An Official World Golf Ranking Committee Member Thinks LIV Golf Should Get Points – Sports Illustrated

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia – Cho Minn Thant might not be the most prominent name in the big picture of professional golf, but he’s got two pretty significant gigs in the game.
The first is his day job, and that is as CEO and commissioner of the Asian Tour. He also has an important role with the Official World Golf Ranking as a member of its technical committee.
Because of the Asian Tour’s relationship with LIV Golf, Cho said it will preclude him from having any kind of a role in LIV’s application for OWGR points. But he understands the process and is among the few, if any, associated with it to speak on the record.
“I’d like to see the OWGR grant LIV world ranking points for next season,’’ Cho said during an interview with Sports Illustrated at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, the site of this week’s LIV Golf Invitational Series Jeddah event. “This year was probably too soon.
“The way LIV started it was a work in progress. It still is a work in progress. And the start of the season they were unsure which players would sign up. This is massively more successful than they envisioned at the start of the year, in my opinion. And highly successful.’’
Still, Cho acknowledges there are legitimate issues with LIV’s plight for ranking points.
“There are things that could be put in place,’’ he said. “There’s no cut. Only 54 holes. The system accounts for that. There are going to be things in the world with golf rankings the way they are at the moment that will prevent LIV players from getting super-high world ranking points like the PGA Tour. They have 48 players in the field, where every player counts. That’s a big difference from  a 156-man field, which is obviously going to get more points. The 54 holes is another way LIV will have reduced points. But the principle of it is they should still get points.’’
Cho, 38, who became commissioner of the Asian Tour in 2019 after working in various roles since 2007, was referring to aspects of the ranking points system that now gives a reduction in points due to field size. This week’s LIV event has 38 of the top 200 players in the world and would receive approximately 20 points for the winner if it were eligible. The PGA Tour’s Zozo Championship with a 78-player field is projected to get 38 points for the winner.
In his role as commissioner of the Asian Tour, Cho submitted LIV Golf’s application for world ranking points. A prospective tour needs to be sponsored by another tour and that happened in early July, prior to the British Open.
So far, there has been no movement.
“I won’t be part of it, but I know it has not been sent down to the technical committee to examine,’’ Cho said. “It may or may not have to. But for typical matters they do send it down to the T.C. to discuss at least.’’
Cho is an Australian who grew up in Canberra and his parents are Burmese. He lives in Singapore, where the Asian Tour is headquartered, but also spends a good bit of time in Florida, not far from LIV Golf’s office in West Palm Beach.
As one of nine members of the technical committee, he dives into the bits and pieces of the world rankings. Ian Barker, who works for the DP World Tour, is the chairman and there is also representation from the United States Golf Association, the PGA of America, the R&A as well as the Japan, Australian and South African tours.
The OWGR’s board makes the decisions, however. Chairman Peter Dawson, former head of the R&A, is not affiliated but the board includes PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley as well as representatives from the Masters, USGA, PGA of America and R&A as well as the International Federation of PGA Tours.
As Sports Illustrated has previously reported, there are 14 guidelines, several of which LIV’s bid do not meet. But there is also a disclaimer: not all need to be met to get approved; all could be met and still not approved; and the board has discretion to change the criteria at any time.
Due to this, there has been a considerable amount of misinformation and lack of understanding of the process.
“It’s the opposite of a normal application,’’ Cho said of LIV. “The Mexican Tour has applied. The Thai Tour, the Indian Tour, the Taiwanese Tour … they’ve all applied for world golf rankings. But they are developmental tours or domestic tours without hardly any ranked players. It’s a way for them to get legitimacy, whereas (nearly) all of the LIV players are ranked. A lot of them are ranked inside the top 100 in the world, if not the top 50 (12 are in the top 50).
“It’s a difficult application because it’s a guideline, but it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. And the important thing to think about with LIV is it’s not a regional tour.’’
Asked about all the contradictions seemingly associated with how the OWGR decides to give points, Cho said “if we went back and looked at the qualifying criteria and applied it to all of the tours that do have world ranking points, they might not meet them.’’

Asked for an example, Cho cited the PGA Tour’s qualifying tournament. One of the OWGR criteria is that a tour have an open qualifying tournament. For the last decade, the PGA Tour’s Q-school has not provided direct access. (It is changing in 2023 to allow the top-5 finishers and ties onto the PGA Tour.)
“It goes to the Korn Ferry,’’ Cho said. If you wanted to go by technicalities, there always has to be some concessions made on a case by case basis.’’
The Big Easy Tour is another tour that falls short of the criteria by not having a minimum purse requirement of $30,000.
The Asian Tour’s affiliation with LIV Golf was a work in progress over several years, Cho said. It began well before LIV was even a thing, when Golf Saudi—which owns the Saudi International and is the promotional arm for golf in the country—reached out to suggest collaboration.
At the time, the Saudi International tournament was part of the European Tour. Cho was looking for more support for his tour, and there was talk of several elevated events and perhaps some sort of “Race to Saudi’’ as the European Tour has with the “Race to Dubai.’’
The pandemic put all of that on hold. The Asian Tour went 18 months without playing an event and was struggling to stay in business. Only four events had been played in 2020. The tour resumed in late 2021 with two events in Phuket, Thailand, and two more in January of this year in Singapore.
Tom Kim won the first Singapore event and tied for second in the second and was the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit winner. Less than a year later, he is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour.
LIV stepped in late in 2021 to announce a $300 million commitment to the Asian Tour over 10 years by establishing the International Series, a 10-tournament elevated circuit that is part of the Asian Tour’s 25-tournament schedule. Purses will be at least $1 million and the leading player on the International Series is assured of a spot next year with LIV Golf.
In fact, Asian Tour players have been a big part of LIV Golf. Nine were in the field at the first event outside of London and they have had five or six in each event since.
“Coming from a tour where we’re happy to have $1 million events, suddenly playing for $25 million is a dream for our players,’’ Cho said.
Last week, LIV Golf announced it was integrating with another tour called the MENA Tour, a developmental tour that had been on hiatus due to the pandemic. The hope was that by incorporating with the MENA Tour, LIV could assimilate into a tour that was already granted points and get them immediately.
Cho knew that was not going to work. At least not now.
“Look, it was fairly obvious that it wasn’t going to be passed without further examination,’’ he said. “That it happened almost overnight the day before their event didn’t help. We all know that the world golf ranking is governed by the powers that be. And they don’t make decisions in an instant. I think it was always going to be ‘we acknowledge it but we need more time to examine it.’’’
LIV Golf is impatient, but Cho believes it should happen.
“From a golf perspective, you watch these guys play, you watch them on the driving range,’’ Cho said. “There’s no denying that D.J. (Dustin Johnson) is top five in the world. Cam Smith is top five. Joaquin Niemann, Bryson DeChambeau. They are top-20 players and I don’t think anyone would deny it.’’
Bob Harig is a golf writer for and the author of the book “Tiger and Phil: Golf’s Most Fascinating Rivalry,’’ which was published in April 2022 and can be ordered here.

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