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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Ewan Murray

LIV claims breakaway rebels can earn world ranking points in Mena deal

Cameron Smith (right) with Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf
Cameron Smith (right) poses with Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf, after winning the individual title at Rich Harvest Farms last month. Photograph: Alex Goodlett/LIV Golf/Getty Images

The rebel LIV series believes it has found a way for players to earn official world golf ranking points after forming a “strategic alliance” with the little-known Middle East and North Africa Tour. It now remains to be seen how OWGR officials will respond to LIV’s attempt to use such a loophole to protect the standing of its players.

The inability for LIV members – such as the Open champion Cameron Smith – to receive any status in the OWGR has been a hot topic and, for the breakaway tour, a bone of contention. Players wrote an open letter to Peter Dawson, the OWGR’s chairman, calling for points to be immediately and retrospectively added. LIV’s application for OWGR standing was formally submitted in July and remains under consideration.

Now, the Saudi Arabian-backed tour has taken an unexpected approach before this week’s tournament, its sixth, in Bangkok. In a statement, the Mena Tour said: “The Mena Tour today announced a strategic alliance which will result in LIV Golf Invitational events becoming part of and sanctioned by the Mena Tour, a Dubai-based golf tour which has been recognized by the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) since 2016.

“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.

“The final field for LIV Golf Thailand, the opening event of the 2022-23 Mena Tour season, will be submitted to OWGR by the Mena Tour ahead of play commencing on Friday when the final field rating and winners’ points are expected to be confirmed. As a result of the alliance, all LIV Golf players have joined the Mena Tour.”

Time will tell whether this certainty over ranking points is valid. While discretion can be used, LIV fails to meet several of the criteria stipulated in the OWGR regulations such as, for example, average field size and compliance with guidelines for at least a year. Some within golf are sceptical that it can simply assume Mena’s status. The Mena Tour typically provides a pathway for golfers to compete in more lucrative environments.

Now, members include Smith, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.

“We are taking this mutually beneficial action to support the game at the developmental level and because of the importance and fairness of LIV golfers qualifying for OWGR points,” said Atul Khosla, the president and chief operating officer of LIV Golf.

The board of the OWGR includes representatives of the four major championships plus the DP World and PGA Tours. Those tours sit in staunch opposition to the LIV model.

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