In a stunning move that sent shockwaves through professional golf, reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm announced Thursday he is leaving the PGA Tour to join the controversial LIV Golf series.
Rahm Lured by Reported $525 Million Contract
Rahm, 28, is walking away from the PGA Tour after cementing himself as one of the world’s premier players, having won 8 titles and reached world No. 1. But the lure of LIV’s reported 10-year, $525 million contract proved too much for Rahm to pass up.
LIV Golf, which is financially backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, has now landed five major champions in Rahm, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau. The enormous contracts offered by LIV have succeeded in prying some of golf’s biggest names away from the PGA Tour.
“I understand some people may not agree with my decision, but I ask anyone disappointed in my decision to look at it from my perspective,” Rahm said in his announcement. “I chose what I think is best for me and my family. This is a life-changing opportunity.”
|Reported Contract Value
The massive paydays offered by LIV Golf are also accompanied by a much lighter schedule. LIV Golf only stages 14 events compared to the PGA Tour’s 43 tournaments.
Rahm’s priority will still be winning major championships, but his move to LIV Golf now casts doubt on his eligibility for the Ryder Cup, where he has emerged as a European stalwart.
Shocked Golf World Reacts to Stunning News
Rahm had just last month affirmed his commitment to the PGA Tour, making his sudden reversal all the more shocking. Rahm also noted the Saudi regime’s spotty human rights record as a factor giving him pause about defecting to LIV.
But with fellow Spanish legend Seve Ballesteros likely an inspiration and model, the chance to set his family up for generations ultimately swayed Rahm’s thinking.
“I think Jon has made a decision which he thinks is in his best interests commercially. He’s quite right to stick up for himself in that regard because as you’ll see from the numbers bandied around this morning, this is a real game-changer for Jon commercially,” said former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.
Rahm had established himself as a foundational player that the PGA Tour hoped to build around for the next decade. Instead, he has broken ranks to chase the biggest payday in sports history.
“He was really one of the guys they could hang their hat on and so that’s a big body blow to the PGA Tour,” said former PGA Championship winner Rich Beem.
Rahm’s peers competing on the PGA Tour expressed dismay about him following the lead of Mickelson, Johnson and others.
“I think it’s unfair for guys who would never consider those things have to protect against them,” world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, Rahm’s Ryder Cup teammate, told the media.
Four-time major champ Brooks Koepka tweeted just a 5-word message in response to the news: “Couldn’t do it! Wow money.”
Uncertain Future for Rahm, Golf Tours
Rahm’s departure is the latest chapter in an ongoing saga that has weakened the PGA Tour while rapidly expanding LIV Golf’s clout and coffers.
Several critical questions in professional golf will play out in 2023 and beyond:
- Will more PGA Tour stars like Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay or Xander Schauffele eventually cave and also sign with LIV?
- How will majors handle eligibility and exempt LIV players from qualifying?
- Will the Ryder Cup strip LIV golfers’ eligibility?
- Is a larger merger or partnership between the PGA and LIV tours possibly on the horizon?
Rahm’s decision puts renewed scrutiny on these issues. But for now, the 28-year-old seems content with his controverisal call and extraordinary payday.
“I’m incredibly excited and proud to join LIV Golf,” Rahm said. It’s clear that despite the backlash he’ll face, over $500 million speaks for itself.
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