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Has The Masters Brought Golf Any Closer to Unity

By: | Mon 15 Apr 2024

LIV Golf and the future of the men's professional game was once again part of the backdrop throughout the 2024 Masters Tournament, but in this week's View From The Fairway, Derek Clements asks whether unity is really any closer.

It takes a special kind of arrogance and self-confidence to become a world-class sportsman. In his pomp, nobody demonstrated this better than Tiger Woods.

While the likes of Phil Mickelson was happy to spend hours signing autographs for fans, Woods lived in a bubble - and it helped him to become a 15-time major champion. Had it not been for the fact that his career was blighted by injury he would surely have eclipsed Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. 

And there is little doubt in my mind that Jon Rahm is cut from the same cloth.

Ahead of The Masters he was not short in coming forward in expressing what he sees as his influence in the shifting sands in professional golf.

He said that if LIV Golf could attract him with a $500m payday then they are capable of securing the services of pretty much any leading player and have now proven themselves to be a significant part of the modern golf scene.

With no sense of irony he said: "I could be the start of a tipping point. I understood the weight that my decision could have and the impact it could have. I understood that perfectly and that's why it wasn't an easy decision.

"The balance of golf could be disturbed a little bit. Luckily in my career, especially last year, I accomplished a lot and I got to be one of the bigger names in golf.

"There are few active players that could have had a bigger impact than myself in that sense. Not to be patting myself on the back too much, but I understood the position I was in."

Not short in the self-belief stakes then Jon! He really could take a lesson in humility from Scottie Scheffler.

Jon Rahm

Rahm has also called for the LIV Golf League to move to 72 holes, urging his new paymasters to review their format. It is clear from his performance at The Masters that Rahm was undercooked and he simply looked underprepared, nothing like the player he was at the end of last year. 

Speaking to BBC Sport, he said: "If there ever was a way where LIV could go to 72 holes I think it would help all of this argument a lot. The closer I think we can get LIV Golf to some other things the better. I think it would be for some kind of unification to feed into a world tour or something like that. I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I definitely wouldn't mind going back to 72 holes.”

Rahm highlighted the June 2023 announcement of a "framework agreement" between the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and the PGA Tour as a pivotal moment for him. Like all the leading players on both tours, the Spaniard said he was blindsided by the move and at the time spoke of a sense of "betrayal" by the tour's hierarchy. 

"I was not happy," he admitted. "At the US Open trying to deal with something like that wasn't perfect timing. What we need to reflect on is the second that framework agreement was worked on, everything changed."

I am sorry but I believe that for most golf fans the moment that everything changed was when Rahm, a man who said he would never join LIV and its 54-hole "exhibition" circus, announced that he had accepted a huge offer to do precisely that.

Rahm continued: "If it wasn't me making the move it would have been someone else at some point.” 

Oh well, that is okay then. As it has turned out, only Tyrrell Hatton and Adrian Meronk have followed Rahm, despite Greg Norman’s outrageous claim that his phone had blown up with golfers clamouring to join LIV. We were told that Rickie Fowler and Viktor Hovland would be making the move. We have been told that Norman is actively still trying to recruit Hideki Matsuyama. But all of them remain on the PGA Tour.

Rahm said: "If the PGA Tour is now open to working with the PIF or LIV or maybe coming together in some kind of way then that opened the door for me to do the same thing."

He dismisses the notion that LIV lacks the intensity of competition provided by the PGA Tour which is clearly nonsense - LIV’s 54-hole tournaments have no cuts.

"I see everybody's scepticism," Rahm said. "I get it. I've been there, I voiced it to more people than most people would probably speak to. It was one of the things that was holding me back from possibly joining LIV Golf. But now, having been here, once you start the tournament I really sometimes have forgotten that I've only played 54 holes."

What? Did he watch the incredible conclusion of the Texas Open, when Denny McCarthy made up a six-shot deficit on Akshay Bhatia with a mind-blowing performance on the back nine? Of course he didn’t. He was busy leading his team to victory in a tournament at Doral that couldn’t hold a candle to events in Texas. Trust me, nothing on the LIV Golf tour comes close to matching that kind of gut-wrenching drama.

I also need to take Sergio Garcia to task for something he said at Augusta. You may remember that the Spaniard bitterly criticised the DP World Tour and the way it is run at around the time he moved to LIV. He also had some pretty unkind words to say about the PGA Tour.

So when asked if the game needs to unify, it came as something of a surprise to hear him blame the divide in the professional game on the media. With a straight face, he said: "I think the game is in a perfect spot. The professional game, maybe it’s a little more separated, mostly because of the media, not so much because of the players. But I think the game itself is in a great spot.

"I think that we have the most amount of people playing the game, which is great, and people have to realize one thing, that the future of the game isn’t us. We’re not the future of the game. Neither me or Rory, no. We’re not the future. We’re the present of the game."

I am curious to know what world the Spaniard has been inhabiting.

And what on earth was Greg Norman thinking about turning up at Augusta and insisting that hundreds of patrons had been telling him what a wonderful job he is doing with LIV Golf? He really is delusional.

We continue to hear about the supposed ongoing talks involving PIF, the PGA Tour and DP World Tour but appear to be no closer to a deal, although it was widely reported that PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan was at Augusta. I can only begin to imagine how he was welcomed by the men in green jackets.

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Tags: the masters PGA Tour LIV Golf dp world tour

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