LIV Golf's OWGR bid? R&A chief: "I think a lot of people get confused"

Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A, had this to say about LIV Golf before the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

Ben Smith's picture
Wed, 19 Jul 2023
LIV Golf's OWGR bid? R&A chief: "I think a lot of people get confused"

Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A, was inevitably going to be asked about LIV Golf before the 151st Open Championship in his annual news conference. 

So he decided to get there first. 

"I thought I'd start this morning by covering two topics that I don't really have much to say about before moving on to some things that I do have plenty to say about," Slumbers said. 


He then told reporters the R&A was waiting to learn more about the agreement between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) before commenting further.

The PIF, as you'll likely know, is the financier of the rival league. 

"To be clear, we're not party to the agreement, and while we absolutely welcome an end to the disruption in the men's professional game, there is a lot still to be understood," he added. 

Just one thing 'to be understood' is the future of LIV Golf. Will it continue as is? Or will it just be brushed aside given the Saudis now have a very powerful seat at the table of men's professional golf. 

If LIV Golf is to continue in its current format, there remains the outstanding issue of world ranking points. 

LIV submitted their application to the OWGR before the landmark 150th Open at St. Andrews and since then we have heard very little about their bid. 

There have been cries of collusion, given that PGA Tour boss Jay Monahan and DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley are board members of the OWGR. 

Citing a conflict of interests and under legal advice, Monahan and Pelley recused themselves from voting on LIV's application. 

Still, we have heard nothing.

Slumbers wanted to make it clear on 19 July that when people talk about this topic they are confused. At least, in his opinion. 

He explained:

"Well, remember the ranking system is separate from the R&A. I sit on the board of the rankings board, but I'm one of a series of members. We are and have been considering an application for LIV events to be included and have been in active dialogue with them.
"What we're trying to work through is rankings, is trying to rank eligible tours. I think a lot of people get confused that rankings is trying to rank individual players. It's eligible tours that are comparable, and then we rank the players within that.
"It is a complex problem, and it may be that the world has to change. But at the moment, that's still under work in progress and being reviewed."

The 53-year-old former banker also confirmed the R&A is reviewing its qualification and exemption criteria regarding LIV players. 

There are 16 in the field this week but there could have been more. Sergio Garcia tried and narrowly missed out at final qualifying. 

Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood simply didn't bother. 

Last July Slumbers said the R&A vowed not to ban rival league players. 

This year, he was keen to point out the R&A expanded its options for LIV members. 

For example, there were four Open spots on offer at the Asian Tour's Hong Kong Open. Plus, the number of final qualifying spots was actually increased from 12 to 19. 

"If you have a look at the field who made it to final qualifying, they were probably the strongest final qualifying fields of global players that we've had," Slumbers said. 

He explained:

"I think except for that situation, the new model is working well. It is mathematically correct. It works on strength of field, and it works on ability and benefit from winning. Winning gets a bonus through that, but strength of field really matters.
"It's important if you win in a really strong field, you should get more points than if you win in a slightly less strong field. I think that does work.
"One thing I keep coming back to that I really care about is making sure we get it globally relevant. Nothing is static, and everything has to keep evolving." 

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