The Official World Golf Ranking governing board is reviewing LIV Golf’s new alliance with the MENA Tour but said in a statement Thursday that it won’t make a ruling before the start of LIV Golf’s next two events, in Thailand and Saudi Arabia.
LIV Golf officials hoped its newly formed partnership with the little-known MENA Tour, a developmental circuit that has staged events in the Middle East and North Africa and has been recognized by the OWGR since 2016, would allow its players to earn world ranking points, starting with this week’s LIV Golf Invitational Thailand.
In the statement, the OWGR said “the first two tournaments in this [MENA] series appeared to be the same as the LIV Golf Invitational Series tournaments in Bangkok and Jeddah. The communication from the MENA Tour included a starting field data file for the Bangkok tournament, confirming that to be the case.”
“Notice of the changes given by the MENA Tour is insufficient to allow OWGR to conduct the customary necessary review ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok (7-9 October) and LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah (14-16 October),” the OWGR statement said. “Only after a review is complete will a decision be made for awarding points to the MENA Tour’s new ‘Limited Field Tournaments.'”
A LIV Golf spokesperson declined comment when reached by ESPN on Thursday.
LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman has become increasingly frustrated that the OWGR has not recognized his startup circuit, which is being funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
The series has signed 12 of the top 50 players in the world rankings, including reigning Open champion Cameron Smith, the No. 3 player in the world, as well as past major winners Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed.
In a news release Wednesday, the MENA Tour said the “alliance will boost the MENA Tour’s development programs and immediately qualify LIV Golf for OWGR points, starting with the LIV Golf Thailand event at Stonehill this week.”
On Sept. 20, each of the 48 players who competed in the LIV Golf event outside Chicago signed a letter sent to OWGR chairperson Peter Dawson asking that the OWGR retroactively include LIV Golf results in its rankings.
“To maintain trust, we urge you — as one of the true statesmen of sports — to act appropriately to include, on a retroactive basis, the results of LIV Golf events in OWGR’s ranking calculations,” the LIV players wrote. “An OWGR without LIV would be incomplete and inaccurate, the equivalent of leaving the Big 10 or the SEC out of the U.S. college football rankings, or leaving Belgium, Argentina, and England out of the FIFA rankings.”
LIV Golf’s Kevin Na was asked by a reporter in Thailand on Wednesday whether he was concerned about the new circuit not being recognized by the OWGR.
“Do I look at it? Yeah, I do, because I want to play the majors, and that’s the way to get into the majors,” Na said. “I strongly feel that we will get world ranking points, and I’m not too worried about that. I feel like it’s just a matter of timing of when. I don’t think it’s an accurate world ranking without every tour and every player being ranked. I really believe that we’re going to get it, and hopefully sooner than later.”