Jon Rahm, the renowned golfer, has made a surprising decision to join the Saudi-funded LIV Golf League, breaking away from the PGA Tour. Speculation had been rife on social media for a week before Rahm appeared on Fox News wearing a black letterman’s jacket emblazoned with the LIV Golf logo. In an interview with LIV broadcaster David Feherty, Rahm explained that he was drawn to the league because of its innovation and vision, which aligned with his own aspirations. The financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but reports suggest that it could be in the region of $500 million, including equity in Rahm’s new team. This move raises several questions regarding the impact on the PGA Tour and its negotiations with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
Rahm’s decision is a significant one for LIV Golf, as he is the reigning Masters champion and currently ranked third in the world. With 20 victories in his professional career, Rahm is undoubtedly the highest-profile signing for LIV since its establishment in 2022. The league had previously faced criticism for signing players in the twilight of their careers, but with Rahm joining the ranks, it now boasts seven of the last 14 major championship winners, including Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Bryson DeChambeau. LIV Golf players have won at least one major every year since 2015, and Rahm’s addition is expected to further enhance the league’s reputation and attract more players to defect from the PGA Tour.
The timing of Rahm’s decision is also noteworthy. Alongside Koepka and Rory McIlroy, Rahm had been vocal in his opposition to a Saudi-funded rival league even before LIV Golf’s inception. However, the PGA Tour stunned many in June by announcing a private partnership with the Public Investment Fund. Rahm expressed his disappointment with the PGA Tour’s management, stating that there was a feeling of betrayal among many people. This led to speculation about Rahm’s potential move to LIV, which he initially dismissed. However, his change of heart indicates that he sees the evolving landscape of golf and recognizes the opportunities presented by LIV Golf.
Rahm’s decision is likely to have repercussions for both LIV Golf and the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour has undoubtedly lost a significant market share with Rahm’s departure. It may also complicate the ongoing negotiations between the PGA Tour and the Public Investment Fund, as the Saudis now have the leverage of having signed one of golf’s biggest stars. Additionally, Rahm’s move could have implications for other players, such as Mackenzie Hughes, who finished 51st in the FedEx Cup. Without Rahm’s PGA Tour membership next year, Hughes could potentially secure a spot in the top 50 and gain eligibility for the $20 million signature events in 2024.
For Rahm himself, this decision brings substantial financial rewards. With career earnings on the PGA Tour amounting to $51.5 million, his new deal with LIV Golf is expected to be approximately ten times that amount. As the Masters champion, he also enjoys lifelong playing privileges and exemptions to major championships. However, his participation in the Ryder Cup and his European tour membership are still to be determined. McIlroy has suggested that European rules may need to be altered for Rahm’s inclusion in the team in 2025. Alternatively, Rahm could maintain his European tour membership and pay fines for participating in LIV Golf tournaments, a cost he can likely afford.
In conclusion, Jon Rahm’s decision to join the Saudi-funded LIV Golf League is a significant development in the world of professional golf. His move not only strengthens LIV Golf’s roster but also poses challenges for the PGA Tour and its negotiations with the Public Investment Fund. Rahm’s decision is likely to have a ripple effect on other players and could impact their eligibility for future events. While Rahm stands to gain immense financial benefits, there are still uncertainties regarding his participation in the Ryder Cup and his European tour membership. Only time will tell how this move will shape the future of golf.