Branden Grace won the second LIV Golf tournament, which finished on Saturday. However, given the withering response on Friday from Keith Pelley, head of the DP World Tour, to a leaked letter – “which contains so many inaccuracies that it cannot remain unchallenged” – from 16 DP World Tour members who are protesting about being sanctioned for supporting the LIV Golf series, there seems unlikely to be a cordial resolution any time soon between the Saudi-funded ‘rebels’ and the main tours. Court clashes look likely as soon as this week.
The previous day, ahead of the tournament in Portland, Greg Norman had attempted to burnish the credentials of his baby on Twitter, comparing favourably the number of players in his field who had won major championships and were in the top-100 on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) compared to the fields at last week’s Horizon Irish Open and the John Deere Classic. The thing is, of course, one can frequently find stats to suit one’s purpose. The facts are that LIV Golf has the winners of three of the past ten major championships (Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson), which is pretty impressive, but only four players in the top-25 of the World Golf Ranking, the highest being Johnson at 17th.
We do not know how firmly wedded LIV Golf is to maintaining its schedule of 54-hole tournaments (albeit LIV is 54 in Roman numerals) but for Norman, the public face of the project, there may be an element of retrospective wish-fulfilment here. Norman won one of his two major championships in 1986, the Open at Turnberry. That was also the year of his ‘Saturday Slam’ – he led all four majors going into the final round but couldn’t get the job done at the other three. Now, if they had been decided over only 54 holes….
We do know, however, that 54-hole tournaments could pose a problem for LIV Golf. Norman has understandably made plain that he would like participants on his tour to qualify for World Ranking points. Based on precedent, tournaments would be unlikely to be considered until a tour had operated for at least 12 months. That would take us until June next year. The rules stipulate minimum fields of 75 players. LIV Golf has 48 players per event. And one would imagine that if LIV Golf were to be admitted to the club, at best its fields would only carry three-quarters of the points that would be awarded for 72-hole tournaments. Incidentally, Pelley and his counterpart at the PGA Tour, Jay Monahan, are among the members of the OWGR board. Fair or not, it is probably accurate to assume they will have no wish to bend over backwards to accommodate their noisy and wealthy new neighbours.
This has still to play out, and the likes of Sergio Garcia may be able to carry on playing on the DP World Tour, even if the PGA Tour is out-of-bounds to him and the others who have taken the LIV riyal. Would the DP World Tour permit DeChambeau to join it? (Patrick Reed is already a member.) What if a sponsor wants to invite Mickelson? As I say, this has to play out, but the likelihood would seem to be that the ranking system is only going to exacerbate the disadvantages of playing golf the LIV way, and going to court over that matter would be a process that could last years. If a LIV player doesn’t win the Open at St Andrews on Sunday week, they will have to wait until April 9 at Augusta National for their next crack at a major championship – and the ranking points that would go with it.
To paraphrase the Taliban, many of those guys have got their Rolexes, but some of them may be running out of time.
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