LIV Golf partners with MENA Tour in bid to earn world ranking points

By Sports Desk October 05, 2022

The LIV Golf Invitational Series has announced a partnership with the little-known MENA Tour in a bid to gain recognition from the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).

The OWGR does not currently recognise the LIV circuit, and several of the Saudi Arabia-backed tour's most high-profile players have expressed frustration at their inability to pick up ranking points.

Cameron Smith said last month that the awarding of ranking points at LIV events "would mean a lot", but some players on the rival PGA Tour have been less sympathetic.

Both Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas have said LIV players can only blame themselves if they fail to qualify for majors, but the breakaway circuit may have found a way to earn the OWGR's blessing.

The MENA Tour – a feeder circuit that operates in the Middle East and North Africa – announced the formation of a "strategic alliance" with LIV Golf on Wednesday. 

A statement from the MENA Tour said the agreement "will result in LIV Golf Invitational events becoming part of and sanctioned by the MENA Tour", which has been recognised by the OWGR since 2016.

"This is a very exciting day for the MENA Tour and our players," said commissioner David Spencer. 

"Through this alliance, our players will now have enhanced playing opportunities and stronger pathways. This is great news for the future of many young players on our tour."

LIV Golf president Atul Khosla added: "We are taking this mutually beneficial action to support the game at the developmental level and because of the importance and fairness of LIV golfers qualifying for OWGR points.

"We're pleased to create pathways that give more opportunities for young players, while also giving fans rankings that include all the world's best golfers."

However, reports have noted the OWGR is yet to ratify the move, while the ranking points awarded are likely to be minimal should LIV events continue to employ smaller 48-player fields and take place over just three rounds

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    LIV Golf star Reed was the centre of attention again on Sunday when he took an unplayable penalty drop after his ball got lodged in a tree, with question marks raised over whether it was in fact his ball he had identified by using binoculars.

    When the tournament finally came to an end on Monday as a result of poor weather last week, Reed carded a seven-under 65 to ramp up the pressure on McIlroy.

    A birdie at the 18th for Reed drew him level with the Northern Irishman at the top of the leaderboard, but McIlroy sunk a putt from 15 feet for a gain of his own to finish on 19 under with a round of 68 and take the title.

    McIlroy had put a stray tee shot just short of the water at the last hole, but got himself out of trouble to seal a third Dubai Desert Classic win that he said was all the sweeter given he denied Reed.

    Reed said: "I knew what I had to do early. I went out there and I put the pressure on him. Being four back of a guy like Rory is not easy.

    "I battled it out, but missed a great opportunity on 15. The only real bad shot I hit was the tee shot on 16 [which resulted in his only bogey of the day]. Ended up behind the tree."

    On the subject of trees, Reed was unperturbed over questions being raised about his integrity on Sunday.

    "I don't really look at media or social media whenever I'm playing a tournament," he said. "Normally it's always negative, so I try to stay away from it.

    "I've heard about it, but really all I can say is that I looked through the binoculars, identified my golf ball and explained what my markings were to the rules official. He looked and he identified [the ball] exactly the same way I did."

    He added: "The good thing is I know who I am. All I can do is focus on my golf and focus on me. Felt like I've done that this week. Felt like I played great.

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    The breakaway tour, headed up by Greg Norman and backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), started last year and caused ripples across the world of golf.

    High-profile players such as Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Cameron Smith, Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson signed up for the lucrative competition, leaving the PGA Tour in the process.

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    The 2023 season will start at El Camaleon Golf Course in Mexico in late February, and end in Jeddah in November.

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    LIV Golf Greenbrier, West Virginia, USA (August 4-6)
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    LIV Golf Chicago, Illinois, USA (September 22-24)
    LIV Golf Miami, Florida, USA (October 20-22)
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    Rory McIlroy said his victory over Patrick Reed at the Dubai Desert Classic was "sweeter than it should be or needs to be".

    World number one McIlroy clinched his third title at the event in a thrilling final round, making a fine birdie at the last hole on Monday to fend off rival Reed.

    Prior to the tournament American and LIV Golf defector Reed labelled McIlroy an "immature little child" for blanking him at the practice range and was also alleged to have thrown a tee at the Northern Irishman.

    McIlroy said Reed's lawyer served him with court papers on Christmas Eve, although Reed said he was not behind the subpoena, with the case concerned being one brought by American attorney Larry Klayman relating to divisions between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour.

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    McIlroy took a three-shot advantage into the final round, but victory could have slipped from his grasp when a tee shot held up close to the water on the 18th.

    Yet the 33-year-old kept his cool to set up a 15-foot putt, which he sunk to avoid a play-off.

    "Honestly I feel like I got lucky my ball didn't go in the water off the tee shot, it's such an awkward tee shot, driver's too much, three wood's not enough. I tried to hit an easy driver and it came off too hot," McIlroy said.

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