Jon Rahm never criticizes LIV — here’s the interesting reason why

Jon Rahm addressed the media ahead of the 2023 PGA Championship.

Jon Rahm addressed the media ahead of the 2023 PGA Championship.

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Jon Rahm has been thinking a lot about golf.

Perhaps a better way to put that is that Jon Rahm thinks a lot about golf. This is hardly a new development; it’s a state of being.

At one point during Tuesday’s pre-tournament PGA Championship press conference, Rahm was asked if he visits YouTube ahead of major championships to scout out the course. He does, he admitted. But not really for that reason.

“It’s not research. I just like it,” he said. “It’s just fun. I’m a golf fan as well. I’m a fan of all those players out there as well. It’s enjoyable.”

Golf “fan” is a massive understatement. Let’s tick through some of Rahm’s press-conference references:

He shouted out Jack Nicklaus’ strategy at Baltusrol.

“How he said every time he went in the rough he was going to lay up, and on 18 he laid up, hit the 1-iron, and then made birdie.”

He paraphrased Arnold Palmer.

“The road to success is always under construction. It’s not a linear, constant path of improvement. It’s ups and downs.”

He guessed at Tiger Woods’ mindset — specifically in the 1998 season.

“It would be very similar to what Tiger might have said in ’98 in the middle of swing changes,” he mused. “In certain aspects it might pay dividends down the future, right? So just because you haven’t accomplished something today doesn’t mean it’s not going to pay off in the future.”

He even apologized for not knowing more about Walter Hagen — who was born in Rochester in 1892 — noting that the Haig played most of his golf pre-video camera.

“A lot of people wouldn’t even know [Hagen] if it wasn’t for The Legend of Bagger Vance,” Rahm said of the 2000 film starring Will Smith and Matt Damon. “Probably my fault that I don’t know — I really don’t know what he did.”

Here’s the point: Rahm is all-the-way invested in the game of professional golf. He’s the current World No. 1, reigning Masters champ and a leader on the PGA Tour. But given the upheaval in the professional game, Rahm’s stance on LIV’s battle against the Tour has been notably neutral. He has most frequently said … not much about it.

On Tuesday, he explained why.

Asked whether coexistence at the Masters had helped return to some semblance of normalcy, Rahm dismissed the premise of the question.

“I’m the wrong player to ask,” he said. “I didn’t really care in that sense. I never got into the feud. I’ve never had any negative feelings towards any player that went over to LIV.”

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Rahm explained that he still makes it a point to play practice rounds with players across the aisle. He’s still friends with Phil Mickelson, with whom he teed it up at the Masters. He played with recent LIV winner Talor Gooch on Monday at Oak Hill. In his mind, person-to-person, nothing has changed. In fact, the most jarring shift at the Masters, he said, was sartorial.

“I think the first person I saw was Dustin [Johnson] from LIV and I didn’t realize how long it had been until I looked down and I saw him wearing FootJoys, and I was like, okay, this doesn’t add up,” Rahm said, referencing Johnson’s split with his longtime sponsor Adidas, which happened earlier this year.

Nor was Rahm eager to play the prediction game. That’s not to say he wasn’t willing to talk about it — he was notably game to talk about anything, really — but didn’t know how to handicap things.

“It all depends who you talk to,” he said. “If you talk to a LIV player, this is going to be great, it’s only going to get better. You talk to people on the other side, in two years they’re going to be done. I really couldn’t tell you. I have no clue. I really have no clue.”

Rahm’s approach struck an obvious contrast to that of Rory McIlroy, who’d vacated the interview podium just six minutes before he arrived. McIlroy has taken center stage in the intergalactic tour war but has recently acknowledged the emotional toll that has taken. Asked in his presser whether he was intentionally side-stepping questions about the LIV narrative, he gave a short response:


Rahm acknowledged that taking on that burden would have been, well, a burden.

“Over a year, yeah, I think it could take some energy out of you,” he said.

He added that he doesn’t see the feud as player vs. player, which means the LIV decision falls outside his jurisdiction — and those who have made it fall outside his judgment.

“It’s not my place to judge what [LIV players] do with their life,” he said. “I can agree with it or not, but I’m not going to be judgmental in that sense. Obviously there’s some things in life, some values that I believe in that I might judge if you compromise, but that is your choice to do with your career.

“It’s your life, it’s your family. You do whatever you want. From that point of view, I’m nobody to tell them what to do. That’s why I would never get emotionally invested in something like that.

“It’s their life.”

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