It’s a hollow exercise to parse levels of cowardice in those eager to be stooges for autocratic sportswashers, but some of the players who went to LIV Golf when there was a cost for doing so — to reputations and careers — must now look at Jon Rahm as being the most gutless among their number, a golden parachutist who jumped for the greatest reward with the least risk, confident that a promised settlement of golf’s civil war would assure him a soft, lucrative landing.
Thursday’s announcement was drearily predictable, right down to LIV’s inept gaffe in trumpeting its recruitment of “John.” In citing his need to feather the family nest for future generations, the appeal of innovative formats and an overwhelming ambition to grow the game, Rahm checked every box in the bullshit bingo that attends all LIV signings.
Yet his is unlike any that preceded him.
Poaching Rahm is less about product than politics, aimed not so much at strengthening LIV as weakening the PGA Tour. Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chief bagman at the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund that bankrolls LIV, delivered a timely elbow to the ribs just as the Tour negotiates the extent to which PIF will factor with private equity in shaping its future. Rahm was vociferous in rejecting LIV, to the point of demeaning its format and value.
Buying that guy proves Al-Rumayyan can buy almost anyone. Tour members who consider him an unpalatable ally were reminded that he might be an even more unappetizing enemy.
LIV has consistently exposed the fatal weakness in professional golf: It is built on member organizations whose members are not contracted, and often not loyal. Cash offers go a long way when many of the targeted constituency have proven that their word isn’t worth a puddle of stale piss.
Rahm won’t suffer the excommunication and scorn that other LIV players experienced from former Tour colleagues. He’s too competitively relevant, he’s too well-liked, and the end is too near at hand. Witness Rory McIlroy saying that Ryder Cup eligibility rules would need to be rewritten to accommodate Rahm in ’25, a call he didn’t make on behalf of the likes of Sergio Garcia.
The departure of Rahm is more a loss for the PGA Tour than a gain for LIV. One of the world’s best will be absent from Tour events for the foreseeable. But it’s debatable how positively he impacts LIV beyond providing propaganda catnip for trolls and deal-making leverage for Al-Rumayyan. One can reasonably argue that…