Jon Rahm chuckled before he answered. He knew he would be asked the question, and he was just asked some version of it in the media center a bit earlier. He also knew, for the most part, exactly what he wanted to say.
That topic — the 18 LIV Golf players in the field at this week’s BMW PGA Championship — has been a controversial one the past few days. The BMW PGA is the DP World Tour’s flagship event but, unlike the PGA Tour, LIV golfers are still on the DP World Tour. (The DP World Tour suspended them, but a U.K. arbiter granted a stay of execution.)
That means this week’s field has some players entered who have not normally teed it up at the Wentworth Club in England. For some LIV players, it’s an important start — World Ranking points are up for grabs (they aren’t available in LIV events yet), and those points go a long way in securing invites to majors.
The main issue here is that those players, even if they have qualified through priority rankings, are kicking other DP World Tour members out. Some even received LIV contracts, so other pros see it as a double-dip.
“In my understanding, there is a double standard when it comes to the relationship LIV has with the [DP World Tour] and the PGA Tour,” said Rahm, when speaking to Sky Sports on Tuesday. “The PGA Tour can survive without some of the biggest stars because there’s so many new ones coming in. The [DP World Tour], some of those bigger names you still may need.
“I don’t necessarily disagree too much with that,” Rahm continued. “What I do disagree with is some of the names that have never expressed any support toward the [DP World Tour], any interest, or the event, whatsoever, and to be giving those players an opportunity and take it from players who have dedicated themselves to the [DP World Tour], I think it’s wrong.”
The issue is personal for Rahm. The first player out, he said, was Alfredo Garcia-Heredia, a fellow Spaniard and close friend of his. He’s played 20 events on the DP World Tour this year but didn’t get in the field.
The interviewer brought up the names Talor Gooch and Abraham Ancer as LIV players who have been criticized for entering the tournament and pushing others out. Gooch has never played in a DP World Tour event; Ancer has played in a few but never a BMW PGA.
“I’m not going to name anybody, but the only reason they are here is for World Ranking points, hoping they can finish in the top 50 to then play certain majors,” Rahm said. “It’s clear as day. And if they are saying otherwise they are not fooling anybody, at least not me.”
Rahm said he has no issues with LIV players like Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter playing Wentworth, because those pros spent years on the DP World Tour and earned their spot. He even included Patrick Reed, who has long played European events, saying Reed’s shown interest over the years and “earned” his right to be there.
“But some players, even though they qualified, however they qualified, they are taking a spot from some players that deserve it way more than they do,” Rahm said.
Billy Horschel was even more blunt.
“I believe that they shouldn’t be here,” Horschel said. “I believe it’s a slap in the face to the regular members, to the guys who are actually supporting this tour going forward.”