Jordan Spieth dishes surprising take on Jon Rahm’s LIV exit
One was the prestige and legacy tied to being the face of a pro golf tour. Another was the ability to grow golf back in his home country of Spain, where LIV hosts an event annually. A third said that Rahm was fed up with being left out of the Tour’s inner circle of decision-makers, and decided to voice his displeasure by leaving.
But far and away the most popular theory surrounding Rahm’s LIV departure was also the simplest: he wanted the money. LIV, backed by the near-trillion-dollar war chest of the Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund, had all the money in the world to offer Jon Rahm. And so LIV offered him life-changing money — at least $300 million, by many reports — and Rahm took the bait.
Money is pro golf’s lowest common denominator in the year 2023, and also at the center of every argument over the sport’s future. And so, it stood to reason, Rahm saw the money and ran.
But that’s not what Jordan Spieth thinks.
Spieth, Rahm’s former compatriot on the PGA Tour, has a unique perspective on the state of golf. As one of six player directors on the Tour’s all-important advisory board, Spieth has been part of the discussions about the future of professional golf at the highest level — discussions centered around whether the Tour should welcome an investment partner (or two) and the untold billions they would pump into the Tour in exchange for equity. The PIF is, of course, the highest-profile of those possible partners.
In an interview with the Associated Press‘ Doug Ferguson, Spieth said he felt the real reason Rahm jumped for LIV had more to do with the state of golf than the state of his bank account. In other words, Spieth said, the PGA Tour’s present positioning hurt Rahm’s decision as much as the money helped it.
“I don’t think for him it was the money,” Spieth said. “I believe he saw two places that neither one was in a great situation right now, and he said, ‘May as well have the money.’”
Indeed, it’s hard to argue with Spieth’s logic. The PGA Tour and LIV are in very different yet similar states of disarray — the Tour’s caused by the ruinous effects of LIV Golf’s disruption and three years worth of strained finances; LIV’s caused by the general lack of juice or intrigue surrounding its week-to-week product. The biggest difference, for players having to choose a side? LIV happens to be offering nine-figure payouts for some of the best players on the PGA Tour. The gettin’s unquestionably good, which helps to explain why Rahm decided to get his.
It helps, too, that Rahm’s decision sways the leverage of the ongoing negotiations between the PGA Tour and PIF, urging the Tour to find a path forward with the Saudis and end the state of disarray and chaos in professional golf.
“It’s a really nice play by them,” Spieth said of the Saudis. “I think we hold the best hand, but they know what our hand is. It’s a nice leveraging tool with everything going on.”
Indeed, it was. And now Spieth will be part of the group tasked with figuring out the PIF situation and charting the Tour’s future … in just the next 19 days. A meeting this week between Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and Saudi decision-maker Yasir Al-Rumayyan could help to flip the scales, but any agreement would be subject to the approval of Spieth and the rest of the folks involved with the Tour’s policy board.
In short, we’ll know soon enough how golf’s future looks, and as with everything else in golf these days, it’s a safe bet that money is at the very center of it.