Pathways to LIV Golf: Explaining the league’s new promotion, relegation system
LIV Golf was a disruptor in its first year. Now it wants to be an innovator.
Whether you believe it or not, LIV wants to be additive to the professional golf scene and provide fans with a different form of entertainment. It certainly does the latter with its no-cut, shotgun-start events that offer music playing throughout the round and countless activities in its fan village in addition to the on-course product. At times, the festival-like atmosphere makes you forget you’re at a golf tournament.
The upstart circuit has lofty goals of a business model that would eventually be similar to that of the other major team sports in the United States, such as the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, and officials hope that franchising teams will create a revenue stream that the league solely funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund currently doesn’t possess (aside from its first global partner).
When it comes to the league format, those plans are more European than American, especially with its new promotion and relegation system. LIV views open competition not only as a cornerstone of its evolving product, but also as a way to legitimize its place in the professional golf landscape.
Starting later this year, the LIV Golf Promotions Event will help to ensure there are open player pathways for golfers to join the LIV Golf League in 2024.
Here’s how it all works.
Who automatically qualifies for the 2024 season and is safe from relegation?
The season-long points list that ultimately decides the individual champion – Dustin Johnson in 2022 – will also double as a way for players to earn their spot for the next season. Players who finish Nos. 1-24 at each event during the regular season earn a massive payday as well as points: 40 points for the winner all the way down to just one for the 24th-place finisher. After the 13 regular-season tournaments, those who finish inside the top 24 for the year will keep their status for the following season. Simple enough.
On top of that, the player who tops the money list on the Asian Tour’s International Series will automatically earn a spot for the next season. Scott Vincent earned his 2023 LIV status this way via the International Series in 2022.
Players who signed multi-year contracts – Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, etc. – will also be safe from relegation until their contract is up. Think of a contract like a PGA Tour or major championship exemption. In LIV’s case, it’s for the full league season, not just one event.
On the PGA Tour, players can meet multiple criteria to qualify for a tournament. Same goes for LIV Golf. Johnson is already exempt for 2024 with his contract, and a finish inside the top 24 would just tick another box.
Dustin Johnson reacts after putting out on the 18th green during the season finale of the LIV Golf series at Trump National Doral. (Photo: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)
Who gets relegated from the LIV Golf League?
The bottom four players on the season-long points list, Nos. 45-48, are relegated unless they have a contract for the following year.
But are players really fully relegated? Not quite. The bottom four will still have the ability to regain status via the promotions event (more on that to come). Those who come up short will be able to play wherever they are able in the following year, but it’s assumed most will tee it up on the Asian Tour, especially after LIV’s $300 million investment last year.
Hypothetically speaking, let’s say Mickelson loses his game in 2023 and tumbles down to the bottom four of the points list. Because he’s already under contract for 2024, Mickelson would be safe, and the next-lowest player on the standings not already exempt will be relegated.
Phil Mickelson walks up the fairway of the first hole during the first round of the season finale of the LIV Golf series at Trump National Doral. (Photo: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
What about the players in the middle?
Those players in the range of Nos. 25-44 on the LIV points list will go into the transfer market, where other teams may pick them up in the four-month offseason between the team championship and the first event of the new season.
LIV officials expect the transfer market to be busy with trades and new signings in the seasons to come after a quiet offseason between 2022 and 2023.
Peter Uihlein joined the 4Aces GC just days after the end of the 2022 LIV Golf Team Championship. (Photo: Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
What is the LIV Golf Promotions Event?
The merit-based qualifying event at the end of the year will offer three qualifying exemptions for a place on a LIV Golf League roster for the following season. Remember, the fourth open spot goes to the International Series money winner.
The dates and host course are currently unknown, but the inaugural 72-hole event will take place after the LIV Golf Team Championship, Nov. 3-5 at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
The 7th hole flag waves prior to day two of LIV Golf Mayakoba at El Camaleon at Mayakoba on February 25, 2023 in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
How does the qualifying event work?
Unlike normal LIV Golf events that offer 54 holes and no cuts, the promotions event will be 72 holes of stroke play with various cuts. Exemption categories are subject to change until the closing date for entries, Sept. 1, 2023.
After 18 holes of individual stroke play, the top 20 players and ties will advance to round two. This field will be comprised of:
Winners of the following events: U.S. Amateur, British Amateur, NCAA Div. I individual national championship, Latin-America Amateur, Asia-Pacific Amateur, European Amateur
Players ranked within the top-200 of the Official World Golf Ranking (despite LIV’s players and leadership saying the rankings have lost credibility)
Top 20 players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking
Players who finish Nos. 6-32 on the International Series list
The scores are reset for 18 more holes of individual stroke play, where 16 players will advance to the final two rounds. The top 20 players from Round 1 will be joined by the following who earned automatic exemptions to Round 2:
Relegated players from the previous LIV Golf season
Winners of fully sanctioned events on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour from the previous season
Winners of the four major champions dating back to 2018
Ryder Cup and President Cup players from the most recent events
Players who finish Nos. 2-5 on the International Series list
Rounds 3 and 4
The final two rounds will be 36 holes of individual stroke play, where the top three players will gain automatic promotion to the following LIV Golf League season (alongside the season-long International Series leader).
LIV Golf wants to be more self-sustaining, hence the creation of its exemption criteria and points system. Players controlling their own fate was important to LIV, same with the idea of open competition. The inaugural year of LIV Golf Invitational Series events was closed off. That certainly won’t be the case in the future.