There have been many twists and turns in the LIV Golf saga in 2022. The Saudi-backed series has taken us to places and produced headlines that many thought were inconceivable.
From Phil Mickelson describing Saudis as 'scary m*********ers" in an interview with Alan Shipnuck to Patrick Reed and his legal counsel suing Golf Channel and a number of its employees for $750 million in damages.
11 players took legal action against the PGA Tour in an antitrust lawsuit. This lawsuit now only includes LIV Golf, Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein.
All of these events have been a result of professional golf being carved open after decades of comfort and tranquillity. Both LIV Golf and the PGA Tour aren't willing to co-operate, so the former has started an alliance of its own to counter the identical relationship between the latter and the DP World Tour.
The little-known MENA Tour of Dubai has started a 'strategic alliance' with Greg Norman's new league. This will see benefits for both sides of the deal, but LIV Golf will feel they have made a significant breakthrough in earning legitimacy and most importantly, world ranking points.
What is the MENA Tour?
The MENA Tour stands for the Middle East and North Africa. It was founded in 2011 by the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation in Dubai. In May 2016, the Tour earned world ranking points for its events.
In 2016 and 2017, the Tour provided a pathway to the Sunshine Tour of South Africa. The Tour was cancelled in 2018 but it started again in 2019 and it was about to hit another stumbling block with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Only five events were held in 2020 and there were no events played in 2021. At the end of last year, the MENA Tour intended to merge with the Asian Development Tour in 2023.
However, on Wednesday afternoon, the Tour announced its alliance with LIV Golf which will see the breakaway series' events sanctioned by this tour and they are set to gain world ranking points for the first time.
Why does LIV Golf need the MENA Tour?
The main problem with the LIV Golf Tour for its participants is the lack of Official World Golf Ranking points. It is not recognised as an eligible entity to dish out points, nor does it meet specific criteria such as average field sizes, the existence of a Q-school and a cut format.
If LIV participants aren't able to build ranking points, they will eventually lose exemptions for major championships and the chance to play in the Ryder Cup.
After the LIV Golf Chicago Invitational, each player from the 48-man field signed a letter which was sent to the OWGR chairman Peter Dawson, pleading to be granted world ranking points.
LIV Golf events are set to be sanctioned by the MENA Tour. The field for this week's event in Bangkok will be submitted to the OWGR and all LIV Golf players have joined the Tour.
Reports on Wednesday suggested that the Bangkok Invitational will be the first LIV event to grant OWGR points, but Joel Beall of Golf Digest contrarily reported that this alliance doesn't automatically initiate the inclusion of LIV Golf for ranking eligibility.
How does the MENA Tour benefit from the 'strategic alliance'?
As part of the announcement from the MENA Tour on October 5, the Tour revealed that 'the alliance will boost the MENA Tour’s development programs'.
The MENA Tour's player registration also opened three weeks ago. So now, this obscure circuit has some of the most recognisable players in the world on its roster.
LIV Golf's majority stakeholder is the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia which is reportedly worth up to $600 billion. The Asian Tour has been one of the largest benefactors of this partnership, receiving a $300 million investment to start the lucrative International Series.
Details haven't been released about the 'boost' which will be given to the MENA Tour's development programs, but you feel they will be financially looked after following the Tour's willingness to work with LIV Golf and sanction their events.