Louis Oosthuizen’s goal of maintaining a ranking in the top 10 has been hampered by his participation with LIV Golf.
This time last year Louis Oosthuizen was on the front cover of this magazine. He had signed off 2021 as the 10th-ranked golfer in the world rankings and spoke of his ambitions for 2022.
They included staying in the top 10 – ‘the ranking is important to me, as it is to all golfers’ – and breaking that string of runners-up finishes in the Majors and adding to his Open Championship title of 2010.
By the end of the year, Oosthuizen had slipped to No 48 in the world, having had to rely on a top-10 finish at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek to stay in the top 50.
Ironically, the last time he was ranked as low was the week before he won The Open at St Andrews in July 2010.
Of course, the South African’s current ranking isn’t a true reflection of his standing in the game. And this is where stats lie. What his ranking doesn’t tell you is that the moment he signed to join the LIV Golf Series, he was signing off his ambitions to stay in the top 10, the top 20 and pretty soon, the top 50 and top 60.
By the time you read this, he might not even be the highest-ranked South African men’s golfer in the world.
Which helps to highlight the impact LIV has had on the global game. There is no point in having an ‘official world ranking’ if all golfers aren’t going to be ranked. And that, for me, is the biggest challenge men’s golf faces in 2023.
I don’t have a solution, because I can understand that ranking points are determined by the strength, quality and depth of fields that produce winners week in and week out.
I understand and agree with the current view that you can’t give LIV Golf equal status with the other major Tours like the PGA Tour and DP World Tour when tournaments have a limit of 48 players, and are contested over 54 holes from a shotgun start format.
But, you can’t pretend that those players have now retired from the game. There should be some ranking points up for grabs, surely.
The Australian Cameron Smith might well be the best player in the world right now, but he ended the year at No 3. He is going to slide down the rankings given he’s also on the LIV payroll and that, too, is just wrong.
All this reminds me of how boxing started going down the slippery slide, something I’ve referred to a few times before. ‘Back in the day’, there were eight weight divisions, each with one world champion. Like UFC currently is in the MMA sphere. Then, more weight divisions were introduced.
There were also only the WBC and WBA as the legitimate governing bodies, and they had their own world rankings and world champions.
Now, there are about 13 organisations, comprising an ‘alphabet soup’ of governing bodies: WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF, IBO, IBA and about a dozen others.
They have their own rankings and their own world champions. And we all agreed that boxing is a mess and it’s hard to determine who is truly the best boxer in a particular weight division, barring a few exceptions because they will never meet in the square ring.
And with golf’s ‘official world rankings’ now becoming increasingly unreliable, a solution needs to be found to address this as soon as possible.
– This column first appeared in the February 2022 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.