Jon Rahm’s curious PGA Tour remarks raise eyebrows at PGA Championship

jon rahm speaks at press conference at the PGA Championship in blue shirt and red hat

Jon Rahm's defense of the PGA Tour raised eyebrows on Tuesday at the PGA Championship.

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It’s always awkward staying on good terms with an old flame.

Somewhere between the scorched-earth-ex and the definitely-still-in-love lies a happy medium that can be hard to find. Especially if, like Jon Rahm, you never fully broke up in the first place.

Of course, we’re not talking love, we’re talking LIV. And when it came to Rahm’s new employer on PGA Championship Tuesday, Rahm was feeling … perhaps a little too fond of his old fling.

“See, you guys keep saying ‘the other side‘ but I’m still a PGA Tour member, whether suspended or not,” Rahm said on Tuesday morning at the PGA Championship. “I still want to support the PGA Tour. And I think that’s an important distinction to make.”

That distinction is the status of his PGA Tour membership, which remains murky thanks to the ever-tedious minutiae of the PGA Tour rulebook. Basically, there are three categories of LIV Golf defections among the playing class of professional golf. There are those who remained loyal to the Tour, those who freely parted with their Tour membership in favor of the greener pastures of LIV Golf and then there’s Rahm’s category: Those who never officially left the Tour, but who started playing for LIV Golf.

Confused? Let us explain. When LIV was formed, the Tour had no formal way to “ban” players from competition by revoking their memberships. Rather, the Tour’s only disciplinary pathway was to suspend those who violated Tour rules from competing in Tour events, with compounding penalties for each successive LIV event played. Given that this pathway left open the possibility of a grand reunion, a small but notable contingent of LIV’s players continued to compete for the rival tour without ever formally passing up their Tour memberships.

Rahm was chief among this contingent. The two-time major winner was perhaps LIV’s most congenial defection, leaving with the Tour late in 2023 without so much as a bad word spoken by most of the Tour’s playing class. Gone were the acrimony and explosiveness that joined so many of the early defections, replaced by a decidedly unusual breed of judge-not-lest-ye-be-judged from the Tour holdouts.

Rahm is popular, regarded by many of his peers as a decent guy, which figured into his treatment by his counterparts. On Tuesday, it was clear that for Rahm, the feeling is mutual.

“I don’t feel like I’m on the other side,” Rahm said. “I’m just not playing there. That’s at least for me personally.”

It was strange to hear Rahm speak so glowingly of the Tour he left merrily for many, many millions of dollars last winter — and stranger still to hear him triple-down on the sentiment of warmth toward the Tour. Sure, it’s one thing to leave on amicable terms, as Rahm’s LIV teammate Dustin Johnson did, but it’s another entirely to present a vision for golf that feels so incongruent with reality.

For the foreseeable future, Rahm’s current and former employers are at war, and the status of that war was affected in no small way by Rahm’s decision to leave. He undermined his fellow pros, and they’d have every reason to feel jilted and galled by his decision-making, not sympathetic to some of the hopes shared on Tuesday.

“Even though I’m playing full-time on LIV Golf, I’ve said many times, had I been allowed, I would have played some [PGA Tour] events earlier in the year,” Rahm said. “And if allowed in the future and not conflicting with my schedule, I would play in the future.”

It didn’t take long for the obliviousness of Rahm’s comments to reach the golf mainstream. Within a few minutes of his press conference, Golf Channel’s Arron Oberholser stared into a camera and said he’d like to “ring Rahm by the neck.”

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“He doesn’t get it,” Oberholser said. “To this day, he doesn’t get it.”

Oberholser’s criticism is fair. In fact, it’s the exact kind of critique Rahm said he knew he’d get for joining LIV in December. But the fact that Rahm delivered his comments anyway points to a greater subplot in Rahm’s LIV defection.

The truth is that it never made much sense for Rahm, a golfer who proudly presents as a scholar of sport’s history and legacy, to leave for a league without either. And it makes plenty of sense for Rahm, a golfer whose golf nerdom knows no bounds, to desire a future in which he can freely chart his course among all of golf’s available tours.

Neither of those things mean that Rahm deserves these rights. Some would argue (very saliently) that he surrendered them the second he signed on the dotted line. But it is telling that LIV’s most high-profile arrival still wishes the best for his ex — and maybe sometimes wishes they were still together.

“That’s why I think it’s important [to say I’m still a PGA Tour member],” Rahm said. “The PGA Tour has given me so much, and has given me this platform and the opportunity that I’m not really going to turn to the side and go against it, because I’m not going against it.”

Ah, the things we do for love.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.