Even if the frameworks of a merger are still in place, LIV Golf just poached one of the best players on the PGA Tour.
Jon Rahm, the world’s number three golfer and the reigning Masters champion, has agreed to a massive deal with the Saudi Arabia-backed tour. The Spaniard is set to sign a deal that is reported worth at minimum $300M and for at least three years. ESPN’s Mark Schlabach reported that Rahm will have an ownership stake in a new LIV team and that the tour is trying to recruit other PGA players.
Of course, Rahm’s defection to LIV comes as the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign fund for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the American-based PGA Tour are still forging ahead towards their self-imposed December 31 deadline for a merger.
When the PIF agreed to a union between LIV, the PGA and the DP World Tour (the European Tour), there was a clause in the framework agreement that prohibited the poaching of players for either LIV or the PGA. Yet, that clause was removed after the U.S. Department of Justice expressed concerns about the restriction of competition.
In Schlabach’s report, the senior writer noted that Rahm avoided heavily criticizing LIV like his peers in the PGA had, which could have grooved the tracks for his departure from the established tour:
Rahm’s decision is a stunning about-face for a 22-time worldwide winner who is considered one of the fiercest competitors in the game. Before the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, Rahm was asked about his interest in joining the upstart circuit.
“Yeah, money is great, but when [my wife] Kelly and I, this first thing happened, we started talking about it and we’re like, ‘Would our lifestyle change if we got $400 million?’ No,” Rahm said. “It would not change one bit. Truth be told, I could retire right now and I could live a very happy life and not play golf again. I’ve never really played the game of golf for monetary reasons. I play for the love of the game, and I want to play against the best in the world.”
Poaching Rahm may signal that LIV has some sort of future, regardless of what happens with the pending merger. The outfit released a partial schedule in November, but there had been rampant speculation on whether its disruptive game would still have a place in a golf world still wholly dominated by the PGA.
Rahm would be the fifth active member of LIV to also own a Green Jacket, joining his friends Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson along with Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson.
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