV’s USP if players are being eliminated before the final round? If I’m a 4Aces fan showing up for the final day, I expect to see my whole team tee up, Pat Perez included.

  1. A clear opportunity to progress to a full member tour, that is, to one of the six members of the International Federation of PGA Tours.

The solution here is as laughable as it is feasible – the top players on LIV advance to compete on the… Asian Tour. Brilliant. While those making the move to LIV only to be bumped out of the coveted top-48 have been consoled with Asian Tour starts in the past, to then turn that consolation prize into an actual prize would be a level of marketing spin even the propaganda machine at LIV HQ might overheat trying to work out.

  1. Reasonable access for local and regional players (i.e. Monday qualifiers) at each of its tournaments.

There has been no reasonable access to LIV to date. If you’re a top-50 player in the world and willing, sure, you’re in. Then there’s been regional box ticking. Jobs for the boys. And Chase Koepka. However, should LIV introduce Monday Qualifying, you’d have to expect a massive entry list given last place each tournament pockets $125,000. Who knows what wider repercussions such an appearance could have on your career with golf’s status quo though. Would the forbidden fruit be worth the bite?

That’s just seven criteria that by my reckoning, LIV Golf falls some way short on. And that’s not to mention that LIV has barely been around a wet week. Five tournaments in and already entitled, they even fall shy of the 10-event schedule minimum, which they’ll hit with their proposed 14-event swing in 2023.

But that’s 2023, which has me scratching my head about what Norman and co are struggling so ineptly to understand at this point.

When I wanted to extend my working holiday visa in Australia and apply for a second year, similar long-established rules stood in my way. I had to complete 88 days of regional work. Until it was completed and I had proof of completion, I couldn’t apply. If only Norman was running the country, how handy it would’ve been to avoid 88 days cotton farming by being approved in good faith by the powers that be.

As it happened, my 12 weeks prepping the paddocks on the last frontier of human existence was quite the experience. Meeting Australian visa requirements introduced me to a way of life I wouldn’t have known otherwise. In many ways it was the making of me, so if LIV Golf can tick off the boxes like I did, who’s to say that it won’t be the making of them?

Think about it. 72 holes, 36-hole cuts. Promotion and relegation. Winning and losing. Sounds a lot like golf to me. And call me old fashioned but there’s a sport worth watching.


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