Jon Rahm joins LIV Golf, marking pro golf’s latest shocker
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After weeks of speculation on Rahm’s intentions to join the upstart Saudi-funded golf league, Rahm announced in a press conference Thursday that he has indeed signed on to play for LIV. The deal is reportedly worth nine figures.
Rahm, the World No. 3, represents LIV Golf’s biggest coup since the tour launched two years ago. Rahm has been one of the leading players on the PGA Tour for the past few years, capturing two majors, including the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and his first Masters title at Augusta National this past April.
In all, Rahm secured 11 PGA Tour victories in his eight-year career. This past season, Rahm won four times and accumulated a total of 10 top-10s.
“The past two years, there’s been a lot of evolving in the game of golf, right?” Rahm said by way of explaining his decision. “Things have changed a lot, and. And so have I. Seeing the growth of LIV Golf, seeing the evolution of LIV Golf and the innovation is something that’s really captured my attention. And that’s why we’re here today.”
When asked how he planned to deal with the inevitable backlash he’ll receive from deserting the PGA Tour for LIV riches, Rahm said, “Every decision I feel like we make in life, there would be somebody who agrees and likes it and somebody who does it, right? I’ve made this decision because I believe is the best for me and my family. And everybody’s been able to talk to has been really supportive of me. So I’m very comfortable with my position.”
The timing of the announcement is also notable. While the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF), which owns and operates LIV Golf, announced a framework agreement this spring, the deal is not official. Both parties have a deadline of Dec. 31 to finalize their partnership.
The question now is how Rahm’s departure from the Tour will impact those negotiations. Rahm said he knows little about the status of the framework agreement and whatever the future might hold for a LIV-PGA Tour partnership did not factor into his decision. When asked about how his jump to LIV might affect the PGA Tour, Rahm said, “I really haven’t thought about it.”
As the war between the PGA Tour and LIV roiled pro golf over the past two years, Rahm has remained neutral with his public comments, avoiding direct criticism that became the norm from other leading Tour pros like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.
At the 2022 PGA Championship, Rahm was asked about the feud and said, “I’m the wrong player to ask. 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.”
He also commented on what he envisioned for the future of LIV.
“It all depends who you talk to,” Rahm said in May. “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.”
Still, as recently as June, Rahm also said the kind of money that LIV could offer him would not change his lifestyle, adding, “I’ve never played the game of golf for monetary reasons. I play for the love of the game and I want to play against the best in the world. I’ve always been interested in history and legacy and right now the PGA Tour has that.” Of LIV’s unconventional competitive format, he added: “Shotgun, three days is not a golf tournament — no cut. It’s that simple.”
When asked on Thursday how he reconciles these remarks, Rahm said: “There’s always going to be some things that are not perfect, but that’s the situation in everybody’s life. Some things I can live with. With that said, again, [LIV is] an ever-growing and ever-changing machine, right? So I’m hopeful that the leaders of LIV Golf may listen to some of my advice and maybe see some changes in the future for the better of the game.”
In September 2022, Rahm shot down rumors that he was joining LIV, responding to another X account’s report by writing, “I must inform you that you have started a losing streak because you and your source are wrong. I want to thank you for the lift in the PIP.”
After the PGA Tour made a series of changes players favored to combat LIV, including massively increasing purse sizes at designated events, Rahm admitted that the arrival of LIV Golf was the catalyst for those changes.
“I mean, without a doubt. Without LIV Golf, this wouldn’t have happened. So to an extent, like I’ve said before, we should be thankful this threat has made the PGA Tour want to change things. I think I said it last week, as well; I wish it didn’t come to the PGA Tour being, you know, under fire from somebody else to make those changes and make things better for the players, but I guess it is what we needed. So, yeah, it is because of LIV Golf. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have seen any of this.”
Back in November, Rahm made a surprise announcement that he had changed his mind and would not be participating in the new TGL golf league started by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
The announcement fueled further speculation over Rahm’s future, and both McIlroy and Woods were asked about the possibility of Rahm joining LIV in the aftermath.
During a press event for his TGL team Boston Commons, McIlroy said, “I spoke to Jon [Rahm] a couple days ago and would be very, very surprised if that were to happen. I’m pretty confident Jon is a PGA Tour player.”
Then, at the Hero World Challenge last week, Woods was asked if he was surprised about the rumors of more players ditching the Tour for LIV, to which Woods replied, “I don’t — hypothetically would it surprise me, yes, but there’s so many different things that have happened in the last, as you said, 48 hours but also in the last few weeks. Things have changed and will continue to change. Our deadline’s coming up here soon, so there’s a lot of moving parts. A lot of different things are happening very quickly because we know, you know, I think today’s the first day in December; we don’t have a whole lot of time.”
Rahm joining LIV undoubtedly is a public-relations win for the two-year-old league: In 2024, the defending champions of the first two majors of the year will be LIV players, Rahm at the Masters and Brooks Koepka at the PGA Championship.