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Justin Thomas: It’s LIV Golfers’ Own Fault They’re Excluded From World Rankings

At the Presidents Cup, the reigning PGA Championship winner did not mince words in addressing LIV Golf members’ formal request to be included in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Justin Thomas does not believe golfers who decide to compete in the LIV Golf Invitation Series, the new breakaway competition funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, deserve a spot in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).

As the current world No. 7 and reigning PGA Championship winner elaborated on that view to reporters on Tuesday, Sept. 20:

“It’s very obvious and written right there in front of them. They just naturally want what’s best for them. Just like the decision they made to go there,” Thomas said from Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina ahead of this year’s Presidents Cup. “I totally understand — if I were in the same situation, I’d want it, but that doesn’t necessarily make it right. The governing bodies created the system for a reason and that’s to determine the best players in the world. Will it be skewed because some of the top players aren’t in there? Yes. But that’s their own fault for making the decisions they made. They knew very well going into it there was a chance they wouldn’t have world ranking points and they took that risk. In my opinion, that’s their own fault.”

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Here’s the context for what’s playing out here: LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman and all 48 athletes who competed in the organization’s most recent exhibition in Chicago recently wrote a letter to the Official World Golf Ranking chair Peter Dawson asking him to award OWGR points for LIV-sponsored events.

“An OWGR without LIV would be incomplete and inaccurate,” they wrote, “the equivalent of leaving the Big 10 or the SEC out of the US college football rankings, or leaving Belgium, Argentina, and England out of the FIFA rankings. Fans deserve rankings that are inclusive and accurate. Failure to include 48 of the world’s best golfers would mean the fans are being denied what they deserve.”

The letter notes that four LIV Golf members are former world No. 1s and make up “21 of the last 51 winners of the four Majors.” It additionally expresses concerns of possible conflicts given that several members of the OWGR Governing Board have direct ties to the PGA Tour.

The letter sidestepped OWGR’s regulations regarding what makes a golf competition eligible for earning its participants points in the rankings, including a formal qualifying school, cutting down tournament fields after two 18-hole rounds, and minimum thresholds for the number of golfers competing in each event.

All told, the decision by some pros to abandon the PGA Tour in favor of the more lucrative competition continues to be a major talking point. As the 12-man roster from Team USA prepares for the 14th edition of the Presidents Cup, captain Davis Love III made sure to note that his current roster of 12 athletes which includes Thomas, Scottie Scheffler, and Collin Morikawa — many of whom are rookies in this specific tournament — are just as talented as the missing and more experienced LIV players like Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, and Bryson DeChambeau.

“On points, we pretty much got the guys we wanted to get,” Love said to reporters from Quail Hollow. “They’re committed and excited.”

International captain Trevor Immelman, who is at a greater player disadvantage by comparison, was more straightforward when pressed about his thoughts on athletes jumping ship from the PGA Tour.

“Every single player that I spoke to from early on in this process knew exactly what the situation and the consequences were going to be,” the South African star said, “and they knew that if they made certain decisions, it was going to be highly unlikely they were going to be able to represent the International team. So that went into their decision-making process.”

World No. 2 Cameron Smith and No. 23 Joaquin Niemann — who together would have arguably represented Immelman’s best shot at defeating the home team — took off for LIV Golf officially making the cut to join the team. Other noteworthy players fans won’t expect to see this weekend include Louis Oosthuizen and Anirban Lahir, but that’s not muting Immelman’s confidence. As the clear underdogs on the course, he welcomes the challenge of potentially making history by the week’s end.

“When you look at our team, what we’re trying to tap into is the International team represents billions of people all over the world,” the 2008 Masters champion said. “So we’re trying to tap into that, inspire the youngsters all over, and welcome fans from all of those countries to come on down and support us in some way, shape, or form because we’re their team.”

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