10 LIV Golf players who could get bounced under new-look system 

Pat Perez

Pat Perez in April at the LIV Golf event in Adelaide, Australia.

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Graeme McDowell, a U.S. Open winner and four-time Ryder Cupper, is out of a job. As are Pat Perez, Bernd Wiesberger, Carlos Ortiz and six others who played their golf with LIV Golf this year. 

Could they return to LIV, the Saudi-backed series that just completed its second season? Perhaps. Could they play elsewhere in the world? Maybe. Could they call it a career? It’s an option. Could they play on the PGA Tour? It’s unlikely, but not impossible.  

Each player is in golf limbo, as LIV works through an offseason setup that was fully announced earlier this month. Four of the 10 — Jediah Morgan, James Piot, Chase Koepka, Sihwan Kim — were dropped outright after finishing below 44th in the season-long standings in the 48-player league. Five — Perez, Wiesberger, McDowell, Matt Jones and David Puig — are “free agents” after they finished between 25th and 44th in the standings and had expiring contracts. Ortiz, meanwhile, was, in a way, a ‘restricted free agent’ — he also had an expiring deal, but because he finished 24th or better in the standings (15th), Ortiz chose not to sign a new contract with the team he played with last year in the team-based tour, the Fireballs.  

Notably, all but one of those players could theoretically return to LIV next year. Or none of them. 

One of the 10 open spots is already locked up —  Andy Ogletree, through finishing atop the International Series’ season-long rankings, will play with LIV next year. Ortiz, Perez, Wiesberger, McDowell, Jones and Puig, meanwhile, could simply sign with one of the series’ 12 teams. Or not. The teams could also be recruiting players from other tours; PGA Tour and DP World Tour pros have jumped over during the past two years, though none since last February, ahead of the LIV season.  

To that end, Phil Mickelson, a LIV team captain, said he was being flooded with requests.

“I’ve been fielding calls, as we all have, from players that are free agents to PGA Tour players to DP World Tour players that want to come over,” he said last month. 

All 10 players also have a chance to ‘win’ their way back to LIV. Early next month, the series is hosting a “Promotions” tournament, where the top three finishers will earn spots to LIV, though it remains unknown who has entered the event. 

All 10 could also try to play elsewhere in the world, most likely on the LIV-supported Asian Tour, or even retire. As for the Tour option? There are two key things to note here. Tour members who have played LIV events are subject to one-year suspensions, so there would be a wait. Possibly. There’s also the matter of the proposed funding agreement between the Tour and the backer of LIV, the Saudi Arabia Public Investment fund — and there’s striking language in the deal regarding LIV’s future. It reads:

A new-look LIV Golf is coming. Here are the 5 biggest changes
By: James Colgan

“PGA Tour / DP World Tour and LIV to Co-Exist. Subject to execution of the Definitive Agreements, (a) NewCo will undertake a full and objective empirical data-driven evaluation of LIV and its prospects and potential and will make a good faith assessment of the benefits of team golf in general.”

So maybe every LIV player will be looking for new work. The Tour and LIV have been going back and forth over players and prestige for two seasons now, and it wouldn’t be a shock if LIV was folded and their players eventually migrated back to the Tour, should the deal pass, though it’s looking increasingly unlikely, at least for the near future. There has been little announced news on the progress of the negotiations — which has a Dec. 31 deadline — and LIV players and officials have been talking confidently of playing its third season. 

A number of players have notably even re-upped their contracts. Among the players with expiring deals ranked No. 1-24 — like Ortiz — Peter Uihlein, Anirban Lahiri, Richard Bland and Scott Vincent agreed to return to the teams they played with last year. 

Ten other players, though, wait. Maybe they’re back with LIV. Maybe it’s somewhere else, though that’s murky. Maybe they hang up the golf clubs. 

“Obviously my contract runs out at the end of the year. It’s the unknown,” McDowell told Sports Illustrated’s Bob Harig in September. “We’re moving into a unique thing that’s never happened. A transfer market, a free-agency window. Will LIV bring any players from the outside? I don’t know. It could be zero; it could be 10.

“Being logical about it, I have to look at the list of guys and know I have to be vulnerable. I feel like I’ve been a good spokesman for the league and a good ambassador for the tour and hopefully there is a captain who wants me on his team.”

Below is a list of the 10 LIV Golf players who could get bounced under LIV’s new-look system:

Carlos Ortiz
Pat Perez
David Puig
Matt Jones
Bernd Wiesberger
Graeme McDowell
Jediah Morgan
James Piot
Chase Koepka
Sihwan Kim 

Below is a list of the LIV Golf teams and the players on each:

4Aces: Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Peter Uihlein, one spot open (Pat Perez not under contract) 

Cleeks: Martin Kaymer, Richard Bland, two spots open (Bernd Wiesberger and Graeme McDowell not under contract) 

Crushers: Bryson DeChambeau, Paul Casey, Charles Howell III, Anirban Lahiri (no spots open) 

Fireballs: Sergio Garcia, Abraham Ancer, Eugenio Chacarra, one spot open (Carlos Ortiz opted for free agency) 

HyFlyers: Phil Mickelson, Cameron Tringale, Brendan Steele, one spot open (James Piot into drop zone) 

IronHeads: Kevin Na, Danny Lee, Scott Vincent, one spot open (Sihwan Kim into drop zone) 

Majesticks: Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Sam Horsfield (no spots open) 

Range Goats: Bubba Watson, Talor Gooch, Harold Varner III, Thomas Pieters (no spots open) 

Ripper: Cam Smith, Marc Leishman, two spots open (Matt Jones not under contract, and Jediah Morgan into drop zone) 

Smash: Brooks Koepka, Jason Kokrak, Matthew Wolff, one spot open (Chase Koepka into drop zone) 

Stinger: Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel, Dean Burmester (no spots open) 

Torque: Joaquin Niemann, Mito Pereira, Sebastian Munoz, one spot open (David Puig not under contract) 

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