Players may still be ineligible for world ranking points when they tee it up in LIV Golf tournaments, but they have scored a moral victory looking at the projected strength of field for next month’s Saudi International.
The Asian Tour event, sponsored by the Public Investment Fund that bankrolls LIV, will be boosted by many familiar names from the Greg Norman-fronted circuit, including two-time Major winner Dustin Johnson, Open champion Cameron Smith and last year's winner, Harold Varner III.
While the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) currently doesn’t recognise their endeavours with LIV Golf, according to popular Twitter OWGR analyst Nosferatu, the projected strength of field is identical to this week’s prestigious DP World Tour event, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Projected Abu Dhabi SoF: ~26p to winnerProjected Saudi Int'l SoF: ~26p to winner#OWGRJanuary 16, 2023
The DP World Tour event also features some LIV Golf players, including Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed, who are allowed to compete pending the outcome of a court hearing to determine their futures on the Tour. However, none of the nine involved are in the world’s top 50. In contrast, despite LIV Golf players inevitably falling down the OWGR over the last few months, six of those due to take part in the Saudi International remain in that elite group.
More than 20 LIV Golf players will appear in next month's tournament, including the three players who have won it since its inception in 2019 – Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell and Varner III. That further underscores just how dominated by LIV Golf players the tournament will be. But, perhaps more tellingly, it sends a message that, even though the Saudi-backed circuit is not yet eligible for world ranking status, it still has some of the best players in the game.
With the same strength of field for each tournament, an identical number of world ranking points are set to be on offer for the winner of each - around 26. That adds more questions over the fairness of the current OWGR system because Varner III claimed 50 points for his Saudi International win last year, while the victor in Abu Dhabi, Thomas Pieters, amassed 46. For further comparison, last week’s Sony Open winner on the PGA Tour, Si Woo Kim, took 39 points for victory.
There have been accusations that the revised system is weighted too heavily in favour of the PGA Tour, and the points on offer in the two tournaments will do little to persuade critics that is not the case.
Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories.
He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game.
Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course.
Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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