While the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series is a massive threat to the status quo and the image of the game, the Dubliner fears the new formula that will be applied in the world rankings next month will see Europe’s future stars “hammered” and forced to compete elsewhere.
The problem first surfaced 11 months ago, when the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) announced a massive overhaul of the system, starting on August 14.
The rankings previously subsidised the lesser tours, such as the European Tour, by giving their events more points than they might have merited on their strength of field to avoid an imbalance with the PGA Tour.
Now a Field Rating system has been developed where tournament fields will be evaluated based on the skill level of every player in the field, rather than just those in the field among the current top 200 of the OWGR.
As a result of a change to the formula, the DP World Tour will see the World Ranking points allocated to its events downgraded considerably next month. For example, the 24 points claimed by Thorbjorn Olesen at May’s British Masters would be reduced to just nine points in just over a month’s time.
That’s going to severely impact the attractiveness of events on the DP World Tour and also make it almost impossible for Europeans to make the world’s top 50, or even the top 100, by remaining at home.This week, the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship features the top two in the world in Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy as well as 23 of the world’s top 50, giving it a Strength of Field (SOF) rating of 461 and 58 points for the winner.
The DP World Tour’s BMW International Open features just three of the top 50 and has a SOF of 96 with the minimum allowable 24 points awarded to the winner.
Under the new system, the winner in Europe would get even fewer points as the OWGR is abolishing the minimum points values and replacing them with a skills-based system.
Each player will now have a Strokes Gained (SG) World Rating based on his scores in stroke-play events over the past two years. A player’s SG World Rating will determine how many performance points he contributes to the field.
All this is happening at a time when there is division in the European ranks caused by the DP World Tour’s Strategic Alliance with the PGA Tour.
The advent of co-sanctioned events, such as the Genesis Scottish Open, which will see half the field filled by PGA Tour players and as few as five Europe-based Scots likely to make the field.
Speaking ahead of his debut at the US Senior Open in Nebraska today, Harrington finds the world rankings scenario appalling and laid out his brutal vision for the DP World Tour.
While he fears what effect the “dialling back” of equipment by the governing bodies will have on the game when that is eventually implemented over the next few years, the loss of world ranking points in Europe frightens him.
“The change in the World Rankings system is going to hammer the European Tour, it really is,” Harrington said at Omaha Country Club.
“Like for a young player playing in Europe there’s no pathway forward with the new system. It’s going to be devastating for a young player,” he added.
“He’s going to have to leave. There’s no way a young player will be able to sustain or get into the top 100 in the world to get into those Majors like I would have done.”
Harrington first broke into the world’s top 100 in 1996 but it was another three years before he made the top 50 and earned his Masters debut by winning the European Tour sanctioned Brazil Sao Paulo Open in 2000.
“My pathway was very much to establish myself in Europe; when I got established in Europe, I started dipping my toe in the water by coming over to the bigger events in the States, the Majors, the Arnold Palmers, the Memorials, The Players Championship.
“After playing those from like ’96 all the way through to 2004, I played enough events in America that I was comfortable in that environment that I came over and took my card. I don’t see that pathway anymore.”