Even as the second LIV Golf Invitational series begins the first of four consecutive events in the United States, a significant part of its future unfolds in Scotland two weeks from now.
The Official World Golf Ranking Board meets in St. Andrews during the British Open, followed by a meeting of the OWGR Technical Committee. The agenda will likely include whether the Saudi-funded league of 48 players in 54-hole events should get ranking points.
This assumes that LIV Golf’s application to be part of the OWGR system is received by then.
Greg Norman, who runs LIV Golf, has previously suggested that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan recuse himself from 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 head of R&A Peter Dawson.
But there are some potential bumps in the guidelines for potential newcomers.
The first is that each tournament must be played over at least 54 holes with a cut of 36 holes or conform to the eligible formats. LIV Golf has no cut.
The OWGR guidelines state a standard 72-hole format, with 54 holes acceptable “for tournaments that earn less than 12 minimum first-place points”. In other words, a regular diet of 54-hole events is usually for development tours or off-season series, such as Vodacom Origins of Golf in South Africa.
The guidelines also state that tournaments must average 75 players over the course of the season. This could be a problem for a circuit that promotes fields of 48 players. LIV Golf has invested $300 million in the Asian Tour and is hosting four “International Series” tournaments this year. He could claim those fields as part of his league and hit the minimum.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle is the requirement that a new tour adhere to the guidelines for at least a year before being admitted. LIV Golf has changed or delayed plans for a full schedule and defined squads, and ensuring stability could be key to securing approval.
Of course, the OWGR handbook also states that the board can admit or reject any new tours, regardless of compliance, and change the criteria at their discretion. That’s a lot of gray.
And then, if LIV Golf is accepted, a change to the OWGR ranking formula that begins in August, before LIV’s fourth event, is still imminent.
The new system will determine the strength of the field using a calculation based on a statistical evaluation of every player on the field, not just those among the current 200 in the world. No more minimum points awarded to the different circuits.
The Portland field has 13 players outside the top 200.
Meanwhile, Ian Poulter enters the Portland event at No. 96 and is in danger of dropping out of the top 100 for the first time in five years. Lee Westwood is at No. 87. Both are at the British Open. Without ranking points, they will not be eligible for majors in the future without open qualification.
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 a prize money increase on the PGA Tour might affect PGA Tour champions.
“I guess we missed the boat, and it’s really sad for some of these guys, because these guys have been supporting these tours their entire careers, in some cases almost 40 years,” Els said. “We would like to see our Champions Tour grow. We have great sponsorships, great support, but it’s a scary time for a lot of people.
Furyk is No. 4 on the PGA Tour career money list with just over $71 million. It follows Dustin Johnson, who is no longer listed as he resigned his membership to join LIV Golf.
“That’s where I played my career, earned my living. That’s where my heart is. So I have concerns,” Furyk said. “Then, yeah, kind of a trickle-down effect. How does that affect us PGA Tour champions and over-50s? I feel like we’re in a really good place right now. .
“There has to be someone a little smarter than me who will tell you how this is going to ripple through and affect us, but in a minimal way,” he said. “I’m really enjoying the tour and playing there and I hope that effect isn’t really strong.”
Among the criteria to be exempted for the British Open, you must be among the first five players not yet eligible for the top 20 of the FedEx Cup through the Travelers Championship.
The top 20 players are already exempt.
Those five spots are presumably relegated to reserve, which is based on world rankings, and the list could go on and on.
Over the past two weeks, 118 players have secured a place at St. Andrews.
A further ten places are awarded to the top finishers of the Irish Open (three), John Deere Classic (three), Scottish Open (three) and Barbasol Championship (one). The R&A added an additional slot to its four regional qualifiers for a total of 16 slots available on Tuesday.
This would bring the total to 144 players.
Aaron Wise at No. 45 is a lock to get off the reserve roster. He is currently followed in the world rankings (among those not already exempted) by Brian Harman (#49), Sebastian Munoz (#50), Sepp Straka (#55) and Luke List (#60).
Sahith Theegala is also in reasonable form, whose second-place finish in the Travelers Championship propelled him to No. 66. The next world ranking is the one used for the reserve list for the Open.
Jack Nicklaus and Bernhard Langer each played their 14th full season on the senior circuit before ultimately missing the cut in 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 schedule until 2002. Also, the Golden Bear was still playing the regular majors until his streak of 146 consecutive majors ended at the 1998 British Open.
He went 46 senior majors until he missed the cut at Aronimink in the 2003 PGA Championship.
Langer is in his 14th year on the PGA Tour Champions and played in 64 consecutive majors – all but the Tradition Championship and Seniors Player have a cut – before missing two shots at the US Senior Open last week.
The series of three international events that the PGA Tour has planned for the fall will feature more than 50 players. They will include the FedEx Cup Top 50, as well as the top performers 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 a PGA Tour membership to start the season. … In Gee Chun ended South Korea’s seven major tournament drought without a win. This is the longest such period since 2009-2011. … Players from six countries feature in the top 10 of the men’s and women’s world rankings. … Dylan Menante, No. 11 in the World Amateur Ranking, went 62-64-64-67 in sets at Wannamoisett to win the Northeast Amateur by nine strokes and break the tournament record by four strokes. … Annika Sorenstam will partner Madelene Sagstrom in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the team event on the LPGA Tour. This will be the second LPGA-sanctioned event attended by Sorenstam, 51, this year.
STATS OF THE WEEK
Brian Stuard has played in every PGA Tour event he’s been eligible for this season (28) and is 131st in the FedEx Cup.
“I’ve been on both sides. In my opinion, if you play the best golf, they will let you play in the best tournaments. – Harris English, on the new PGA Tour calendar, made up of only the best players participating in the richest tournaments.
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