No points, no plan, no possibilities? 

Home > Opinion > No points, no plan, no possibilities? 
The fumbled decision by Greg Norman leaves LIV in a state of flux. M. James Ward outlines how the feeble follies leave a fledging format in doubt.
Posted on
March 12, 2024
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

When LIV Golf came into existence one of their most important goals was securing validation through the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). LIV CEO Greg Norman stated to prospective players – especially those in the prime of their careers – securing OWGR would be pursued vigorously given the porthole the points provide in securing participation in golf's most noteworthy events – the major championships.

The command structure at the OWGR took some time to weigh in on the LIV application for validation and the answer was straightforward – LIV's current structure of 54-hole events, no cuts and limited access for players to join LIV and with limited relegation for players who underperform did not merit consideration. In short - LIV operates as a closed shop and therefore would not receive world ranking points.

No points - no plan - no possibilities? 
Greg Norman (Joe Scarnici/LIV Golf )

Keep in mind LIV applied for consideration in July 2022 - just one month after getting its first event off the ground that June. Last Fall the announcement was made by the brain trust of OWGR that LIV golfers would not secure points for the events it operates now.

Peter Dawson, chairman of the OWGR board and former CEO of the R&A, told Global Golf Post last year. "This is about should a tour whose formats are so different and whose qualifications criteria are so different, can they be ranked equitably with other tours who conform to the OWGR norm and have more competition to them than perhaps the closed shop that is LIV?"

When an expected framework agreement was announced last June by Jay Monahan, Commissioner for the PGA TOUR and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) governor, it appeared a pathway for a merger between the two groups would be put into motion by the stated deadline of December 31, 2023. That deadline was extended into 2024 and there's been no news forthcoming since. A great example in which silence is deafening.

Interestingly, LIV Golf attempted an end-run for OWGR points in October 2022 by entering into a "strategic alliance" with the MENA Tour with the intent of immediately affording LIV golf events Official World Golf Ranking points. If you are wondering what the MENA Tour is, trust me you're not the first person to scratch their head and wonder what it's about.

Peter Dawson (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)


The desire to link up with MENA as an end-run to secure world ranking points was not embraced by the folks running OWGR - no stunning news on that front. Now Norman, realizing a dead-end street is where LIV is parked now, opted to pull the plug and attempt to save face.

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

What the two-time major champion left out is that LIV Golf stubbornly refuses to budge on the exhibition-like golf it now produces. 54-hole golf with no cuts is not the mechanism to determine a golfer's standing. The 72-hole format has long been in place with 36-hole cuts weeding out those who fail to play at the highest of levels. LIV Golf has attempted to bring forward a team concept that despite all the self-promotion has not really secured any modicum of fan interest.

While all the back and forth has been happening LIV players have seen their overall world rankings plummet.

Remember when Dustin Johnson won the Masters in 2020? Well, the two-time major winner is now ranked 284th. No misprint. Bryson DeChambeau - the man who won the 2020 U.S. Open - is 189th. There are currently only four LIV players inside the top 50 in the world rankings.

Masters champion Jon Rahm holds down the 3rd position simply because he defected from the PGA TOUR only last year. Ditto for Tyrell Hatton who is 17th. Brooks Koepka has managed to stay reasonably near the top – 31st – courtesy of his win from last year's PGA Championship at Oak Hill. Cam Smith, the 2022 Open Championship winner is now down to 54th.

The panic is already setting in with the youngest of players that have followed the siren song of LIV. Talor Gooch stated that should Rory McIlroy win this year's Masters that an asterisk should be placed next to his name in doing so.

Gooch is throwing out such drivel because despite winning three times on LIV last year and earning $35.3 million, including an $18 million bonus in being the circuit's top player, his performance in the majors in 2023 was abysmal. Gooch played in three of the majors last year - missing the cut in two with his best finish a T34 in the Masters.

Jay Monahan speaks (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Memo to Gooch - it's OK to badmouth the system but then you need to back it up by showing people your talents when the opportunities present themselves. Thus far, in the game's biggest events - Gooch has aptly demonstrated the Texas expression of all hat and no cattle.

All news for LIV is not a downer. Joaquin Niemann accepted a special invitation to compete in the Masters and was also extended a similar opening for the PGA Championship. Niemann won the DP World Tour's Australian Open in December and LIV Golf's season opener at Mayakoba last month.

What's interesting is that a number of LIV players are opting to play in DP events because in that way they can accumulate world ranking points.

In the highway of competitive golf – you are
either passing others or being passed.

Given the alliance of the PGA TOUR and the Strategic Sports Group which was announced this past January one has to wonder whether LIV sees a pathway in going forward with some type of merger with the PGA TOUR.

There's little doubt LIV can continue to go forward simply because of the bottomless pit of money being pushed through PIF. Taking the long approach may be a preferred course of action for LIV but one has to wonder if the abandonment of world ranking points will sway other potential young stars to see LIV as the best avenue in their overall career development.

LIV worked out well for the likes of Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter – all beyond age 40 and in the 8th and 9th innings of their careers. The upfront money provided a financial windfall given the reality that competitive days on the PGA TOUR were at an end.

Unquestionably, LIV does offer short-term financial incentives but if one happens to be a very talented player in one's early 20s the desire to have access to the major championships remains a central point of concern.

The lure of money still matters for sure. However, the more pressing concern is the amount of time frittered away in remaining with LIV and receiving no world ranking points when doing so

In the highway of competitive golf – you are either passing others or being passed.

While money that's spent can be regained – when time is lost its lost forever. It's that eternal clicking of seconds that remains uppermost on the mind of the next generation of star players.

No points - no plan - no possibilities? 
Yasir Al-Rumayyan (Steven Paston/PA Media)

Young players realize legacies are cemented into reality with annual access to the major championships. The memories of Tiger Woods slipping into the green jacket and hoisting the Wannamaker, Claret Jug and U.S. Open trophy are front and center. It is those visual images that young star players want to see happen for themselves.

LIV has provided a clear financial ticket for its members but the lack of world ranking points means no parachute to protect against the inevitable crash landing many are now experiencing.

World ranking points are golf's passport. And just like a traditional passport if you don't have one you can't really travel.

Norman's doubling-down statement indicates he believes the failure rests with OWGR. The Shark believes LIV can simply wait it out and all will be resolved in its favor. That's a gamble many of the next generation of golf superstars may not wish to take.

How ironic for LIV, a Saudi-created golf organization, that believes placing its head in the sand is the best course of action – no comic relief intended.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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