Jon Rahm calls on LIV Golf to drop controversial piece of its format

Jon Rahm hits a wedge during a Masters practice round.

Jon Rahm says his league should drop its 54-hole format.

Warren Little/Getty Images

Jon Rahm sees a way forward from pro golf’s current stalemate toward unification. It just involves his league’s abandonment of its namesake format.

Speaking to BBC Sport ahead of his title defense at the 2024 Masters, Rahm said he would welcome LIV Golf moving from its controversial 54-hole format and adopting the 72-hole format used by most other major global tours.

“If there ever was a way where LIV could go to 72 holes I think it would help all of this argument a lot,” Rahm told the BBC, referring to the current state of division in the global game. “The closer I think we can get LIV Golf to some other things the better. I think it would be for some kind of unification to feed into a world tour or something like that.

“I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I definitely wouldn’t mind going back to 72 holes.”

LIV’s 54-hole format, along with shotgun starts, team golf, shorter schedules and guaranteed upfront money were some of the main selling points of the league while it poached several of the top players away from the PGA Tour. The league’s name, LIV, is the Roman numeral for 54 and this year, the league started fielding tournaments with 54 players.

However, the 54-hole format, along with the absence of a feeder tour to support opportunities for one to play their way into the circuit were two of the biggest reasons the league’s bid to earn Official World Golf Ranking points was denied and eventually withdrawn.

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The league’s 2023 champion, Talor Gooch, is not among the group of 13 LIV golfers in this week’s field at the Masters. Gooch was a top-40 player in the world before joining LIV in 2022, but has fallen to No. 568 in the rankings after playing in just three OWGR-recognized non-majors in 2023. He’s not currently in the field for any 2024 majors.

Joaquin Niemann, LIV’s best player so far this season, is in the field, but thanks to a special invitation from Augusta National. But, in announcing Niemann’s invite, the club omitted his recent LIV Golf victory (he has since added another) in his listed accomplishments and only mentioned his other non-LIV worldwide finishes.

While Niemann has also scored an exemption into next month’s PGA Championship, he’ll likely have to go through qualifying to play in the U.S. Open and Open Championship.

It’s that kind of division between the game’s top players that has led Rahm and others like Rory McIlroy to call for unity in the game, allowing the best players to play together once again.

Rahm told the BBC he believes his December decision to leave the PGA Tour for LIV may end up helping to move things closer to unification.

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“That’s a well-thought-out argument. I could be the start of a tipping point in that sense,” he said. “I understood the weight that [my] decision could have and the impact it could have. I understood that perfectly and that’s why it wasn’t an easy decision. The balance of golf could be disturbed a little bit. Luckily in my career, especially last year, I accomplished a lot and I got to be one of the bigger names in golf. 

“I understood the position I was in.”

He added the June 6th framework agreement between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, LIV Golf’s parent, as a pivotal moment for him.

“If the PGA Tour is now open to working with the PIF or LIV or maybe coming together in some kind of way then that opened the door for me to do the same thing,” he said.

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