The LIV Golf OWGR Blueprint

LIV Golf, Jeddah Invitational,(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/LIV Golf via Getty Images)
LIV Golf, Jeddah Invitational,(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/LIV Golf via Getty Images) /

My distaste for Greg Norman and LIV Golf is well-documented. I’m one of those golf journalists some complain has an unhealthy aversion to the upstart league. All true.

LIV Golf immediately struck me as something akin to a deadly virus in the larger body of professional golf. It was designed to circumvent decades of stability. It did so by completely upending the economics of the game.

LIV Golf does not grow the game. The format does not improve professional golf. It does not make it more accessible to the broader sports fan. It doesn’t even provide additional professional avenues for aspiring pros.

LIV Golf is designed, quite intentionally, to take down the PGA Tour.

It’s a personal grudge by Greg Norman financed with unlimited Middle Eastern oil fortunes.

Money is the one thing, we learned, that pro golfers (and especially their agents) can’t turn down. It is even more important than playing in Majors. It’s certainly more important than legacy or tradition.

As of today, LIV Golf has only proven sickening to the PGA Tour, not fatal. The PGA may have a long recovery from LIV, but recover it will. Normalcy is still on the horizon. Until LIV Golf secures OWGR (Official World Golf Ranking) points, it remains a virus in the pro golf ecosystem, infecting some, affecting all, but survivable.

LIV Golf moves from widespread disease to pandemic if it secures OWGR. Once that happens, and it may, there is not a single reason any pro golfer who isn’t soul-bound to the PGA will choose it over LIV Golf.

In other words, if you can play the Majors, sign a $20 million bonus, play less golf, and earn more money per event, we will see a mass exodus from the PGA Tour.

That’s just human nature. It’s harsh and I abhor it, but that is what will happen (and indeed has been happening already, Cam Smith we hardly knew ye).

Despite this, I’m going to show you how this armageddon of professional golf can happen if Greg Norman and his ego can stomach it.

72-hole events

This is the first and easiest hurdle to clear. 54-hole events are not eligible for full OWGR points. Adding a day to each event immediately puts LIV on equal footing with every other pro golf tour.

End the “Team” aspect of LIV Golf

If individual ranking in OWGR is to be achieved, you can’t co-mingle individual events with team events. If a player is taking risks to his own score for the benefit of a team game within the tournament, it changes the dynamic.

Does a player go for a long par-5 carry on the last hole knowing it could drop him from 2nd to 10th if he misses? What if it would vault his team to 1st if he makes it? Or does he play his game and secure individual 2nd and lose out on the team win?

There is an inherent conflict in these situations by trying to pursue two independent goals. Golfers need to be ranked on individual achievement alone. The LIV Golf team aspect clouds that.

If LIV wants to have team-only events, fine, but they would not be eligible for OWGR. If they can separate the two, they will immediately strengthen their OWGR claims.

Create a qualifying and demotion system

LIV Golf currently has guaranteed spots for players based on what LIV invested in them, not how they perform. Not a single player “earned” a LIV Golf “Tour card” – if it can even be called that. LIV will forever be an exhibition series if players do not have to earn a spot through their play.

Worse, LIV kicks lesser-known players off their series if a bigger name signs up. Mind you, this is not based on how that less popular player actually performs. It’s based on how much Norman paid the new star upfront and how many Twitter followers he has.

Pat Perez is currently 46th out of 48 on the LIV individual rankings. Do you think he’s getting demoted off the tour? No, because Dustin likes having him around. So Perez can collect millions in unearned team winnings (his score has only factored into one of four team wins) and never have to worry about actually playing good golf.

On the flip side, the PGA certainly wants Rickie Fowler to be at all their big events, but Fowler isn’t earning his way into Major fields. Last year he failed to qualify for The Masters, The US Open, and The Open. No matter how popular he is with other players and fans, it’s a merit-based system for all on the PGA Tour.

Add to this that no one can qualify for a LIV Golf event; it’s invitation only. You can ask Greg Norman. He might let you in, but he might also kick you out before the next event. Hand-picking the field does not meet the basic definition of open or fair competition. To be clear, the PGA has Invitationals, but they are based primarily on merit and usually include only a few limited exemptions.

Increase the LIV Golf field, drop the Shotgun start

This is where it gets a little stickier. Increasing the field means decreasing the average tournament earnings (unless they just bump that, too.) A 48-man field is below the threshold of OWGR. Adding to the field creates more competition. This seems to run contrary to the current LIV model. I mean, LIV doesn’t want these guys actually working for their money, right?

But that is just one hiccup for a potential change to LIV Golf. Increasing the field with a Shotgun start might mean that Paul Casey has to start in group 14B. What a travesty!

This lengthens the round, something LIV dislikes. It also means a small group has the advantage of being on the course when most of the field has finished.

If LIV doubled the field size and dropped the Shotgun start, it would suddenly look very much like other Tours.

The Bottom Line

For LIV to gain OWGR points it has to, well, stop being different. Arena League football isn’t the NFL. It’s the same sport, but the rules are very different. LIV is golf, but by rules and standards that are very different than the established professional golf world. It seems painfully obvious to point out that dogs and cats are both pets, but a dog is not a cat.

Pythagoras wrote a theorem about this 2,500 years ago.

LIV Golf didn’t set out to be part of professional golf, it set out to change and reinvent it while being totally self-sustaining. Now that people are rightly pointing out that LIV Golf is indeed a different animal than established pro tours around the world, Norman is deeply hurt and angered.

This gets to the root of the Greg Norman problem. He doesn’t really want to reinvent golf, he wants to burn down the old guard that he feels disrespected him. He’s not content to successfully start something new and different. He’s not happy with his own success in luring a number of top players to his league.

No, he wants to punish the PGA. His dreams are only complete when they feel his wrath. It’s as much about hurting the PGA Tour as it is creating a viable tour that can be successful on its own terms.

And that is why he’ll be tilting at windmills for a while to come. He is consumed by the thing that matters least in this giant, convoluted equation – his ego.

Is it any wonder he recruits people with similar emotional issues? Mickelson, Brooks, Patrick Reed, Poulter, Westwood, Perez, Talor Gooch, Sergio, Bryson, etc. I mean, he’s literally built a Tour in his own image.

No one liked Greg Norman then, no one likes him now, and I suspect no one with any sway wants an entire Tour of Greg Normans to be part of the traditional professional golfing world now or in the future.

Without following the steps outlined above, LIV Golf will continue to twist in the OWGR wind. Their stars will continue to plummet in the rankings. The sticky issue of qualifying for Majors will take care of itself after another year (no LIV golfers will have the points to qualify, discussion over).

Next. Dustin Johnson claims massive prize as LIV Individual Champion. dark

All the PGA Tour has to do is wait it out. Without OWGR, LIV is dying on the vine. There are ways to combat that, but they entail making LIV more like the PGA Tour. That appears to be a non-starter.

The PGA Tour is betting that Greg Norman won’t have the humility to make the tough changes needed to quality for OWGR points. I’m betting the PGA Tour is right.