Jon Rahm’s LIV handicap was the last play of Saudi power in key talks on the PGA Tour

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Jon Rahm is thought to be considering his future in the game (Getty Images)

Jon Rahm is thought to be considering his future in the game (Getty Images)

There is no confirmation that Jon Rahm is about to turn his back on the PGA tour and join LIV Golf. There has been no confirmation that the world number 3 is set to sign a £500m deal with the Saudi league. In fact, there is almost no information. But strong rumors were allowed to grow and spread for days, with no response from Rahm or his camp, and the silence is deafening.

What seems clear is that there have been talks, although LIV has spoken to every elite golfer over the past two years so that is not a real surprise. Rahm can still turn around and say no. But there is more awareness in golf that LIV will announce its biggest trophy yet, more so than poaching Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka or Cameron Smith.

It would be something seismic. Rahm was the first European giant to go. He is a major Masters champion and among the top four players in the world. He is the main reasonable target of the Saudis, given how strongly Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have rejected LIV and themselves.

If the rumors are true, it would be a major blow to the PGA Tour, not only because Rahm’s departure would undermine the quality and appeal of its prize events, but because of what it would symbolize: the power play of all- powerful ahead of important peace talks. between PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and the governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment fund, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, to shape the future of golf.

Many observers were speculating from their explosive union announcement in June that this aggressive hunt for PGA stars would be no more, and that LIV might even be shut down, with the PIF instead agreeing to throw its weight behind traditional golf tours. But the Saudi killing of sports continues unabated. There have been a number of trophies over the past few years, from getting a race on the F1 calendar to signing Cristiano Ronaldo. Rahm would be another bold win: an elite athlete at the very top of his game, lured away from the fragile PGA Tour.

Given Monahan’s stated goal of unifying the game, you can see why Rahm might think it’s worth the pain of walking away from some prestigious PGA events to play an exciting paycheck. to play for the Crushers or Fireballs for a couple of years. If PGA-PIF talks go well he may be welcomed back in time to qualify for the next Ryder Cup, in New York in 2025.

Even those in the know don’t seem to know what will happen next. Tiger Woods is at the center of talks between the PGA Tour, the DP Tour and PIF, and he said it would be a surprise if Rahm jumped ship. Jordan Spieth, who recently joined Woods on the PGA Tour’s policy board after Rory McIlroy retired, said Rahm’s exit “wouldn’t be very good for us.”

“Rahm is one of our biggest assets on the PGA Tour,” Spieth said. “I know some guys have been talking to him. I know he’s probably weighing some decisions … I could probably speak for 200-plus PGA Tour players in saying that we really hope he continues.”

Before the decision deadline of December 31, there is still no clarity on how the merger will work in practice. One of the many sticking points is how LIV rebels will be reintegrated into the PGA Tour after they retire or are suspended following their defections. It is a calm time, and if Rahm changes direction it will only strengthen the Saudi hand.

“Everything right now is in crisis,” Woods said of the negotiations. “It’s 24 hours a day just trying to figure it out. Part of the deal we’re working on [is] trying to find a way [for LIV rebels], whatever it looks like. There are so many different scenarios and so many sleepless hours trying to figure that out and what it looks like.”

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