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Jon Rahm jumps ship to LIV Golf in a stunning blow to the PGA Tour | Golf News

Big money move by the 29-year-old Masters champion to Saudi-backed LIV Golf sends another shockwave through the sport.

Masters champion Jon Rahm has bolted for Saudi-funded LIV Golf for what’s believed to be more money than the PGA Tour’s entire prize fund, a stunning blow that deepens the divide in golf as the two sides were negotiating a commercial deal.

Rahm confirmed the move on Thursday in an interview with Fox News. Wearing a black letterman’s jacket with the LIV logo, he said it was not an easy decision.

“I’ve been very happy,” Rahm said. “But there is a lot of things that LIV Golf has to offer that were very enticing.”

He said he would keep private how much the deal was worth amid reports that put his compensation in the $500m range, which likely would include equity in his new team. The PGA Tour’s total purse in 2023 was about $460m.

The development comes 25 days before the deadline for the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund try to finalise their June 6 agreement to become commercial partners in a for-profit enterprise, along with the European tour.

Talks have been going slowly, and Tiger Woods said last week there were a lot of moving parts. The biggest moving part turned out to be the 29-year-old Rahm, the number three player in the world and a two-time major champion approaching his prime, being the latest to defect.

Rahm had been adamant that he has enough money and that he cares only about history and legacy. He recently said he “laughed” whenever he saw his name linked to LIV.

“It was a great offer. The money is great, obviously it’s wonderful,” Rahm said.

“But 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.”

The Spaniard will make his LIV debut at the league’s season opening event from February 2-4 at LIV Golf Mayakoba in Mexico.

He remains eligible for the majors for the next five years – the Masters for life, the US Open until 2031. Still to be determined is how the move affects his eligibility for the Ryder Cup.

“It’s hard to sit here and criticise Jon because of what a great player he is,” Rory McIlroy said in an interview with Sky Sports. “Jon is going to be in Bethpage in 2025 (for the Ryder Cup). Because of this decision, the European tour is going to have to rewrite the rules. There’s no question about that.”

Rahm’s addition gives LIV Golf seven of the last 14 winners at the majors.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan had been scheduled to meet this week with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the head of the PIF. The meeting was delayed until next week, but it was not clear if it was still on or how Rahm’s announcement affects the negotiations.

Since the stunning commercial partnership was proposed on June 6, the tour has also entertained offers from private equity groups. Those include Fenway Sports Group and Acorn Growth, which includes former AT&T Chairman Randall Stephenson. He resigned from the PGA Tour board out of protest with its deal with Saudi Arabia.

The agreement originally included language to end the poaching of players, but that was removed when the Justice Department had antitrust concerns.

Signing with LIV is counter to everything Rahm has said about the league. He has declared his support for the PGA Tour dating to February 2022, and as recently as August he told a Spanish podcast that “I laugh when people rumour me with LIV Golf. I’ve never liked the format.”

He had said 54 holes with no cut and a shotgun start “is not a golf tournament”.

“I want to play against the best in the world in a format that’s been going on for hundreds of years,” he said at the US Open last year. “That’s what I want to see.”

He sang a different tune in the Fox interview, saying while money was a factor, there were other elements “that make it so exciting.”

“Once you get past that, the love of the game, wanting to grow it to a global market and be part of a team, be a captain and hopefully being a leader to teammates, it is something that is so, so special,” Rahm said.


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