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Mickelson says golf world rankings need LIV events to be credible

Phil Mickelson says it is in the best interest of the rating agency to award global rating points to LIV events

Bangkok (AFP) – Six-time winner Phil Mickelson on Thursday backed moves to award world rankings points to events at a separate Leaf golf course, saying it would help maintain the “credibility” of global leaders.

The Saudi-backed LIV Series is organizing its first event in Asia this week, and on Wednesday announced a deal to hold tournaments co-signed by the Middle East and North Africa Tour and awarded points for the World Golf Rankings (OWGR).

OWGR has not announced if points will now be awarded for the LIV events, starting with this week’s championship in Bangkok.

But Mickelson, whose US PGA Tour departure helped launch the big-money LIV series, said it was in the ratings body’s best interest to do so.

“I think this is a great way to maintain its credibility, while not bringing politics into the decision-making process,” the 52-year-old said on the eve of LIV’s Bangkok Invitational.

LIV has already staged five events but has not awarded any rating points to its players – including British Open champion Cameron Smith and former world number one Dustin Johnson.

Mickelson, Smith and Johnson are competing at the new Stonehill course outside the Thai capital for a $20 million stake, with $4 million for the winner, the largest golf tournament portfolio in Asia.

The deep pockets of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund have allowed LIV to offer staggering prize money – the last spot in Bangkok taking home $120,000 – but it has also brought accusations of “sports laundering”, given the kingdom’s questionable human rights record.

A host of top players have joined the series, plunging golf into a bitter civil war as the US PGA Tour, Europe-based DP World Tour scrambled to retain talent during the Asian Tour, and now the lesser-known MENA Tour, join LIV.

Only the world’s top 50 players automatically qualify for the four major competitions, so top names have been worried about sliding down the rankings.

But Mickelson said he’s not worried that LIV events will earn proper points.

“The reason I’m not concerned is that the number of points depends on the quality of the stadium and not the organization running the tournament, and the quality of our field is remarkably strong,” he said.

“I am sure that the World Golf Rankings will maintain their credibility, and will continue to award the appropriate number of tournament-worthy points for all rounds.”

US players who have registered for LIV Golf have been indefinitely suspended from the PGA Tour, while the DP World Tour has issued fines and a short-term ban.

LIV has announced plans to expand from eight events this year to 14 in 2023, with players competing for $405 million in prize money.

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