Jon Rahm left for LIV. This pro’s taking full advantage

Carl Yuan, 26, at the Sony Open.

Carl Yuan is contending at the Sony Open.

Getty Images

There are plenty of contenders at this week’s Sony Open.

One of ’em feels lucky just to be here.

The December departure of Jon Rahm from the PGA Tour to LIV had a massive effect on pro golf’s existing ecosystem. There are ramifications for LIV’s viability, for the PGA Tour’s strengths of field, for the negotiations between the Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

But there are also ramifications for Carl Yuan.

The conclusion of the RSM Classic marked the conclusion of the rookie season on the PGA Tour for Yuan, a visored, big-hitting 26-year-old from China. And although he’d come on strong in the fall, finishing T6 at the Sanderson Farms and fourth in Bermuda, a T68 finish at the RSM sealed an unfortunate fate: he was doomed to No. 126 in the FedEx Cup, one spot outside earning his full card for the 2024 season.

“I knew I needed to make the cut first to have a chance at it, which I did. I didn’t played great on the weekend,” he remembered after his second round at Waialae Country Club. “Obviously I’m a little disappointed I finished just outside it.”

Yuan had to adjust his plans. He headed to Q-school in search of improved status for 2024. He and his wife headed out for a practice round on the Monday of tournament week, bracing themselves for what promised to be horrific weather at the Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass. And then he got some good news:

Jon Rahm was headed to LIV.

Rahm had arguably the best 2023 in professional golf; suffice it to say he was inside the top 125 in the FedEx Cup. His departure was unquestionably bad for the PGA Tour. But it was unquestionably good for Yuan. When the Tour ruled that the rest of the players in the standings would move up one spot as a result, Yuan’s jump was among the most meaningful.

Yuan’s immediate reaction was pretty simple: He was happy not to have to play in the rain.

“My wife was going to caddie that week,” he said. “She wasn’t going to be happy with all the bad weather that week. I was happy for her more than happy for myself.”

But as reality sunk in, Yuan felt relief wash over him.

“Just looking forward to another year on Tour,” he said. “With all the learning experience from my rookie year definitely feel like I’m more prepared for being out here.”

Much of his rookie year had been a struggle. He’d played poorly off the start, he said. And being a rookie meant he just kept playing, feeling the pressure to enter every tournament for which he was exempt.

“That was just a tough stretch,” he said, referring to a string of missed cuts to begin the year. “Regrouping my game when not performing and playing great is probably a big key, instead of playing everything I can get in and missing the cut.”

He started Sony week 66-65 and sat just one shot off the lead at the halfway mark. He faded slightly to begin Saturday’s third round but sat at the edge of contention midway through. The good news is that — as much as Yuan would like to win or come close — his employment status for the rest of the year doesn’t depend on it.

“Having full status is nice. No need to reshuffle,” he said.

At No. 126, his hope was to get into the Sony or one of the West Coast events and, as he put it, “earn myself back on Tour.”

Now he’s on Tour. He has full status. And he intends to keep it.

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/ The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.

Watch, play, win. Chirp Golf is your home for the best of real money Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and Free-To-Play games.

Watch, play, win

Chirp Golf is your home for the best of real money Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and Free-To-Play games. Featuring simple to play. easy to learn, and fun games. Chirp Golf has something for every golf fan.

Scan to Download:

Google Play Apple Store