LIV Golf abandons its pursuit of getting world ranking points

Austin Eckroat holds the Cognizant Classic trophy after the golf tournament, Monday, March 4, 2024, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Eckroat got the first victory of his tour career Monday, topping Erik van Rooyen and Min Woo Lee by three shots to win the weather-delayed Cognizant Classic. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Austin Eckroat holds the Cognizant Classic trophy after the golf tournament, Monday, March 4, 2024, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Eckroat got the first victory of his tour career Monday, topping Erik van Rooyen and Min Woo Lee by three shots to win the weather-delayed Cognizant Classic. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

The Great White Shark is waving the white flag when it comes to LIV Golf being recognized by the Official World Golf Ranking. Greg Norman, the CEO and commissioner of the Saudi-funded league, has told his players that LIV has withdrawn its application.

LIV Golf first applied for world ranking points in July 2022, about a month after the league launched with the same 48 players competing over 54 holes with no cut.

The OWGR board formally rejected the application last October, saying it could not fairly measure a league with the same group of players against 24 other tours around the world that have fuller tournaments and a path to get into them.

“We have made enormous efforts to fight for you and to ensure your accomplishments are recognized within the existing ranking system,” Norman wrote to players in a letter reported by multiple media outlets. “Unfortunately, the OWGR has shown little willingness to productively work with us.”

The four majors use the world ranking as part of their criteria. Representatives from the majors were the ones voting to reject LIV’s application last fall.

The stronger effect would be the Olympics, which also relies on the world ranking to determine eligibility. Players like former British Open champion Cameron Smith of Australia and Tyrrell Hatton of England are unlikely to qualify, depending on how they fare in the majors.

Peter Dawson, chairman of the OWGR board, had said in October that “we are not at war” with LIV. He said it was a technical decision, not a political one. Dawson said LIV did not have a format that allowed it to be ranked equitably with other tours and “thousands of players trying to compete on them.”

LIV now has 54 players, though it still has a team competition that runs concurrently with individual play. Four players were able to qualify for the 2024 season, and the rosters are set for the 13 tournaments, barring the occasional alternate for injury.

By now, it’s almost a moot point.

LIV has only four players in the top 50, and eight in the top 100. Those numbers are shrinking.

Two of the top 50 — Masters champion Jon Rahm at No. 3 and Hatton at No. 17 — joined LIV only within the last few months. The others are PGA champion Brooks Koepka (No. 30) and Smith (No. 50).

Even if LIV were to make adjustments to create more open qualifying, the players would be so far removed from the top that it would be difficult for them to make up ground.

The only points LIV players get now are when they play the European and Asian tours. Joaquin Niemann (No. 76) won the Australian Open and had two other top-5 finishes in co-sanctioned European tour events. That was enough to receive an invitation to the Masters.

LIV will have 13 players at the Masters. Niemann has received an invitation to the PGA Championship and his Australian Open win earned him a spot in the British Open.

SCHEFFLER AND KIM

Anthony Kim returned to competition last week for the first time in 12 years. He had been gone for so long that only six players remain in the top 50 from when Kim last played.

Does anyone in today’s game really know much about him except for some of the wild tales of life outside the golf course?

“I know a decent amount,” Scottie Scheffler said.

Turns out Kim lived in Dallas when he turned pro in 2006 and played spent time at Royal Oaks, where Scheffler learned the game under Randy Smith. Scheffler was famous for pestering the tour pros who played out of Royal Oaks, and Kim was no exception.

“I would have been 10,” Scheffler said. “He was fun. I’m sure I was probably a pretty annoying kid always following him around. I’m an annoying adult. I still have some of his old clubs. I used to watch him practice, but we also used to play a lot.”

Scheffler said he even picked up a few habits.

“One of the things he taught me was when I looked at a shot from behind the ball, I need to be right on line with where I’m going to hit it,” Scheffler said. “I saw him do it, so I’d casually do it but from the side. He said: ‘No, you’re aiming over there. If you get behind and look where you’re going, that’s when you get an idea (of the shot).’”

Scheffler said he checked Kim’s score in his LIV debut in Saudi Arabia — 76-76-74 to finish 33 shots behind — but didn’t watch except for a few replays.

“I knew him well as a kid,” Scheffler said “He really is an awesome guy.”

WOODLAND HONORED

Gary Woodland is being honored for his return to golf following brain surgery. The Golf Writers Association of America voted for him for the Ben Hogan Award, given to an individual who continues to be active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness.

And this was serious business.

Woodland had surgery in September to remove part of a lesion that was pressing on a nerve in his brain, causing such emotions as fear of dying. Doctors cut a baseball-sized hole in the side of his head to perform the operation.

The former U.S. Open champion returned to the PGA Tour in January.

“The doctors kept telling me I was OK, but this thing pushing on my brain … didn’t matter if I was driving a car, on an airplane, I thought everything was going to kill me,” Woodland said. “You can imagine leading up to surgery how I felt going into having my head cut open and operated on. The fear going into that was awful.”

Woodland will be honored April 10 during the Masters and the GWAA’s annual awards dinner.

The GWAA also has honored European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald with the Jim Murray Award for his cooperation and accommodation to the media. Mike Keiser, the visionary behind Bandon Dunes in Oregon, won the William D. Richardson Award for his outstanding contributions to golf.

MONEY MATTERS

In his best three starts on the PGA Tour, Jake Knapp won the Mexico Open, tied for third at Torrey Pines and tied for fourth in the Cognizant Classic, earning $2,279,250.

In his three starts on LIV Golf, Louis Oosthuizen tied for eighth in Mayakoba, finished 50th in Las Vegas and tied for second in Saudi Arabia, earning $2,392,500.

DIVOTS

Angela Stanford has received an exemption to the Chevron Championship, which will be her 98th consecutive start in an LPGA major. It’s the LPGA’s longest active streak of playing in the majors. … The USGA has been given memorabilia related to Charlie Sifford, the first Black player to win on the PGA Tour and the first Black golfer inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. His artifacts will be on display at the USGA Museum in New Jersey and the World Golf Hall of Fame in Pinehurst, North Carolina. … Austin Eckroat became the fourth first-time winner on the PGA Tour in nine tournaments this year.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Wyndham Clark was No. 10 in the world when he won at Pebble Beach. No other PGA Tour winner this year was ranked inside the top 50.

FINAL WORD

“Once we get to the majors, it will be really fun to have us all back together. That’s kind of the utopian goal for all of us right now is to have the best players in the world play week in, week out.” — Will Zalatoris.

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