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TEE TO GREEN, STEVE SCOTT: Don’t expect an early end to the DP World Tour’s dispute with LIV players

Ian Poulter was one of three LIV players who placed a successful injunction to block DP World Tour snactions last July.
Ian Poulter was one of three LIV players who placed a successful injunction to block DP World Tour snactions last July.

So the battle lines are drawn for the forthcoming case between the DP World Tour and their LIV members – and it seems some have backed off already.

My friend and predecessor (30 years ago!) as Courier golf writer Scott Crockett, is now the tour’s communications director. He gave a media briefing of the tour position in Dubai on Monday.

The February case is not a court hearing but arbritration. It’s to be heard over five days before a three-strong independent panel, chaired by the former High Court judge Phillip Sycamore, with two KCs.

Avoiding the courts…at least for now

The Tour has long signed up to this arbitration service, Sports Resolutions UK, as a method to avoid court hearings.

The PGA Tour’s case with LIV won’t go to a US court until early 2024, at the earliest. I think everyone can be grateful for the DPWT’s policy.

The arbitration case is NOT to discuss a ban outright, but whether the DPWT is able to impose the sanctions it proposed before the Scottish Open last year for LIV players who defied player releases.

Those were, if you recall, fines of £100,000 and bans from selected events. Three players – Ian Poulter, Adrian Otaegui and Justin Harding – successfully had those sanctions blocked by an injunction from the arbitration panel.

That’s what’s allowed some LIV players to continue to play on the DP World Tour.

It might not be a ban per se, but if the sanctions are re-imposed as the Tour hope, it’s going to have the same result.

The likelihood is that copping a £100,000 fine for every LIV event they play is going to make the disputing players relinquish their tour memberships.

Garcia, Schwartzel and Grace walk away

LIV winner Branden Grace had an `easy decision’ to join Genesis Scottish Open at the 11th hour

It’s clear that the February hearing – behind closed doors – will not produce an immediate result like the successful injunction did.

The tour don’t expect a verdict for weeks. Then there’s likely an appeal process.

The tour don’t know whether the injunction holds and the LIV players can keep playing on the DP World Tour in the meantime.

But one suspects that it should be probably be ring-fenced for the actual tour members involved, anyway. No more moonlighting by former PGA Tour LIV players looking for a quick hit on the DP World.

It was also revealed that there are now 13 players attached to the case. Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace have all pulled out.

Sergio has little love left on the DP World Tour after throwing various wobblies in the past year. Grace, a nine-time tour winner, seemed pretty keen to keep playing when he entered the Scottish Open on the back of the injunction in July.

The other revelation from the media briefing is that Jay Monahan of the PGA Tour and both Keith Pelley and Keith Waters of the DP World have recused themselves from the Official World Rankings board discussions on LIV’s application.

That will now be determined by the remaining board members, the representatives of the four major championships.

Golf’s audience is the same as it ever was

Meanwhile, LIV Golf has a TV deal! With the (officially) 23rd strongest network in the US. Which isn’t even eligible to be rated for the official viewer figures.

I understand that LIV fancies itself tapping into a younger audience that habitually yawns over golf. I’d have thought they’d be better sticking on YouTube or going live on TikTok for that. Does anyone under 30 watch network TV regularly anymore?

But they definitely have to take a sizeable portion of the existing golf audience if they’re going to actually make an impact.

And anyway, the idea that golf will die without a younger audience – something I freely admit I’ve argued before – is actually pretty bogus. If it were really true, golf would have died a long, long time ago.

Humans constantly change their minds and their habits – thank goodness. We’d love more younger people to be interested in the game, of course, but it’s not essential.

A great many take up playing and watching golf in later life, and this has sustained the sport for almost all of its existence.

Strokes TAKEN is the only metric that should count

The changes in the Official World Golf Rankings were supposed to clean up the old system’s injustices. Instead, they’ve created as many as they ended.

Jon Rahm’s record in his last seven counting events (dating back to the BMW PGA Championship last year) is T2-1-T4-1-T8-1-1.

One of those was the Hero World Challenge. I think that shouldn’t be rated at all, but it was the T8.

Yet Rahm is still only third in the OWGR released on Sunday night.

Fine, he didn’t have a great 2022 by his standards, especially at the high-earning mid-season. Yes, you can see why No 1 Rory McIlroy – playing for the first time in 2023 this week in Dubai – is still surfing his record from high season last summer.

But still. The use of the Strokes Gained metric in determining ranking points seemed like a reasonable move as purports to accurately measure players in relation to those they’re competing against.

Great, but in practice it does not accurately measure the actual result, which is really the entire point.

By all means SG is great to get a better picture of how players relate against each other. But for fun, not for serious stuff like the rankings.

Strokes TAKEN is still the definitive measurement as to how the cheques are paid out.

Therefore, winning events needs to be properly credited. The winner of four of his last six events, in strong fields every time, should be ranked the world number one. No matter what the data boffins say.