Saudi deal frustrations? Jay Monahan? Rewards? Jon Rahm opens up
Jon Rahm, when we last saw him at a major championship, was feeling certain of his uncertainty.
He made it clear, too.
“A lot of you guys have talked about being clueless about last week’s news and what the future holds going forward,” a reporter began last month at the U.S. Open. “How frustrating is that …”
Before he could finish, though, Rahm butted in.
“Add me to that, by the way.”
The next 15 or so minutes at Los Angeles Country Club followed in that vain. The world’s third-ranked player talked of “faith in management.” And whether officials would make better decisions than he would. He wondered how much opinions were valued. At that point, the controversial deal between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund — which would create a new, for-profit enterprise and end pending litigation between the Tour and PIF-funded LIV Golf — was a week old, and feelings were raw. In short, the Tour and LIV had battled for a year, and now they were bedfellows. Folks, including Rahm, were reacting with understandable surprise.
But now they’re playing another major, the Open Championship. And there Rahm was again, in a pre-tournament press conference. Has progress perhaps been made? Did time perhaps do its wound-healing? In the month since, a Congressional hearing revealed some of the whys, but the hows are still largely unknown.
On Tuesday at Royal Liverpool, Rahm’s comments were at least somewhat provocative. And may tell you where things are heading.
Those frustrations? Lessened.
“Well, what you guys saw was a lot of initial reaction,” Rahm said. “Obviously it was our initial emotions as to what happened, and now a bit of the realization of, OK, now we have to wait until, what is it, January 1st or whenever the agreement says they need to finalize those negotiations. Right now, it’s kind of the game of waiting.
“Hopefully they can reach to — I don’t even know what the word is, a partnership or — because it’s not really a merger. I don’t know. A partnership that they both are happy what the outcome is going to be, and everybody can move on and be the best golf product we can put out there. Whatever that looks like, I don’t know.
“I think it’s obviously cooling down, and now we’re all waiting to see how this moves forward.”
What about communication? Has there been any?
Yes, Rahm said.
“When they need to know where our heads are at, they’ve reached out, they’ve called me, and I’ve given them my opinion,” Rahm said. “They’ve been fairly open on that. They’ve hired some people on Tour to come to tournaments, and they’re kind of in between us and some of the higher management.
“Yeah, there’s been communication, yes.”
What about Tour commissioner Jay Monahan?
If ever there were a lightning rod in all of this, it’s been Monahan, who was reportedly just one of four people to negotiate the deal, along with Tour policy board members Ed Hirlihy and Jimmy Dunne, and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the PIF governor. It was just last week, at the Scottish Open, in fact, where pro Xander Schauffele said he had “a lot less” trust in Monahan.
“My opinion of him? … I wouldn’t say it’s changed,” he said. “Jay has behaved so professionally and so well with me and my family. I’ve seen him stop to talk to my dad and my mom at a few tournaments now, and he’s been really good to my family. In that sense, he’s a really good man. That’s all I can say.
“Now, as it comes to what he’s been doing for us and the PGA Tour, I think he’s done a fantastic job. I would say it was unexpected what happened. I think what the management of the PGA Tour, the turn they took without us knowing, was very unexpected, but I still think he’s been doing a great job. And right now after that happened, I only think it’s fair to give them the right time to work things out.
“I still think they have the best interest of the players at heart. All we have right now, it’s a framework agreement. It’s an agreement to have an agreement. We really don’t have anything right now to be able to say or judge what they’ve done. That’s all I can say.”
In the six weeks since the deal, one hotly debated topic has been potential player compensation for those pros who turned down LIV money in order to remain with the Tour. One day after the deal’s announcement, at the Canadian Open, pro Rory McIlroy said he thought pros should be rewarded. Two days after, after the Canadian’s first round, pro Chesson Hadley wanted it, too.
“I would like to be rewarded for some loyalty,” he said “I mean, I felt — those guys didn’t do the wrong thing, who went to LIV. They made a business decision. I don’t hold that against anybody. But I would like to be rewarded for my decision to stay loyal.”
We’ll end things here with his answer. And his humor, which maybe says something, too.
“So I understand the PGA Tour wanting to do something for those players who helped and stayed on the PGA Tour,” Rahm said, “but at the same time — and I’ll be the first one to say — I wasn’t forced into anything. It was my choice to stay.
“Do I think they absolutely should be and there must be a compensation? No. I just stayed because I think it’s the best choice for myself and for the golf I want to play.
“Now, with that said, if they want to do it, I’m not going to say no.”