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Are We Really Any Closer to Finding Unity in Golf

By: | Mon 12 Feb 2024

Sharing his latest View From The Fairway, Golfshake's Derek Clements addresses the latest stories around LIV Golf and the contrasting views on whether departed players should be accommodated back into regular tour events.

“Driving by Phoenix as often as I had to and knowing that I wasn't going to play there, it's definitely emotional. That's one of the things that I'm going to miss.” Those were the words of Jon Rahm as he attempted to justify his decision to move to LIV Golf. He was referring to the WM Phoenix Open, staged close to where he lives.

Rahm was playing in LIV’s second event of the season in Las Vegas over the weekend. He could have been playing in front of the biggest, noisiest and most passionate galleries in golf in Phoenix.

He continued: "I'm not typically a person that's going to regret any decisions. I made as educated a decision as I could with the full support of the people around me and [I'm] confident that it was the right thing for me, so I'm not going to regret it.”

I had made a promise to myself that I would not return to the subject of LIV and everything surrounding it this week but events have dictated otherwise.

First of all, there was all sorts of stuff and nonsense from LIV supporters (and yes, there are some)  on social media about the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am being like a LIV event because it was decided over 54 holes. Let’s get something straight - it was reduced to 54 holes because of horrendous weather. 

However, it was seriously unfortunate for the PGA Tour that this should happen on the same weekend that LIV’s first tournament of the season was taking place in Mexico. It also didn’t help that while LIV saw Joaquin Niemann and Sergio Garcia going head to head in a thrilling playoff. The PGA Tour first announced that the final round of the AT&T would be completed on the Monday and then later said that would not be possible and named Wyndham Clark as the winner of what is one of their signature events. It was far from ideal.

Rahm was on course to win on his LIV debut but came to grief on the 17th and 18th holes and had to settle for finishing third. It was interesting to discover that Rahm’s presence in Mexico led to record LIV viewing figures in the United States.

Jon Rahm

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

He has been explaining the reasons for his move to LIV Golf and I remain as unimpressed with his motives as I was on the day I learnt he had accepted a reported $450m to jump ship.

I can’t help but go back to what he said in 2022 on the eve of the US Open. He said: “Money is great, but when [my wife] Kelley and I started talking about it, and we’re like, 'Will our lifestyle change if I got $400 million?; No, it will not change one bit. 

"Truth be told, I could retire right now with what I’ve made and live a very happy life and not play golf again. So 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. I’ve always been interested in history and legacy, and right now the PGA Tour has that.”

So what caused the change of heart?

Speaking to Golf.com’s Dylan Dethier, he said: I’d say there was two instances. Dynamics started to change and there was a lot of division at that time. And yes, for me to want to change, there had to be reasons beyond the money, right? So when I said that [in June 2022] I fully meant it and it was true. Now, when they slap you with a large amount of money in your face, your feelings do change. I try not to be a materialistic person, but I do owe it to my family as well to set them up for success the best I can, and having kids I think changed that quite a bit. So the money is a part of it; I’m not going to lie. But again, when I said that I wasn’t fully aware of what I was saying because you don’t really understand.”

What on earth happened to “I could retire right now with what I’ve made and live a very happy life”. Presumably that also meant he had earned enough to set up his immediate family for the rest of their lives.

For me, what he said next is the thing that really sticks in my throat.

“What opened the door a little bit {for me to move to LIV] was the PGA Tour and LIV agreement [to work towards a framework deal].” Rahm said. “So when that happened, I was like, well, we are definitely coming together. There is something happening, so at least I owe it to myself to hear what they have to offer and what their vision is. I figured I owed it to myself to hear them out, which is what I did when the season was over.”

So what Rahm seems to be saying is that he knows there is a peace deal on the way so why not cash in to the tune of $450m while he still can. 

He has made it perfectly clear that he wants to be able to return to the PGA Tour at some point. But even if a framework deal can be drawn up, he may well find some opposition. Rory McIlroy is now effectively saying that he just wants the thing done and that he would be happy to see the LIV rebels back without punishment. 

I don’t believe that can happen. And I am not the only one. Rickie Fowler had already said that he disagrees with McIlroy, and Justin Thomas and Scottie Scheffler were both pretty outspoken on the subject at Phoenix. 

Thomas was surely speaking for most of his colleagues when he said: “There’s a handful of players on LIV that would make the tour a better place but I am definitely not in the agreement that they should just be able to come back that easily. A lot of us made sacrifices. I would have a hard time with welcoming back LIV players without penalty."

Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald touched upon the whole thorny subject while preparing to play in Phoenix. Unsurprisingly, Donald was keen to play the whole thing down. Remember that he will be in charge again as Europe attempt to defend the trophy, and he has lost Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton and Adrian Meronk to LIV. It has been widely reported that they are no longer eligible to play for Donald next year but that is incorrect. They remain members of the DP World Tour. The likes of Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Paul Casey all resigned their DP World Tour memberships.

And nobody from within the DP World Tour ranks is calling for Rahm and company to be kicked out. Donald said: "I haven't seen too many of the guys. We still have a group WhatsApp chat, and we're all participating in that chat that we created for Rome. There's nothing adverse or anything within that chat. Everyone understands each individual wants to do the best for themselves, and I don't think anyone is judging Tyrrell or Jon's decision.

"Do I see them [on the team]? It's really hard for me to answer that question now. What I did so well in my captaincy last year was just control what I can control. We're seven months out until qualification starts.

"We have all this talk about potential deals with the PGA Tour, with DP World Tour, with the PIF. I have no idea what's going to happen, and for the next seven months I don't really need to know what's going to happen because qualification for the Ryder Cup won't start until then.

“Jon and Tyrrell are still members of the DP World Tour and would be eligible. Nothing has changed there. Even going back to last year, there was a couple guys playing on LIV who maintained their membership, and I kept an eye on everyone that was eligible for me to be able to pick.

"The guys that decided to resign their membership, yeah, at that point I couldn't pick them, but at this moment those are the rules, and so far I'm sure Jon, I'm sure Tyrrell, want to be a part of it, and they will hopefully adhere to whatever the rules are that allows them to play in the Ryder Cup."

I know that many of you are as appalled as I am by the sums of money these men are being paid, and I also have a feeling that you will agree with Fowler, Thomas and Scheffler’s view that there needs to be some form of punishment before we can ever get back to unity in the game.

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Tags: PGA Tour LIV Golf dp world tour

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