"LIV will be very giddy this morning and chomping at the bit that they've smashed up what we have known to be professional golf in the last 40 or 50 years," says Paul McGinley; Jon Rahm has defected to LIV in what is understood to be a deal worth up to £450m
Saturday 9 December 2023 07:05, UK
Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley believes Jon Rahm's defection to LIV represents a "seismic shift" in golf and is a "huge blow" for the established tours.
After weeks of speculation, world No 3 Rahm confirmed on Thursday that he had signed for LIV Golf in what arguably represents the most significant defection to the Saudi-funded league so far.
The deal understood to be worth up to £450m.
"It's a massive blow. It's a huge blow," McGinley told Sky Sports News.
"This is a seismic shift in terms of power within the game of golf towards the Saudi league and away from the tours. Away from the DP World Tour as well as the PGA Tour.
"LIV will be very giddy this morning and chomping at the bit that they've smashed up what we have known to be professional golf in the last 40 or 50 years."
Rahm said his switch from 2024 "was made for many reasons".
While the 29-year-old acknowledged "the money is great, obviously it's wonderful", he insisted "I do not play golf for the money" and that he wanted to help grow golf's following through LIV.
"If I can reach a bigger audience here it would be amazing. I do believe this process will help me do that," Rahm added.
McGinley, however, is no more convinced by that argument than with similar statements made by other golfers who have defected to LIV over the past 18 months.
"I don't know who to trust or what to say anymore because so many people have completely reversed their positions on what they said," said McGinley.
"Jon Rahm came out very strongly in support of the tours and came out very, very strongly that this was not a good format [in LIV], that he didn't enjoy it, that he didn't see any future in it, that he was chasing his own career and titles on the PGA Tour, titles on the DP World Tour and obviously Ryder Cup and he knows that by going here it's going to put a lot of that in jeopardy.
"Whether it does or not we'll have to wait and see but it's a complete reversal of the position he's stood very strongly on."
Rahm also said he was enticed by the team aspect of the LIV format, but McGinley added: "I don't believe it is anything to do with that and it's purely to do with a huge gigantic amount of money that has been put in front of them, like it has been with all the previous players.
"Whether this format ignites, I'd be surprised. I think we have got a great history in the game of 50 years of some of the biggest titles and following legacies of great players, and for them to walk away from all of that and start something new that's so much unproven at this moment in time, there has to be a big incentive to do that.
"The incentive is obviously financial."
Sky Sports Golf's Rich Beem:
"I had to laugh when Rahm spoke about what LIV had to offer. Well, they are offering almost half a billion pounds. That's a pretty good offer. I think you would be silly not to take the money.
"I dare anybody, with the exception of two or three guys in the world golf-wise, to turn that sort of money down. It is just astronomical. It is generational wealth, money that very few people in this world have access to. Jon is now one of them.
"It is massively damaging for the PGA Tour. It tells me there is something going on behind the scenes with the PGA Tour where he said, 'I am going to sign with LIV, get my guaranteed money, know I will have a job for the next three years and see what happens after that'."
Jamie Spence, on the Sky Sports Golf Podcast:
"You are confronted with a guy who has probably got £100m in his account and the rest and now he is taking more as he has to look after his family. That is the biggest load of b******t I hear. It is just greed, that's the shocking part. It is a rich man getting richer.
"I am not a fan of only thinking about yourself in life, there is a bigger picture. Forget everyone else, Jon, who has worked really hard behind the scenes to promote you, put these tournaments on for you and get you where you want to go…
"It is an aggressive move from LIV. How are you going to form a tour where Rahm can come and play in PGA Tour events, DP World Tour events, and he is earning all this money?
"Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler and the other guys won't play for nothing. I don't know how that is all going to come together. How do you strike a deal that is fair?
"My reading is that something has gone awry with the talks. Why would LIV sign Rahm if they are going to come to an agreement with the PGA Tour?
"Golf is being ravaged because [PIF] are not coming in with agreements and doing it in a good way. They are knocking the door down, buying what they can and causing disruption.
"I think Rahm has signed because the PGA Tour is all about Tiger Woods and McIlroy and that has started to p**s him off."
Rahm's defection comes against the backdrop of the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) attempting to finalise the framework agreement before the December 31 deadline.
"I'm hoping there is going to be a deal," said McGinley. "I thought we were going to do a deal with Saudi when there was an announcement on June 6. But obviously that's taken a turn for the worse.
"Private equity became involved and they looked at coming into golf and obviously muddied the waters. This [LIV's signing of Rahm] I'd guess you'd call it a negotiating tactic and it's part of the discussions that probably Saudi didn't feel things were going their way in terms of getting a agreement together so they have brought out the chequebook to put things in the favour.
"That's what it looks like from the outside."
McGinley also believes changes to nature of the way players compete on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour are inevitable.
"The players are not contracted to play the tours, they are independent traders, and they can act on their own free will," he explained.
"What's happened here is Saudi have come in, started this new league called LIV knowing that the players are not contracted, and they've been able to pick them off with these huge offers.
"It's not like there is a trade and when they are leaving the PGA Tour and the European Tour get a transfer fee, that's not the case.
"One of the things that LIV have done which is absolutely right in my view and where they have really got it right is they have contracted the players. So Jon Rahm will be contracted to play 14 or 15 events on the LIV tour next year and he has no options on that.
"Whereas in the last five or six years since Jon has been playing on the PGA and European tours, he has been able to pick and choose where he wants to play and obviously picks the bigger events
"So that dynamic will change and will have to change in the tours going forward because you can't have players coming and going whenever it suits them and leaving the members organisation."
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