What kind of pressure is there to play for LIV Golf? This pro explains

In LIV Golf’s early days in 2022, one of its harshest critiques came from the game’s greatest player.

“What these players are doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practice?” Tiger Woods said ahead of the 2022 Open Championship. “What is the incentive to go out there and earn it in the dirt? You’re just getting paid a lot of money upfront and playing a few events and playing 54 holes. They’re playing blaring music and have all these atmospheres that are different.”

Eighteen months have passed, and while the then-fledgling PGA Tour rival has changed considerably since then, Woods’ words still remain as one of the sharpest criticisms of the league. With LIV Golfers getting huge upfront guaranteed contracts — Jon Rahm’s December signing was reportedly between $300 and 400 million — why would they need to perform in the actual events?

On this week’s GOLF Subpar podcast, LIV Golfer Carlos Ortiz revealed that there is actually a tremendous incentive to perform: He doesn’t want to get booted from the league.

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“I would say that is definitely some extra pressure here because there’s only 48 guys,” Ortiz told co-hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stolz. “If you fall out somehow, I believe, then you don’t really have the PGA Tour to go back to or really nothing else.”

LIV uses a system of relegation where the league’s players are separated into three zones based on the season standings. The top 24 are in the “lock zone” and are guaranteed to receive a new contract from their current teams or enter free agency. The next 20 players are in the “open zone” meaning they are free to sign with other LIV teams, but not necessarily guaranteed to play the next season. Finally, anyone below 45th in the standings is relegated from the league and must earn their way back through the LIV Promotions event.

It’s a scary thought for Ortiz because, like everyone who has joined LIV, he is suspended from the PGA Tour and DP World Tours for opting to compete on LIV. That may change given the ongoing negotiations between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian PIF, LIV’s parent. However, for now, his next-best option would be the Asian Tour.

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Ortiz finished 15th in the 2023 standings, firmly in the lock zone, meaning his spot was safe for 2024, but he compared it to the same pressure as having won a PGA Tour event and earning a two-year exemption. He won the 2020 Houston Open, but said then, just like now, the pressure didn’t change.

“For me, it’s never really changed and it’s always been about trying to get better,” he said. “And obviously, if you’re not doing well, you have the pressure of doing better.”

With LIV, there’s even a bit of added pressure since he’s also playing for his team, not just himself.

“Down the stretch, when you’re posting a score and you know your team depends on you on winning or not winning, I definitely feel there is extra pressure,” Ortiz said. “I don’t know how people can say that that we don’t really care, that there’s not really pressure out there just because there’s guaranteed money.”

For more from Ortiz, including his explanations on LIV’s quest for OWGR points and how the league’s transactions work, watch the full episode below.

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.