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Undercover Tour Pro: Forgive Or Forget? - Australian Golf Digest Undercover Tour Pro: Forgive Or Forget? - Australian Golf Digest

What PGA Tour pros really think about Jon Rahm and his mega-money switch to LIV Golf

I’m not a star – no major wins or magazine covers for me – but I am ranked inside the top 100 players in the world. The past couple of months I’ve talked to a lot of fellow rank-and-file players about one of our tour’s biggest stars who left for LIV Golf: Jon Rahm.

PGA Tour players have never really had personal issues with any of the guys who left (except for the ones who, you know, tried to sue the tour out of existence). Plus, the PGA Tour normalised doing business with LIV’s financial backer, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, when it agreed to the framework agreement last June. 

From afar, you might think Rahm’s defection to LIV was better received by his peers than past jumpers. The truth is, not really. The reason most guys are p—ed off has to do with our selfishness. Tour pros are like most fans in that we want this drama to end. A lot of us think Rahm’s departure will prolong this schism, and now that the tour has its private-equity investment in place with Strategic Sports Group, both sides feel like they have the upper hand. Having all this drag into another season is something we didn’t want, and if it continues, Rahm, rightfully or not, will receive blame.

Rahm broke an unwritten code. Both sides had a hands-off approach to recruiting during the period when negotiations were being banged out and – maybe this is me being naïve – it seemed like everyone understood that. It’s like Jon (or Jon’s team) thought they were above the detente. As the best player in the world, Jon could maybe claim he shouldn’t be lumped in with us. But, man, if there was one upshot from the past half year, it was this feeling of tour players coming together for a common cause. When a guy breaks from the pack to actively hurt that cause, that burns.

We also don’t buy this notion that Jon thought his defection could ultimately be what brings the golf world together, like he’s a human olive branch. Please. He is not what got the SSG deal to the finish line, or what will bring PIF and the tour together. Jon did this because he got half a billion dollars. Fullstop.

Jon clearly fell for whatever Phil Mickelson was selling him. As Phil admitted recently, he’s a divisive figure now (and I think that’s putting it nicely). Phil and Jon can say all they want about how Phil didn’t influence Jon’s decision. I’m telling you, from a player’s perspective, we don’t believe that one bit. Jon looks at Phil not as a friend but as a family member, and it’s no secret they are represented by the same agency. On that front, it’s disappointing that Jon couldn’t see through the charade.

That said, one thing that really doesn’t matter to guys in the locker room is Jon going back on his word. Don’t get me wrong, we heard what you heard, how Jon always said he had no interest in going to LIV, that he didn’t really care about more money and that he hated the format. But looking like a flip-flopper – or let’s be real, a fibber – is more of a Jon problem than any problem we have with him. Why? Because it’s nothing new. What LIV player hasn’t said one thing then done the other? We’re so used to it that we don’t think twice about it anymore.

I’ve seen Jon do a lot of good. He’ll donate time to guys who are struggling and need help with their games, both on tour and at home in Arizona. He’s also a professional, not one of these grab-ass, frat boys the tour occasionally churns out. But Jon hurt a lot of us by what he did, and even if the tour is in a slightly better shape post-SSG deal, that hurt towards Jon remains. 

I do hope this fight between the tour and LIV ends soon, and if Jon comes back, I’ll still treat him with respect. But pros aren’t good at forgetting, and Jon’s defection is something we’ll remember.