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LIV Golf faces hurdles to apply for world ranking points

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Even as the second LIV Golf Invitational series embarks on the first of four consecutive events in the United States, a significant part of its future takes place in Scotland two weeks from now.

The Official World Golf Ranking board of directors meets in St. Andrews during the British Open, followed by a meeting of the OWGR technical committee. The agenda is likely to include whether the Saudi-funded league of 48-man courses in 54-hole events should gain ranking points.

That assumes LIV Golf’s application to be part of the OWGR system is received by then.

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Greg Norman, who runs LIV Golf, has already suggested that PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan refrain from making the decision. Monahan is part of the eight-member panel that includes executives from the European tour, PGA of America, USGA, R&A, Augusta National and the International Federation of PGA Tours. The board is chaired by former R&A boss Peter Dawson.

But there are some potential bumps in the guidelines for would-be newcomers.

One is that each tournament is played over at least 54 holes with a 36-hole cutoff or is in line with the eligible formats. LIV Golf has no court.

OWGR guidelines indicate a standard 72-hole format, with 54 holes acceptable “for those tournaments earning less than the minimum 12 points for first place.” In other words, a steady diet of 54-hole events is usually for development tours or off-season series, like the Vodacom Origins of Golf in South Africa.

The guidelines also state that tournaments must have an average of 75 players over the course of the season. This could be a problem for a tour that promotes 48-man fields. LIV Golf has invested $300 million in the Asian Tour and has four “International Series” tournaments this year. You could claim those fields as part of your league and get to the bare minimum.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle is the requirement that a new tour meet the guidelines for at least a year before it is admitted. LIV Golf has altered or delayed plans for a full schedule and fixed teams, and providing stability could be key to getting approval.

Of course, the OWGR manual also says that the board can admit or reject any new tour regardless of compliance and change the criteria at its discretion. That’s a lot of grey.

And then, if LIV Golf is accepted, there’s still a change to the OWGR ranking formula coming up that starts in August, before LIV’s fourth event.

The new system will determine field strength using a calculation based on a statistical evaluation of every player on the field, not just those among the current 200 in the world. Gone are the minimum points awarded to various tours.

The Portland field has 13 players outside the top 200.

Meanwhile, Ian Poulter comes into the Portland event in 96th place and is at risk of falling outside the top 100 for the first time in five years. Lee Westwood is ranked 87th. They are both at the British Open. Without qualifying points, they will not be eligible for future major races without open qualifying.

UNCERTAIN TIMES

Ernie Els and Jim Furyk are not candidates to join the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series. They are still concerned about where golf is headed, particularly how an increase in prize money on the PGA Tour could affect PGA Tour champions.

“I guess we missed the boat, and that’s really sad for some of these guys, because they’ve supported these tours for their entire careers, in some cases close to 40 years,” Els said. “We would like to see our Champions Tour grow. We have great sponsorships, good support, but these are scary times for a lot of people.”

Furyk is No. 4 on the PGA Tour money list with just over $71 million. He follows Dustin Johnson, who is no longer listed because he resigned his membership to join LIV Golf.

“That’s where I played my career, I made a living. That’s where my heart is. So I have concerns,” Furyk said. “So yeah, kind of a trickle down effect. How does that affect us PGA Tour champions and the 50+ audience? I feel like we’re in a really good place right now.

“There has to be someone a little bit smarter than me to tell them how it’s going to leak out and affect us, but in a minimal way,” he said. “I really enjoy touring and playing there and hopefully that effect isn’t really strong.”

OPEN CLASSIFICATION

Among the criteria to be exempt from the British Open is being in the top five players not yet eligible for the top 20 in the FedEx Cup through the Travelers Championship.

The top 20 players are already exempt.

All five of those places are presumably relegated to the reserves, which are based on world rankings, and the list could be long.

Going into the last two weeks, 118 players have earned a place at St. Andrews.

A further ten places are awarded through the top finishers at the Irish Open (three), the John Deere Classic (three), the Scottish Open (three) and the Barbasol Championship (one). The R&A added an additional spot to its four regional qualifiers for a total of 16 spots available on Tuesday.

That would bring the total to 144 players.

Aaron Wise at No. 45 is a lock to come off the reserve list. He is currently followed in the world rankings (of those not yet exempted) by Brian Harman (No. 49), Sebastian Muñoz (No. 50), Sepp Straka (No. 55) and Luke List (No. 60).

Also in reasonable form is Sahith Theegala, whose runner-up finish at the Travelers Championship took him to No. 66. The following world ranking is the one used for the reserve list for The Open.

LANGER STREAK

Jack Nicklaus and Bernhard Langer each reached their 14th full season on the senior circuit before ultimately missing the cut at a major.

But there are some differences.

There were only four majors for Nicklaus – the Senior British Open wasn’t part of the PGA Tour champions calendar until 2002. Additionally, the Golden Bear was still playing the regular majors until his streak of 146 consecutive majors ended at the 1998 British Open.

He went to 46 major majors until missing the cut at Aronimink at the 2003 PGA Championship.

Langer is in his 14th year on the PGA Tour Champions and has appeared in 64 consecutive majors, all but the Tradition and Seniors Player Championship having a cut, before missing by two shots at the US Senior Open last week.

DIVOTS

The series of three international events that the PGA Tour has planned for the fall will feature more than 50 participants. They will include the top 50 from the FedEx Cup, along with top players from the fall events and additional eligibility. The field size is likely to be around 60. …The 48-player field for the LIV Golf event in Oregon has 22 players who have or had PGA Tour membership to start the season. … In Gee Chun ended South Korea’s drought of seven majors without a win. It was the longest stretch since 2009-2011. … Players from six countries are in the top 10 of the men’s and women’s world rankings. … Dylan Menante, No. 11 in the world amateur rankings, went 62-64-64-67 at Wannamoisett to win the Northeast Amateur by nine shots and break the tournament record by four shots. … Annika Sorenstam will partner Madelene Sagstrom in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the LPGA Tour’s team event. It will be the second LPGA-sanctioned event played by the 51-year-old Sorenstam this year.

STATISTICS OF THE WEEK

Brian Stuard has played every PGA Tour event he’s been eligible for this season (28) and is ranked 131st in the FedEx Cup.

FINAL WORD

“I have been on both sides of this. The way I see it, if you play the best golf, they’ll let you play in the best tournaments.” — Harris English, on the new PGA Tour schedule in which only the best players compete in the richest tournaments.

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