Jon Rahm won four times on the PGA Tour in 2023 - including a second major title at The Masters - and was part of Europe's winning Ryder Cup team; Spaniard becomes the latest major champion to join the LIV Golf League
Friday 8 December 2023 13:07, UK
Masters champion Jon Rahm has become the latest high-profile player to switch to the LIV Golf League after signing a deal understood to be worth up to £450m.
Rahm, a former critic of LIV, will be the highest-ranked player to join the league, with the world No 3 enjoying an impressive 2023 that saw him win four times on the PGA Tour - including victory at The Masters - and be part of Europe's successful Ryder Cup team.
Speculation over Rahm's future increased last month when he pulled out of the inaugural TGL season, the indoor golf league fronted by Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods and since postponed until 2025, with the Spaniard citing 'a level of commitment I can't offer' as the reason for withdrawing.
Rumours intensified after his tied-fifth finish at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, with Spanish media reporting the possibility of Rahm joining LIV Golf, although the two-time major winner had yet to comment publicly on his golfing future.
Rahm was a noticeable absentee from the list of names committing to the PGA Tour's American Express from January 18-21, despite being the defending champion and a two-time winner of the event, with the 29-year-old now ending doubts over his future by confirming his deal with LIV Golf.
He told Fox News: "Things have changed a lot in the game of golf over the past two years and I've seen the growth of LIV Golf and the innovation.
"That's why I'm here today. This decision was made for many reasons and what I thought was best for me. Don't get me wrong, it's a great deal.
"I've been very happy but there is a lot of things that LIV Golf has to offer that were very enticing. It was a great offer. The money is great, obviously it's wonderful.
"What I said before is true: I do not play golf for the money. I play golf for the love of the game and for the love of golf.
"But, as a husband, as a father and as a family man I have a duty to my family to give them the best opportunities and the most amount of resources possible and that is where that comes in.
"I'm no stranger to hearing some negative things on social media or in media. It's part of what it is, we're public figures but you just learn to deal with it right? This certainly won't define who I am or change who I am."
Rahm accepts he has "taken a risk" in terms of participating in future Ryder Cups for Europe as he will need to remain a member of the DP World Tour to stay eligible for selection.
He added: "My position for the Ryder Cup remains the same. I've explained many times how meaningful it is to me and I hope I can be in future editions.
"That's not up to me right now, but if it was up to me, I'll be eligible to play so I surely hope I can keep up the good golf and give them a reason to have me on the team.
"It's a big risk to take, but I've had it in consideration and again, I'm hopeful that I can be part of the team again."
In an interview with LIV itself, the 29-year-old said: "I believe in the growth of the game of golf. I've largely spoken about how Seve [Ballesteros] improved the game of golf in Spain and I've always said how I'd like to do the same thing over there and if I can reach a bigger audience here it would be amazing.
"I do believe this process will help me do that."
And asked what enticed him about the LIV format, Rahm said: "Even though it's not part of this sport, it is now though, it is the team aspect of things. Some of the biggest sporting events for the most part, people are following their team. I myself growing up being a massive Athletic Bilbao fan I realised that has a bit of an appeal, much more than I gave it credit to even in golf."
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, McIlroy expressed stark concern that professional golf risked "cannibalising" itself with further high-profile defections to LIV.
"My fear is that we continue down this path where we have competing tours and it divides the eyeballs that are on the game," said the four-time major champion.
"Some people like LIV, the majority of people like the PGA Tour, but if LIV start to take a few players each and every year it's really going to be divided and that's no good for anyone.
"You're basically cannibalising yourself as a sport, sort of the same as what boxing has done with all the different organisations and a few other sports have as well. To me, having all the best golfers under the one umbrella is the best way forward because I think that's really what the public wants."
Rahm's defection comes at a time when Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour are attempting to thrash out the details of an alliance, with an initial deadline of December 31.
The switch represents an about-turn for Rahm, who said during last year's US Open he did not like the LIV format and the financial gains on offer for joining the Saudi-backed league would "not change his lifestyle".
Rahm said back then: "Shotgun [start] with three days to me is not a golf tournament, no cut. It's that simple. I wanna play against the best in the world in a format that's been going on for hundreds of years.
"Would my lifestyle change if I got $400m? It would not change one bit. Truth be told, I could retire now with what I have made and live a very happy life and not play golf again.
"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."
May 31 2022: First players announced including Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood
June 6 2022: Phil Mickelson joins
June 10 2022: Bryson DeChambeau joins
June 21 2022: Brooks Koepka joins
August 30 2022: Cameron Smith joins
December 7 2023: Jon Rahm joins
February 2022 - The only appeal is monetary
"I am officially declaring my fealty to the PGA Tour. I have a lot of belief in Jay Monahan and the product.
"There's been a lot of talk and speculation on the Saudi league and it's just not something that I believe is best for me and my future in golf. I think the best legacy I can accomplish is on the PGA Tour.
"Everybody's free to make their own choice [but] all I can say is from somebody young like myself who has his entire future ahead of him, it doesn't seem like a smart thing.
"The only appeal I see is monetary, right? I think there's a lot more to be able to play for besides just money on the PGA Tour. There's history, there's legacy."
June 2022 - My heart is with the PGA Tour
"There's meaning when you win the Memorial Championship. Meaning when you win Arnold Palmer's event at Bay Hill. Meaning when you win, LA, Torrey [Pines, some of the historic venues. That to me matters a lot.
"After winning this past US Open, only me and Tiger have won at Torrey Pines. That's a memory I'm going to have forever that not many people can say. My heart is with the PGA Tour. That's all I can say."
November 2022 - Every decision I make is to become best player I can be
"Money is not why I started playing, it's not the reason why I play. When I'm doing my schedule, when I'm practicing and I'm getting my things done, money is not really on my mind. If it was, I probably might have gone to LIV.
"If money is your goal, that's clearly the path to go down. Every decision I make when it comes to golf is to become the best player I can become."
July 2023 - LIV players should be punished if they return to PGA Tour
"I can understand people on the PGA Tour not wanting (LIV players) back. I can also understand why some of them want to come back. There's some great events a lot of people probably want to play again, some great golf courses as well.
"I do believe some punishment should be in order but I don't know what - I'm not a politician. That's not my job. That's for the disciplinary board and other people that are paid to do that. My job is to hit the golf ball and try to do the best I can."
August 2023 - I've never liked the LIV format
"I laugh when people rumour me with LIV Golf. I've never liked the format. Phil [Mickelson] respects my decision, and I respect his (choice). He has told me that I have no reason to go play for LIV, and he has told me that multiple times."
2013 US Open champion and Rahm's Ryder Cup team-mate Justin Rose:
"Jon is a huge coup for LIV and a huge blow for the PGA Tour. It is tough for the PGA Tour to lose Rahmbo.
"It comes at a very interesting time with negotiations going on and the December deadline, talks that I think are quite confusing for people on the outside.
"The recruiting is starting pretty hard again and it's a big statement, big news. There are other rumours out there and I have spoken to the other named rumours and they are playing it pretty straight. I don't know where the truth lies."
2015 PGA champion Jason Day:
"I think if there was ever a person to go across it's him. He's got at least the next five years of majors and Augusta for the rest of his life. If someone was a good candidate it was probably him.
"Some guys do it for the money, the majority of the time it is for the money, which I have no problem with. It's just a bit unfortunate that we are going to lose one.
"It would have been nice to get past this [December 31] deadline and see where things fell before he could make a decision but I can't fault him for making a decision for himself and his family."
Six-time PGA tour winner Rickie Fowler:
"His decision doesn't affect me necessarily, but it'll be interesting to see how things continue to play out. Timelines of things, with the deal deadline being end of the year it's hard to really think that goes through just with the timing of it and how much would have to get done between now and then.
Ultimately down the road division isn't a good thing so I'm hopeful things will continue to work in the right direction for the greater [good] of the game but what that is, I don't know.
Former PGA Tour winner, now Golf Channel analyst, Brandel Chamblee:
"The stark contract to what he has said in the past, what he has intimated a great many times in the past, with what he has said today it's clearly that it was more convenient for him to do this.
"It's also clear that he's sold his career out. If it's $300m or $400m or $560m I would still say he's short-sighted himself because he did sell his career for, I think, half the price that it would ultimately be worth.
"Rory McIlroy is worth $1bn or close to it. Tiger Woods is worth $1bn or close to it."
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