If Greg Norman is looking for a conspiracy to blame for LIV Golf events being denied world ranking points then he will now have to play a dangerous game and point the finger at the four majors themselves.
Norman has vehemently demanded that Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, and Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the DP World Tour, recuse themselves as board members from being involved in LIV’s application to join the Official World Golf Rankings.
And, in a move that might catch Norman by surprise, Pelley revealed on Monday that the pair have done just that, as well as Keith Waters, Pelley’s right-hand man who also sits on the OWGR panel.
“At the last OWGR board meeting [in December] myself, Jay Monahan and Keith Waters recused ourselves and now a separate committee made up of the four majors will now determine the application,” he said.
“I have not looked at the LIV application and I have not given my opinions on an application I have not seen. So, as far as LIV goes, we are not involved in it and have no influence or say in what transpires.”
LIV’s access to ranking points has become one of the main bones of contention for the Saudi-funded circuit, since it submitted the forms last July.
In October, the golfers on the LIV roster – including Open champion Cam Smith and Dustin Johnson, the former world No 1 who has fallen to 44th in the eight months since he jumped ship – wrote an open letter to OWGR chairman Peter Dawson urging a ” positive” and “quick” resolution.
However, the process takes at least a year and noises from OWGR have insisted that LIV does not meet any of the criteria. Telegraph Sports exclusively reported three months ago that LIV tried to utilize a loophole so its £22 million events could give out points and so allow its golfers a pathway back into the majors. But OWGR refused to recognize LIV’s amalgamation with the MENA Tour, a lowly circuit based in the Middle East and Africa.
Following Pelley’s revelation, the matter is in the hands of the R&A, the US Golf Association, Augusta National and the PGA of America. An interesting note is that the majors have not banned the LIV players and believe they can judge whether they deserve world ranking status. The Tours will now have to accept their ruling.
Pelley later confirmed on Monday the trio took themselves out of the process “because our respective legal counsel suggested we did”. It is fair to say that Pelley has been spending plenty of time with the Tour lawyers of late, in preparation for next month’s arbitration hearing in the United Kingdom which will essentially determine if Wentworth HQ has the power to ban LIV players.
These include Lee Westwood, who in an interview in Abu Dhabi last week, was highly critical of the current state of the Tour, telling Telegraph Sports “I don’t know what the Tour is anymore,” and questioning why only one world top 20 player was in the $9 million (£7.3 million) Abu Dhabi Championship.
Pelley hit back at the remarks but was careful not to name Westwood directly.
“We had an interesting evening last night at the post-tournament function [in Abu Dhabi] and it was staggering how many people came up to me and said that they were disappointed with the comments made by a player earlier that week and that it was unfair to the staff,” he said. “I wasn’t quite aware of how upset the staff were.”
Westwood is playing in the Hero Desert Classic that begins here at the Majlis Course on Thursday. World No 1 Rory McIlroy is also in the field and might need a strong week to deny Jon Rahm from usurping him at the top of the rankings.
Rahm won his fourth title in six starts at the American Express Championship on Sunday in California to rise to World No. 3 and he could reclaim the summit at the Farmers Insurance Open, which starts at Torrey Pines on Wednesday.