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Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm disagreement enhances LIV Golf’s quest for points

The latest OWGR system has divided opinion, with LIV Golf hot in pursuit of OWGR points to further legitimise their breakaway tour

Jack Rathborn
Saturday 19 November 2022 09:56 GMT
McIlroy: Greg Norman needs to 'exit' LIV golf row

As LIV Golf watches on from the sidelines after a disruptive, yet compelling debut season, one major barrier to further legitimise the tour looks increasingly attainable.

While Greg Norman remains a contentious figure, the dismissive attitude towards an already lengthy pursuit of Official World Ranking Points threatens to become “laughable”.

That was the word used by Jon Rahm to describe the latest version of the system devised by the OWGR, whereby you have the winner of the prestigious DP World Tour Championship, who could possibly beat out Rory McIlroy (1st), Jon Rahm (5th), Matt Fitzpatrick (9th), Viktor Hovland (11th), Shane Lowry (20th), Tommy Fleetwood (23rd), Ryan Fox (24th) and Tyrrell Hatton (27th), earning just 21 points.

And over at St Simons Island in Georgia at The RSM Classic, the winner will bank 39 points against a field led by Brian Harman (26th), Sepp Straka (28th) and Seamus Power (30th).

The algorithm, based on the field’s strokes gained world rating, is the “fairest system” for the time being, according to Rory McIlroy.

“The reason that this has got 21 points and the RSM has got 39 is the person that wins the RSM has to beat 139 other guys. You only have to beat 49 other guys here,” McIlroy said, in what could be interpreted as a jab at LIV Golf’s 48-man fields. “It’s a much fairer system. I think it rewards people that – it’s pure numbers.”

McIlroy’s logic makes sense in principle, to avoid a very real situation where Dustin Johnson and Cameron Smith could enjoy a shoot-out every other week to collect as many points as a PGA Tour event with almost the entire cast of next year’s Ryder Cup. Greater weighting on the top five, 10 or 20 may yet offer a welcomed tweak. At least for Rahm.

Rory McIlroy’s stance on the OWGR has divided opinion (AFP via Getty Images)

“The fact that the RSM doesn’t have any of the top 25 in the world and has more points than this event where we have seven of the top 25 is laughable. The fact that Wentworth [the BMW PGA Championship] had less points than Napa [the PGA Tour’s Fortinet Championship] despite having players in the top 10 in the world is laughable.

“I understand what they are trying to do with the depth of field, but having the best players in the world automatically makes the tournament better.”

That final point is everything LIV stands for, and it’s logical to the average fan, which is why DP World Tour commissioner Keith Pelley admitted to the BBC that it would be “prudent” to consider the Spaniard’s complaint and feedback.

The gravitas of the DP World Tour Championship, much like the PGA Tour play-offs, ought to carry the same reward as a regular season event. While the OWGR may measure the performance over four rounds, this is a special event that has taken weeks, or months, of fierce competition merely to earn a tee time on Thursday. So maybe exceptions can be made for certain events, or greater substance when several elite players - be it a top 10 ranking or major winner over the last few years - are sprinkled into a field any given week.

If LIV can achieve parity by discarding its 54-hole novelty and adding some kind of cut, then surely there is little room to escape for the OWGR, although Rahm’s stance is not entirely aligned with LIV, given his rant included an insightful possible solution.

“I think a lot of people are against them [LIV] having world ranking points. I’m not necessarily against it,” Rahm added. “But there should be adjustments. If your requirement to have world ranking points is 72 holes and a cut, maybe you don’t award them 100 percent of the points since they are not fulfilling all of the requirements. I don’t know if they necessarily deserve 100 percent.”

Jon Rahm is upset at the split in ranking points between the DP World Tour Championship and The RSM Classic (AFP via Getty Images)

Despite his fiery nature, this may have been a composed Rahm, at least in comparison to Davis Love III: “I would just get rid of them [Official World Golf Rankings], who cares?! You can solve a lot of things in the golf world right now if you stop using world golf rankings, and went back to everybody’s money lists. It’s a hard system to compare Jon Rahm to Scottie Scheffler who play on different tours, and meet on the US tour, it’s just hard to do. It will never be perfect if you are trying to assimilate a ranking all away around the world.”

If Love III’s solution is farfetched, then perhaps Rahm’s compromise may even suit the likes of DJ, Smith and a healthy Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka. Collecting top-five finishes would surely put them in contention to retain a top-50 ranking and that coveted entry into the majors, whose stance remains ominously placed on the horizon of golf’s landscape.

But while the squabbling continues, LIV’s request becomes ever more reasonable. And once they seize some kind of parity with the OWGR, all bets are off in golf’s civil war.

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