Jon Rahm can still play Ryder Cup if he does 1 thing

Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton pictured at the Ryder Cup

Jon Rahm and fellow LIV golfer Tyrrell Hatton during the 2023 Ryder Cup.

getty images

In the days following Jon Rahm’s surprise defection to LIV Golf early last December, Rory McIlroy was already thinking Ryder Cup. He spoke so resolutely that he had to have been thinking about it for days, maybe even weeks. 

“The European Tour are going to have to rewrite the rules for Ryder Cup eligibility,” McIlroy said to SkySports’ Jamie Weir. “Like absolutely, there’s no question about that. I certainly want Jon Rahm on the next Ryder Cup team.” 

As it turns out, McIlroy was thinking a bit too far ahead. There was no need for rules changes. The DP World Tour hasn’t changed a thing about how the European RC team will be created — and hasn’t even announced qualification rules yet — but barring any surprising adjustments, Rahm and his fellow European LIV players will be eligible, so long as they follow some rules. 

How? Let us explain. 

When he made that statement, McIlroy had just competed with Rahm two months earlier at the Ryder Cup in Italy, winning the biennial event in dominant fashion over the Americans. Notably, Sergio Garcia was absent. One of the best players in the history of the Cup was not considered for a captain’s pick by Luke Donald because Garcia had surrendered his DP World Tour membership. 

The key to Garcia getting a look (among other reasons) begins and ends with this DP World Tour membership. In order to be a Ryder Cup member for Team Europe, one needs to be a DP World Tour member. For Rahm and, say, Tyrrell Hatton, it is no different. They need to maintain DP World Tour membership in 2024, which means they need to earn it in 2023. This was clear last year and was reiterated by new DPWT CEO, Guy Kinnings, in a sit-down with media in Central London Friday. 

“The reality is that until we announce the qualification process, which we don’t need to do yet as that doesn’t start for another four to five months, it’s kind of speculation,” Kinnings told members of the U.K. media, according to various reports. “But, if you look at what the qualification/eligibility criteria was for 2023, then I think there has been a slight misconception because the reality is under the current rules, if a player is European and is a member of the DP World Tour and abides by the rules as they currently are — so, if you don’t get a release, there are sanctions and if you accept those sanctions and take those penalties and work with that — there is no reason why players who’ve taken LIV membership but maintain membership with the DP World Tour could not A) qualify or B) be available for selection.”

If that sounds a bit confusing, here’s the simple answer: Jon Rahm earns a one-event suspension on the DP World Tour for every single LIV Golf event he plays. Those regulations were handed down in the summer of 2022, when LIV Golf launched, pulling players from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour to their events without first obtaining conflicting event releases. When Rahm plays in this week’s LIV event, in Australia, he gets suspended/banned from competing in next week’s DP World Tour event, the Volvo China Open. When he competes on in Singapore next week, he’ll be suspended from competing in the next DP World Tour event, the Soudal Open, in Belgium, in late May. Each time he plays, he also incurs a fine, but Rahm has no financial constraints — we all know that

The real trick lies in how many DP World Tour events Rahm can then play, given these hovering suspensions. Because in order to retain membership, Rahm must compete in a minimum of four DP World Tour events this season outside of the major championships. He has thus far competed in zero. Tyrrell Hatton has competed in one, the Dubai Desert Classic, back in January. 

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“It’s not a loophole,” Kinnings told the group, according to reports, “because that’s the rules we’ve always had and those are the rules we are going to continue to apply.”

Okay then. How exactly does Rahm thread the needle here, playing in every LIV Golf event, as he has been contracted to do, earn suspensions for the succeeding week’s DPWT event, and then still compete four times before the season is finished? He’s going to have to play plenty of golf in September, but he may really want to. That’s when the DPWT heads to his homeland, Spain. 

Looking at the schedule LIV Golf has in 2024 — which still has two events that have not been announced — Rahm will likely incur suspensions for, or struggle to travel to, every DPWT event in May and June. He could find himself available for the BMW International Open in Germany the first week of July, so if you see him playing that event, know he’s taking this all very seriously. 

Even if Rahm doesn’t play that event, he’ll likely have a stretch in the fall that allows him to play the Spanish Open, the Dunhill Links Championship, the French Open and the Andalucia Masters in successive weeks, two of those events taking place in Spain. It will be prime time European golf season as the DPWT hosts the British Masters, the Irish Open and the tour’s premier event, the BMW PGA Championship, all at the beginning of September. Then the Season of Rahm could follow. If Rahm were to play well, he may even earn enough Race to Dubai points to advance to the DP World Tour playoffs in November, after LIV’s season would have likely been finished. 

So, what are golf fans supposed to think of it? 

Once again, stay patient. Rahm will no doubt be asked about his intentions for his summer schedule in the coming weeks at the PGA Championship, if not sooner. He will be a busy golfer, either way, with the Olympic Golf Competition also on his horizon. But if he wants the Ryder Cup badly enough, there’s a path for him to follow that leads all the way to Bethpage. 

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.

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