[PHOTO: Sean M. Haffey]

The Official World Golf Ranking won’t have the LIV Golf League to kick around anymore, not after chief executive Greg Norman informed his recruits that the league was ending its bid for inclusion in the OWGR. That doesn’t mean some of its players still aren’t recognised as among the game’s best.

That sentiment happens to come from players on the PGA Tour, who show little hesitation acknowledging that their absent brethren continue to perform at a high level.

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“The LIV Tour definitely has really good players, and players that are in the top 10 or top 25 in the world, and there’s many of ’em,” Xander Schauffele, ranked fifth in the OWGR, said on Tuesday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. “So, they’re just sort of unranked right now, but to me, I do believe they’re definitely top-ranked players in the world.”

Former US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick was more adamant.

“I don’t think the world rankings are a true representation of the golf game at the minute,” said Fitzpatrick, who is ninth in the world. “I don’t really look at them or pay attention to them anymore. I don’t think they’re right. So I look at @datagolf as a better representation of how people are playing in the world, in my opinion. I think it’s partly a sign that there’s plenty of depth on here, which we’ve known that for years on the PGA Tour, there’s always been a lot of strength and depth, but I certainly think nowadays the ranking side of it is a little bit skewed.”

“I don’t think it’s right to not have these players involved in the world rankings,” he added. “I mean what’s Dustin Johnson in the world? I don’t even know. What’s Brooks Koepka? I just think that’s the only issue right now with the world golf rankings.”

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LIV Golf initially applied for inclusion in the OWGR in July 2022. It received word last October that its application was being denied because it didn’t meet certain criteria. Representatives of the four major championships, who sit on the board of OWGR, made the call. Of course, the majors still can include players they deem worthy, and the Masters recently added Joaquin Niemann to its field after he won the Australian Open in December – and thereby earned an exemption into the Open Championship – and has since added two wins in the first three events on the LIV tour.

“You see what Joaquin’s done this year, and he’s 73rd in the world… The guy’s played some really good golf,” Will Zalatoris said. “I think, you know, having to get a special exemption from Augusta, it’s just, there’s some really good players, and there’s some guys that have gone around the world and played really good golf and I think that’s something that, once we get to the majors, it will be really fun to have us all back together. But, I know that that’s kind of the utopian goal for all of us right now is to have the best players in the world play week in, week out.”

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At this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, the top 50 eligible players from last year’s FedEx Cup points list are competing at Bay Hill Club. That includes nine of the top 10 in the OWGR, the exception being No.3 Jon Rahm, who joined LIV in December. In all, 69 players are in this week’s field in the tour’s fourth signature event of 2024.

With LIV abandoning its designs for OWGR inclusion and the PGA Tour appearing no closer to an agreement with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia that would reunite all of the game’s top players, it appears that the OWGR system will continue to come under scrutiny. Even among tour players who benefit from the current situation.

“I think the world rankings has a very particular set of criteria,” said world No.6 Patrick Cantlay, “and I don’t know if broken is the right word, but I think that there’s been so much uncertainty and change in the past couple of years that it’s inevitable that things need to be updated or things need to be changed.”