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Norman no longer after world ranking points for LIV

Greg Norman Greg Norman - The Canadian Press

After asking, begging and pleading, Greg Norman has thrown in the towel on trying to get world ranking points for the players on LIV.

On Monday, he formally withdrew a request for players on LIV to earn points on the Official World Golf Ranking, stating that without the inclusion of LIV players, “...the integrity and accuracy of the rankings themselves are severely compromised.”

When LIV started in June 2022, Norman promised his converts they would earn world ranking points, believing that the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) would have no option but to include the start-up tour in the weekly calculation.

But that proved incorrect, with the guardians of the OWGR pointing out a variety of roadblocks from LIV’s structure such as a relatively closed field, only 54 holes, no cut and the simultaneous playing of individual and team competitions.

It was a blow to Norman, who believed the world rankings should change, not LIV Golf.

In the Aussie’s defence, the rules have already been bent for others. There are PGA Tour-sanctioned events that don’t have cuts, notably five of this year’s signature events.

But LIV is a different operation. Once a player makes it to LIV, it’s hard not to stay on LIV. There were 48 on the circuit last year and just four of them were relegated at the end of the season. Whether it’s true or not, the appearance is it doesn’t matter how you play, it matters what your contract says. There are some changes coming next year but likely not enough.

That means access to the tour is almost entirely locked up and that is one of the bigger problems for the OWGR.

The ranking list would be of little interest to Norman if it wasn’t one of the primary ways for his players to get into the majors. That’s why he’s been fighting so hard to get his tournaments included.

Right now, just four LIV players are inside the top 50, the number that usually earns spots in majors: Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Cam Smith, and Brooks Koepka. The first two are recent converts while the other two are recent major winners.

On Data Golf, another ranking system that includes LIV performances, there are eight of Norman’s players in the top 50 – Rahm, Hatton and Koepka, as well as Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Talor Gooch, Joaquin Niemann and Louis Oosthuizen. Smith sits in 59th spot.

There will be 11 LIV players in Augusta in a few weeks,  including defending champion Rahm, along with Hatton, Smith, Koepka, Johnson, DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia and Bubba Watson. Joaquin Niemann was also given an exemption extended to international players by Augusta National thanks to his recent play.

Norman’s retreat from the OWGR is no doubt in part due to frustration, but it’s also likely a play to try and force the major championships to alter their qualifying and move away from the current world ranking.

“Without including player performances against these industry-leading fields, the OWGR are now inaccurate,” he wrote in a letter to players. “Should this continue much longer, the rankings will become even more inaccurate and marginalized, with many of the LIV Golf players having lower rankings than they are rightfully entitled to, as well as non-LIV Golf players enjoying falsely enhanced rankings. Simply put, it will be impossible to consider the OWGR ratings accurate or even relevant if OWGR persists in omitting 48 of the best golfers in the world.”

Unfortunately for Norman, the major championships still hold all the cards. Each one can choose criteria that will let it build a field it deems acceptable. It has the power to admit and exclude any player it wants.

Last October at the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship, Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley made a statement that let it be known he has no sympathy for LIV golfers and their falling ranking when it comes to the Masters.

“They made decisions based on what they thought was in the best interests of their golf careers,” he said.

Even more damning, when the club sent out a release announcing the exemption given to Niemann, it listed a number of his recent performances but made no mention of his win on LIV.

The clock is ticking for Norman. While he has made progress this year in gaining attention for LIV, in no small part thanks to continued signings of big-name golfers, there is still a long way to go before it will gain acceptance in the blue blazer world of golf.