LIV Golf is forming a strategic alliance with the little-known MENA Tour in hopes of securing Official World Golf Ranking points for its players.
The MENA Tour, a feeder circuit that has staged tournaments in the Middle East and North Africa, had been shuttered for more than two years during the COVID-19 pandemic before staging a tournament in May. Founded by the Dubai-based Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation in 2011, the MENA Tour was recognized by the OWGR governing board in May 2016.
In a news release on Wednesday, the MENA Tour said the "alliance will boost the MENA Tour's development programs and immediately qualify LIV Golf for OWGR points, starting with the LIV Golf Thailand event at Stonehill this week."
"This is a very exciting day for the MENA Tour and our players," MENA Tour commissioner David Spencer said in a statement. "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."
Through the partnership, all LIV golfers also become members of the MENA Tour, according to Spencer. MENA events have purses of $75,000.
"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," LIV Golf president and COO Atul Khosla said in a statement. "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."
LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman has become increasingly frustrated that the OWGR board hasn't recognized his startup circuit, which is being financed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.
LIV Golf currently has 12 of the top 50 players in its fields, including reigning Open Championship winner Cameron Smith, the No. 3 player in the world. LIV Golf competitors did not receive OWGR points in its first five events, jeopardizing their chances of qualifying for major championships without previously earned exemptions.
In a letter sent to LIV golfers on Aug. 17, Norman wrote that the new circuit "by any fair, objective and impartial review" should be awarded world ranking points for its events in the very near future.
In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, Norman wrote that LIV Golf's inclusion in the world ranking points system is "necessary for the integrity, accuracy and fairness" of the rankings. LIV Golf officials submitted their application to the OWGR in mid-July and it was discussed by the OWGR Technical Committee during the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews, according to Norman.
"Without LIV's inclusion, the integrity and accuracy of the rankings themselves are severely compromised," Norman wrote. "We trust the members of the Governing Board of OWGR will understand and appreciate this key consideration, and that they will treat this development with the respect it deserves and consistent with their responsibilities as directors of the Official World Golf Rankings and the duties that attend those directorships."
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who has suspended players for competing in LIV Golf tournaments without a conflicting-event release, is one of the eight members of the OWGR board of governors. Other members include DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley, USGA CEO Mike Whan, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers, PGA of America executive director Seth Waugh, Augusta National Golf Club executive director Will Jones, and Keith Waters, who represents the International Federation of PGA Tours.