The most important piece on the board in professional golf’s ongoing chess match now belongs to LIV Golf. Jon Rahm — two-time major winner, reigning Masters champion, world No. 3 and Ryder Cup icon — will leave the PGA Tour and join LIV Golf starting in the 2024 season, according to New report by The Wall Street Journal.
Rumors of Rahm’s departure had circulated for weeks, at a time when Rahm had withdrawn from an indoor golf league planned by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. The non-denial denials then, and continued silence since, have fueled the perception that Rahm would accept a huge offer to join LIV. When Rahm did not appear at a news conference to promote a PGA Tour event where he was the defending champion, it seemed the writing was on the wall. Barring a last-minute hitch in negotiations, Rahm will join LIV for the 2024 season and beyond, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The move of such a major player into the world golf system comes at a critical time for the sport. The PGA Tour and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, LIV Golf’s financial backer, face a Dec. 31 deadline to formalize an agreement, announced in June, that would end legal hostilities between the two and lay the foundation for the sport moving forward. . The Ram’s jump to the LIV could be viewed as an act of aggression by the LIV, despite the cancellation of the no-fishing agreement between the two leagues that was initially part of the agreement. It is also a sign that PIF is willing to invest heavily in LIV’s future viability.
On a personal level, Rahm’s departure comes as a huge shock given how much he has opposed the fortunes and shape of LIV Golf in the past.
“This is the only official time I will talk about this, officially declaring my allegiance to the PGA Tour,” Rahm said in early 2022. “I have great faith in [PGA Tour commissioner] Jay Monahan and the product they will bring us in the future. There has been a lot of talk and speculation about the Saudi League. It’s not something that I think is best for me and my future in golf, and I think the best legacy I can have will be through the PGA Tour.
However, since then, Rahm has won the Masters — giving him permanent entry to Augusta, as well as several years of exemptions in other majors — and the PGA Tour has stunned its players by securing a secretly negotiated agreement with LIV’s financial backers.
Rahm’s move to LIV also creates a great scenario involving the Official World Golf Ranking. LIV Golf tournaments currently do not receive ranking points for several reasons, including their length, lack of mid-tournament seeding, and lack of a path for advancement or relegation. The validity of the rankings has already come under scrutiny due to the low rankings of notable major winners like Cam Smith and Brooks Koepka. Any “official” ranking system that doesn’t put Ram at the top – it’s currently No. 3 in the world – will be incomplete at best and invalid at worst.
It is almost impossible to overstate the seismic impact of this move on the fate of the PGA Tour. Aside from Woods and McIlroy, Rahm is the most important golfer on the planet, a charismatic ambassador for the game who also happens to be one of its best players. Losing the 29-year-old Rahm means losing a player who is on track to dominate golf for the next decade, a player who appears to be the next link in a chain of golf history that stretches from McIlroy to Woods to Nicklaus and Palmer. And back to history.
LIV Golf continues to be successful internationally, with more tournaments outside the US in 2024 than in the series’ previous two seasons. Adding the Spanish-born Rahm to the mix will continue to solidify the league’s presence beyond American borders.
Ram’s arrival marks the most successful day in LIV Golf’s two-year history, and a reputation booster that LIV would have taken years to achieve on its own.
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