(Reuters) - LIV Golf players are set to earn world ranking points starting this week after the developmental MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Tour said on Wednesday it had formed a strategic alliance with the Saudi Arabia-backed circuit.
LIV Golf is holding the sixth event of its inaugural season this week just north of Bangkok and the MENA Tour said those competing at Stonehill Golf Course will immediately qualify for official world ranking points.
As part of the alliance, LIV Golf Invitational events will become part of, and sanctioned by, the MENA Tour which is among the eligible tours listed on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) website.
"We are taking this mutually beneficial action to support the game at the developmental level and because of the importance and fairness of LIV golfers qualifying for OWGR points," LIV Golf President Atul Khosla said in a MENA Tour news release.
"We're pleased to create pathways that give more opportunities for young players, while also giving fans rankings that include all the world’s best golfers."
This week's LIV Golf event, which will feature big-name players like world number three Cameron Smith and twice major winner Dustin Johnson, is not listed on the OWGR website among the events receiving points.
Without the ability to earn points, which carry significant weight when it comes to gaining entry into golf's four majors, those competing on LIV Golf will tumble down the rankings and be at risk of missing the blue-riband events.
Last month, all 48 players who competed at LIV Golf's event outside Chicago sent a joint letter to OWGR Chairman Peter Dawson urging him to award ranking points to competitors on the Saudi Arabia-backed series.
According to the OWGR website, the ranking points breakdown is derived from each tournament's total field rating and points are awarded to players who make the cut and complete an event, subject to their finishing position in the tournament.
LIV Golf's 54-hole events do not have a cut.
The LIV Golf series is bankrolled by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund and critics have accused it of being a vehicle for the country to attempt to improve its reputation in the face of criticism of its human rights record.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)