‘Seismic shift’: Golf world reacts as Masters champion defects to Saudi-backed league

Jon Rahm has joined the Saudi-backed LIV Golf league in a deal understood to be worth up to £450m – which one former Ryder Cup captain described as a “seismic shift” in the sport.
The Masters winner, 29, is now the second current major champion on the LIV circuit after US PGA champion Brooks Koepka.

LIV Golf split the world of golf by launching a rebel series last year – many believe it to be sportswashing to cover up Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
Rahm said on Thursday: “Every decision I feel like we make in life there will be somebody who agrees and likes it and somebody who doesn’t.
“I made this decision because I believe it’s the best for me and my family and everybody I’ve been able to talk to has been really supportive of me, so I’m very comfortable with my decision.

“I’m no stranger to hearing some negative things on social media or in media. It’s part of what it is, we’re public figures but you just learn to deal with it right? This certainly won’t define who I am or change who I am.”
Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley said the defection to LIV represents a “seismic shift” in golf and is a “huge blow” for the established tours.
“It’s a massive blow. It’s a huge blow,” McGinley told Sky Sports News.
“This is a seismic shift in terms of power within the game of golf towards the Saudi league and away from the tours. Away from the DP World Tour as well as the PGA Tour.


“LIV will be very giddy this morning and chomping at the bit that they’ve smashed up what we have known to be professional golf in the last 40 or 50 years.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Saudi Arabia ‘sportswashing’ claims explained

Following confirmation of his switch, Rahm said in an official statement: “I am proud to join LIV Golf and be part of something new that is bringing growth to the sport.
“I have no doubt that this is a great opportunity for me and my family and am very excited for the future.”
The Spaniard played a leading role in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in Rome this year – but joining LIV places his future in the contest in serious jeopardy as he needs to remain a DP World Tour member to be eligible.
Former LIV player Bernd Wiesberger recently rejoined the DP World Tour, but only after paying hefty fines and serving a lengthy suspension.
Read more:LIV Golf’s future remains uncertainAnalysis: Power in golf has shifted

The cash proved irresistible for Jon Rahm

Rob Harris

Sport correspondent

Ultimately, the cash proved irresistible for Jon Rahm. Especially with LIV Golf and its Saudi sovereign wealth funding no longer complete outcasts.
Just last year, the Spaniard was insisting even $400m (£317m) would not be life-changing to tempt him to join the LIV Golf breakaway – a 54-hole shotgun format he claimed not to like.
And still, he tries to downplay the sway of a windfall.
But now he says there is a “duty to my family” to accept an offer that could be worth $500m (£397m) to join the Saudi golf breakaway league.
Abandoning the PGA Tour no longer seems as much of a renegade move.
Not since LIV’s Public Investment Fund ownership last year announced a merger that seems a takeover of the PGA Tour.
But there are only three weeks to complete the deal – against the backdrop of opposition.
If it collapsed, the only sight for the reigning Masters champion in established events might be at the four majors.

On his Ryder Cup future, Rahm said: “That’s not up to me right now, but if it was up to me, I’ll be eligible to play so I surely hope I can keep up the good golf, keep playing good golf and give them a reason to have me on the team.”
“It’s a big risk to take, but I’ve had it in consideration and again, I’m hopeful that I can be part of the team again.”
Previously, Rahm expressed his “fealty” to the PGA Tour in February 2022 and, in September that year, rubbished rumours that he would jump ship in reply to a post on Twitter which claimed he was about to sign for LIV.
He had stated “my heart is with the PGA Tour”, but later admitted players felt a sense of “betrayal” at the secret deal which was negotiated between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which bankrolls LIV Golf.
However, after signing on with LIV, the Spaniard said: “Obviously the past two years there’s been a lot of evolving on the game of golf, things have changed a lot and so have I.”

Source : Sky News