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LIV and Let Be

The arrival of Jon Rahm and the mysterious merger



Back in December, images of Jon Rahm sporting a black and white bomber jacket with the LIV GOLF logo appeared on social media. No one was surprised, and the rumours which never threatened to exist as a fish and chip wrapper were confirmed; Rahm in thick leather and a baseball cap was shaking hands with LIV CEO Greg Norman, who wore a comparatively tame gilet. It is unlike Norman to shy away from the spotlight, but when one of the world’s best, most popular, most relatable golfers joins an only three-year-old golf tour — a tour that wasn’t given a chance to succeed in the first place — then who wouldn’t take a step back? And to top the whole macho procedure off, Rahm’s first interview was on Fox News.  

 

When asked about his decision to join LIV, Rahm addressed the nearly $500 million elephant in the room with admirable brevity: “It’s one of the reasons … I’m not going to sit here and lie to you”, he said with the smirk of a man who, after signing the largest golf contract in history, would become the highest paid athlete of 2023. The question of integrity always arises when a player joins LIV golf, as they are assaulted with questions such as, ‘“Are you proud [uncoincidental, passive-aggressive emphasis here to provoke a reaction] to contribute to Saudi Arabia sportswashing,” or “Are you happy to see your legacy flushed down the sink [or toilet]?” Rahm, like many of his colleagues, focused his response on his personal life –  ‘“The decision, like I said, was for me and my family.” Not only does the financial security guarantee a (more than) comfortable existence for his wife and two new-borns, but the LIV schedule allows for more of an “off-season”, as our American cousins would say; there are only 14 events in a LIV season compared to 36 on the PGA Tour. Including the four majors, that makes 18 weeks a year on the road, less than half a year. Surely one cannot criticise a player who is not only earning more but can spend more time with his family; isn’t that what any parent would choose? 

 

But then you think of golf, and that word legacy — the legacy of Seve Ballesteros, Rahm’s hero, and one of the greatest Ryder Cup players in Team Europe’s history. At time of writing, Rahm would not be eligible to play against the USA in New York next autumn. But he is more than eager to tee up for Team Europe again, hoping ongoing discussions of a LIV-PGA merger will lead to an all-encompassing world golf tour. But the prospect of a merger remains only a whisper on the back burner. And just this week, Tiger Woods, who rejected a $600 million offer from LIV, launched a PGA-branded bomb onto LIV soil, saying how the PGA doesn’t need the Saudi money. This tension is no bad thing, especially in regard to the majors, which have gained significance in being the only battleground where all the world’s best golfers compete. Those at LIV (especially the shareholders) will be rooting for Rahm to defend his Masters title amidst the ever-evolving LIV-PGA schism, which is sure to add more fuel to the fire of major championship golf. And this is no bad thing. 

 

 

 

 Image: Wikimedia Commons

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