'Hypocrite' Masters champ on verge of $908m defection

Jon Rahm is on the verge of leaving for LIV Golf, a stunning blow to the PGA Tour as it races to try to finalise a commercial agreement with the Saudi Arabian backers of the rival league, according to multiple reports.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report Rahm, the 2023 Masters champion, was about to sign a deal that various reports have put anywhere from $454 million to $908 million.

LIV Golf is staging a three-day promotions event in Abu Dhabi this week.

The Journal, along with other outlets, suggested there was still a chance Rahm might change his mind. Sports Illustrated reported he was on his way to New York to finalise the deal. Executives from the PGA Tour and Rahm’s manager did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

'hypocrite' masters champ on verge of $908m defection

Jon Rahm.

Rahm’s manager, Jeff Koski at Sportfive, has not responded to phone calls or text messages since social media sites that track LIV Golf began reporting on the rumors few weeks ago. And then The American Express, which Rahm won in January, held its media day this week and Rahm was not mentioned as part of the field.

Rahm would be the biggest catch yet by LIV Golf — a two-time major champion, a 29-year-old Spaniard just coming into the prime of his career. And it would come at a time when the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund are trying to finalise their framework agreement for a new commercial deal that includes the European tour.

The agreement stunned the golf world when it was announced June 6 and attracted the interest of the Justice Department and Congress, which has held two hearings on the deal. Since then, other private equity firms have joined the negotiations.

The framework agreement originally had language that would put a stop to poaching players, but that was removed at the Justice Department’s request.

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

The reports indicate Rahm would have his own four-man team at LIV Golf, which enters its third season next year offering $30 million purses for 54 holes with no cut. His equity in a team would likely contribute to the deal he signs.

Rahm had said as LIV was recruiting players for its start in 2022 that “the only appeal I see is monetary, right?”.

“So like I said just earlier on, I think there’s a lot more to be able to play for besides just money on the PGA Tour. There’s history, there’s legacy. At the end of the day, I’m in this to win tournaments, I’m in this to play against the best in the world,” he said.

His signing with LIV would give the rival league two of the major champions this year.

Rahm currently is No.3 in the world ranking. He is close friends with Phil Mickelson — they are represented by the same management and Mickelson’s brother was Rahm’s coach at Arizona State — and with fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia.

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