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LIV Golf merges with MENA Tour to receive Official World Golf Rankings points

The nascent tour finds a workaround to get players points they can use towards qualifying for majors.

Cameron Smith holds the winning trophy while posing with runner up Peter Uihlein, far left, and third place finisher Dustin Johnson after the final round of the Invitational Chicago LIV Golf tournament at Rich Harvest Farms. Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The one thing LIV Golf doesn’t have to worry about money. And so when the creative minds behind the multi-billion startup needed to find a way to get their players points in the Official World Golf Rankings so they can continue to qualify for the major tournaments, they came up with another drastic solution in a tour full of them.

LIV just bought the “rights” to another tour, called it a “strategic alliance” of the two leagues, and the problem is solved.

If you’ve never heard of the MENA Tour before today, you can still consider yourself a big golf fan. MENA was a pathway to the Asian Tour beginning in 2011, but hasn’t held a tournament since the pandemic began in 2020. That will end this weekend, as LIV has acquired the rights, and believes this weekend’s LIV event at the brand-new Stonehill just north of Bangkok, Thailand will count for OWGR points.

The OWGR Board of Directors might have something to say about that, and keep in mind the points on offer are microscopic compared to the usual leagues. Winning any major is worth 100 OWGR points, and most PGA TOUR or DP World Tour events give 24 points to the victor. A MENA Tour winner receives just three points awarded for 54-hole events, and five for 72-hole events.

Since LIV events are just 54 holes (LIV being the Roman numeral of 54, get it??), this week’s winner at best will walk away with one-eighth of what the winner at the Shriners Children’s Open at TPC Summerlin will receive. So it’s likely not to make much of a dent on the rankings list no matter the results.

But from a PR perspective, it’s another shot by LIV CEO Greg Norman across the bow of the professional golf hierarchy. It’s clear players like Dustin Johnson and Cameron Smith are amongst the best in the world, and certainly have the game where being exempt for majors shouldn’t be a question. And those that beat them will often likely be amongst the 70-or-so best golfers on the planet.

What this does is buy LIV a seat at the table, and some more “they’re out to get us!” PR if the points are taken away. Before you can argue for more points, you’ve got to have a seat at the table. And that’s what’s been purchased here. Just like everything else with LIV from the superstar players to potentially a rent-a-network TV deal.

There are few problems a business can’t fix by throwing money at them, and that appears to be the model here.

As major winners get five-year exemptions into all majors following their victories, players like Johnson (2020 Masters), Phil Mickelson (2020 PGA Championship) and Smith (2022 Open Championship) won’t have to worry for a bit. But to continue to lure players to the breakaway circuit for massive paychecks, the opportunity to take the massive amounts of Saudi cash on offer while still being able to play in the majors might be too much to refuse.

LIV has had a few benchmarks of success before, but this might be the biggest in their battle for legitimacy. We’ll see how the golf establishment reacts.