Massive Saudi coup is shocking but then what options did Jon Rahm have?
The world number three pulling out of the TGL was a clear indication that he was off to the Saudi-bankrolled LIV Golf.
There were signs that something big was going to happen. When Jon Rahm's name was missing from the Hero World Challenge field, released in October, the gossip mill sprang into real action. The tournament is hosted by Tiger Woods. There has to be a solid season if a top golfer is going to miss a Woods event. There was one spot left vacant but fans and experts
were sure as hell it would be filled by Woods himself as it later turned out. More fuel was added to the fire early last month when Rahm pulled out of Woods and Rory McIlroy's technology-infused league, the TGL. The league has since been postponed from January 2024 to 2025 owing to a construction mishap at the designated venue in Florida.
It was easy to put two and two together. The world number three pulling out of the TGL was a clear indication that he was off to the Saudi-bankrolled LIV Golf. Such news had been doing the rounds in the preceding months even though Rahm had continued to show his support for the PGA Tour.
The inevitable happened this Friday as Rahm confirmed he was going to join LIV Golf. Last year, after quite a few big players defected to LIV, Rahm stood by the American tour. He was approached by the Saudis but he turned down their dream offer. He said money was not important to him, building a legacy was, for which the Tour was the place to be.
He has indeed done an about-turn on his previous statements. On Friday, he bigged up the importance of money (he has reportedly made upwards of $500 million), the importance of being able to spend more time with his family because of the short and sweet nature of the rebel league, and the importance of being part of a league that was out there to make golf a global game, not just confined to America and Europe. Basically, he dissolved everything he stood for once and gulped it down.
The Spaniard's move is going to displease a lot of people but he can't be entirely blamed. After the formation of LIV Golf, PGA Tour had labelled them enemies and put up a united front with the DP World Tour. Rahm chose the side he believed in. Then earlier this year the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf shocked one and all by joining hands, leaving their animosity far behind. If fans and experts ought to blame anyone for Rahm's departure, it has to be the Tour and the merger they initiated in June. A lot of Tour players, including Rahm, felt betrayed by the American tour.
The Spaniard was willing to sacrifice. But if the people you stand up for compromise the cause of rendering the Saudi tour insignificant, what other choices does one have? This is a revenge move, to all intents and purposes. It's a slap in the face to the PGA Tour, the echo of which is going to be heard for a long time. If there are no principles and integrity left, it doesn't matter which side you are on. The hell is empty and all the devils are here.
World number two McIlroy, who spared no effort to humiliate LIV golfers in the past one year or so, is singing a different tune this time. He didn't want any LIV golfers to represent Team Europe in the Ryder Cup which was won by the hosts in Rome in September-October but now in the next edition which will be held in the US in 2025, he wants Rahm in the team despite the defection. 29-year-old Rahm remained undefeated in the four matches he played and in all earned three points at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club and played a massive hand in Europe's thumping 16.5-11.5 win.
One should not be surprised if more big names from the Tour join the Saudi league in the coming months. If the two-time major winner's move is any indication, be prepared for the PGA Tour to make allowances for LIV golfers in terms of their participation in Tour events.
This year a few players were able to play in the majors because of exemptions but the doors were entirely shut for them on other events on the American tour. The Saudis have reportedly pledged $1 billion and no way are they going to invest that much amount without gaining some influence and having certain things go their way. The three tours are expected to announce the full details of the merger by December 31.
When all is said and done, the intrigue is not over yet. The merger was not the end of it, it was rather the beginning. The golf world is well and truly in turmoil.