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Wheelin' and Dealin'

LIV Golf announces player trades, free agency, relegation and more in offseason overhaul

November 08, 2023

Last winter, we published a story titled “18 things from other sports that LIV Golf needs right now.” First on that list? A trade deadline. Last on that list? A transfer portal. Well, apparently the folks over in Riyadh are avid Loop readers, because today LIV Golf announced a player transfer window, free agency, relegation and more as part of sweeping offseason changes.

It all starts with understanding LIV Golf’s three new individual performance tiers, the Lock Zone, the Open Zone and the Drop Zone. At the end of the season, the top 24 players in the individual standings qualify for the Lock Zone, which automatically qualifies them for the main LIV Golf tour the following season. Players who finish in the Lock Zone and are out contract are will receive a minimum one-year extension offer from the current team, or they can opt out and become free agents, negotiating a new contract with any team with an open roster spot.

Players 25-44 enter the Open Zone. The Open Zone operates similarly to the Lock Zone except teams are not obligated to offer new contracts to players in the Open Zone whose contracts are expiring. Finally there’s the Drop Zone, which adopts European soccer’s relegation model. Players who finish 45th or below in the standings are automatically demoted to a new play-in tournament called LIV Golf Promotions, a four-round, three-day last-chance qualifying tournament. The top three finishers earn a roster spot on a LIV Golf team the following season.

In addition to free agency, trades are now a thing. Teams are now allowed to trade the contract of one player for the contract of another. Once again taking a page of out European soccer's playbook, a mid-season trade window will open at a to-be-determined point in the 2024 season, allowing teams to negotiate moves for players in the last years of their contract. Like the NBA and NFL, negotiating outside of that window with players on the roster of another team — i.e. tampering — is expressly forbidden. Finally, there will be an annual LIV Draft for the selection the International Series Winner and the aforementioned promoted players from LIV Golf Promotions.

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Cliff Hawkins

Needless to say, this is a lot to digest, and for a golf league that is already struggling to find traction, it may prove to be too much. That said, the NBA trade deadline and soccer's transfer deadline day are practically holy days for sports fans. If LIV Golf can bottle just a little bit of that magic, well, who knows.

If you’re looking to keep an eye on all the offseason moving and shaking, Phase One is already underway, with teams currently extending offers to eligible players in the Lock and Open Zones. The next big dates to circle are December 8-10th, when the first-ever LIV Golf Promotions tournament goes down at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates.