LIV golfers criticize ‘almost obsolete’ OWGR after ruling

Mark SchlabachESPN Senior WriterOct 12, 2023, 10:35 AM ET3 Minute Read

Golfer Cameron Smith has criticized the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) system, describing it as “almost obsolete.” This comes after the governing body unanimously decided not to allocate world-ranking points to players competing in LIV Golf League tournaments.

Smith, who was ranked as high as No. 2 in the world after winning The Open in July 2022, made the decision to leave the PGA Tour and join LIV Golf two months later. As a result, he has dropped to 15th in the world rankings.

Speaking to reporters in Saudi Arabia, where LIV Golf’s final regular-season event is set to take place, Smith stated, “I think it is almost obsolete now. We’ve got some guys out here who are playing some of the best golf in the world and they’re outside the top 100, 200 in the world. It’s pretty ridiculous.”

Dustin Johnson, a two-time major winner and LIV Golf’s inaugural individual champion in 2022, also expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the OWGR in accurately ranking players. He said, “I feel like you can’t really use the world ranking system anymore. That’s my take on it. It’s hard to use the world ranking system if you’re excluding 48 good players. The rankings are skewed. It doesn’t really affect me, but I want the points for the other guys.”

Chairman of the OWGR, Peter Dawson, sent a letter to LIV Golf’s commissioner Greg Norman and COO Gary Davidson, informing them that the governing board had decided not to recognize LIV Golf League as an eligible tour in the OWGR system.

In the letter, concerns were raised regarding the lack of player turnover in LIV Golf, as well as limited opportunities for other players to join the league. The governing board also expressed reservations about certain team-related aspects of LIV Golf, which combines individual and team competitions across 54 holes.

The PGA Tour and DP World Tour have suspended players who participated in LIV Golf tournaments without obtaining conflicting-event releases. Consequently, many LIV Golf players have resigned from these tours.

Despite this, the governing bodies of the four major tournaments, Augusta National Golf Club, PGA of America, United States Golf Association, and The R&A, have continued to allow LIV Golf players to compete if they have qualified. Some players, including Johnson and Smith, have secured qualification through past championship wins, while others have earned exemptions based on their world ranking, a privilege that will become more challenging in the future.

Currently, Smith and five-time major champion Brooks Koepka are the only LIV Golf players ranked within the top 50 in the world, with a total of six LIV Golf players found within the top 100.

Patrick Reed expressed disappointment, stating, “Until the world ranking accurately reflects the top players, it’s just a broken system. Just because we play on a different tour, it shouldn’t matter.”

At present, Reed is only eligible to participate in the Masters, having won it in 2024. Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, and Charl Schwartzel also have lifetime exemptions at Augusta National Golf Club as past winners.

Koepka, who secured his fifth major victory at the PGA Championship in May, holds a five-year exemption for all four majors until 2028. Smith is eligible for all four majors until 2027, while Mickelson’s exemption stands until 2026. Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau are exempt until 2025.

DeChambeau, the 2020 U.S. Open winner, proposed allowing the top 12 players from LIV Golf’s season-long points race to compete in the majors the following year.

“For DJ, Cam, Brooks, and other exempted players, that status won’t last forever,” commented England’s Richard Bland. “To exclude these top players from the majors is unjust. It doesn’t matter where you play your golf; the world rankings should reflect that. It’s disappointing because it deprives golf fans of the opportunity to see the best players in the biggest tournaments, which is what it should be about.”


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