Jon Rahm was not among the marquee names announced for the PGA Tour's American Express tournament in California, for which he is the reigning champion; reports claim the Spaniard is weighing a lucrative offer to sign with LIV Golf
Wednesday 6 December 2023 15:54, UK
Speculation that Jon Rahm is weighing a lucrative offer to sign with LIV Golf received additional fuel on Wednesday as the Spaniard was not included among the notable names listed as committed to the PGA Tour's American Express field next month.
Rahm has regularly played the tournament in La Quinta, California as part of his West Coast swing schedule, with one of his two wins at the event coming earlier this year.
However, he was not among the marquee names released by tournament organisers on Wednesday, that included Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau and Tom Kim.
It is highly unusual for a defending champion to not enter an event, especially one Rahm has enjoyed significant success at.
It is worth noting the 2024 schedule features eight designated events, causing players who qualify for them to carefully evaluate their schedules in conjunction with the four majors and the Players Championship.
The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines - the site of Rahm's first major triumph at the 2021 US Open - is the week after the American Express. That is followed by the first designated event at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
That tournament is immediately followed by the WM Phoenix Open just a short drive from Rahm's home and the Genesis Invitational, where he is also the defending champion.
It's very possible the new schedule, along with the torrid start Rahm enjoyed last year, makes it too challenging to defend in La Quinta.
However, until Rahm is named in a field for a 2024 PGA Tour event, speculation will continue over whether he is indeed weighing an offer from LIV reportedly in the neighbourhood of $600m.
Rahm initially committed to the TGL venture backed by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, only to withdraw from the virtual league's inaugural season, citing schedule constraints. The TGL has since postponed its first season to 2025 due to damaged caused to its facility by a collapsed roof.
Rahm also was not in the Bahamas last week, where 20 marquee players teed it up in the Hero World Challenge hosted by Woods.
That came a week after golf writer Alan Shipnuck claimed Phil Mickelson has been telling people that Rahm signing with the Saudi-backed league is a "done deal." Mickelson sharply denied the report.
However, Jordan Spieth acknowledged the Rahm-LIV rumours after his second round in the Bahamas.
"I know there's been some guys that have talked to him," Spieth said Friday.
"I know he's maybe weighing some decisions, maybe not. I really don't know, so I don't want to insult him and say he's weighing decisions if he already knows he's not or he is. You know, that's somewhat out of my control in a way.
"Obviously, I could speak probably on behalf of 200-plus PGA Tour players in saying that we really hope that he's continuing with us."
Also of note is that Cantlay and Schauffele were included among those committed to the AmEx. Both players have been mentioned as potential marquee names also considering a jump to LIV, especially after withdrawing from the Hero World Challenge.
The PGA Tour is working toward a December 31 deadline for a framework deal put in place with the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund and the DP World Tour in June.
Woods, who joined the PGA Tour's Policy Board as a player director, said things continue to evolve "very quickly" as the deadline approaches.
"Nothing has really surprised me other than the fact that there's so many different things that have happened so fast," Woods said Friday when asked about the rumours of more players signing with LIV.
"That's one of the things that all of our -- all of us as player-directors we've been working on, just that everything is now at a time crunch."
"It's 24 hours a day just trying to figure it out."
For his part, Rahm has yet to comment since the latest LIV rumours surfaced. They arose after his most recent tournament at last month's DP World Championship, where he tied for fifth.
Sky Sports pundit Jamie Weir, gave an update on the speculation around Rahm's future with the PGA Tour.
"It's becoming very difficult to get any answer out of Jon Rahm. I have reached out to his agent, who I've got a very good relationship with. I've had nothing back from him at all.
"Is it a surprise? Yes, in one way it would be a huge surprise if he did jump to LIV because he's been very outspoken in the past about the fact that he respects the tradition and the legacies and the history of the game, and that he doesn't need the money. And he's inspired by following the footsteps of his heroes like Seve Ballesteros and Jose María Olazabal.
"But in a way, it's not a surprise either because he's stayed very close with the likes of Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, two LIV players and who I would imagine very persuasive characters, who would be speaking to Jon on a regular basis. It would be an enormous coup for LIV, make no doubt about it, because he is a superstar.
"The players they have signed in the past have either been slightly over the hill or they've been kind of unpopular characters, divisive characters in the PGA Tour. Jon Rahm is the world No 3. He's at the height of his powers. He's a two-time major champion, so it'll be a tremendous coup for LIV.
"It would be a huge blow for the PGA Tour. He hasn't been listed in the field for the American Express Championship next month, which is on his doorstep in Arizona, a tournament he always plays in, so that's a bit of a red flag as well, but at the moment it's all still guesswork."
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