In a move that could reignite professional golf’s civil war, Jon Rahm is expected to sign with LIV Golf.
The defection to the Saudi-backed circuit, long rumoured since the Ryder Cup, is expected to become official this morning (AEDT) per multiple reports. The news comes just weeks after Rahm pulled out of the TGL, a PGA Tour-backed tech-infused golf league, for what he said were scheduling issues.
Rahm, 29, becomes the biggest in-his-prime star to sign with Greg Norman’s teams-based league. He is coming off a career year, winning four times – highlighted by his triumph at the Masters – and scoring three points in four matches to guide Europe to victory at the Ryder Cup.
Rahm, No.3 in the world ranking, has 20 titles around the globe, and by capturing the green jacket this year became the first European to win both the Masters and US Open.
"Huge coup for LIV, huge blow for the PGA Tour"
Justin Rose on reports 2023 Masters champion Jon Rahm has joined LIV Golf ⛳ pic.twitter.com/xOpGay2p3I
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) December 7, 2023
A source has told Golf Digest that Rahm’s camp sought assurance from the DP World Tour regarding how a move could impact his future Ryder Cup status. Most European LIV players surrendered their DP World Tour membership when joining LIV, thus making them ineligible for the biennial event. It is unknown if the European circuit gave its blessing for the decision.
On numerous occasions Rahm shut down questions about joining LIV. “Money is great, but when [my wife] Kelley and I… this first thing happened, we started talking about it, and we’re like, will our lifestyle change if I got $400 million? No, it will not change one bit,” Rahm said at the 2022 US Open. “Truth be told, I could retire right now with what I’ve made and live a very happy life and not play golf again. So I’ve never really played the game of golf for monetary reasons. I play for the love of the game, and I want to play against the best in the world. I’ve always been interested in history and legacy, and right now the PGA Tour has that.”
His last previous comments on the matter were in August during a podcast appearance. “I laugh when people rumour me with LIV Golf,” Rahm said on the “Golf Sin Etiquetas” show. “I never liked the format. And I always have a good time with Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia in the practice rounds of majors. Phil respects my decision, and I respect his [choice]. Mickelson has told me that I have no reason to go play for LIV, and he has told me that multiple times.”
Conversely, change continues to be dynamic across the landscape of the sport. In June, the PGA Tour and LIV Golf’s financial backer, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, announced a surprise framework agreement. The deal ended the antitrust litigation between the warring factions, although the deal opened up both entities to scrutiny from the United States government. Since the framework announcement, the PGA Tour has also been entertaining interest from several companies vying to provide financial backing. It remains unclear if this backing would be an alternative to PIF’s support or to supplement it in order to appease US antitrust regulations. Nevertheless, the reality remains that the very money the PGA Tour warned its players not to take will be the money fuelling the tour’s future.
However, negotiations between the tour and LIV have stalled in recent months, and poaching Rahm could end the detente between the two circuits.
The 2024 season will be LIV Golf’s third. Its 14-event schedule begins in February.