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Jon Rahm signs record-breaking deal with LIV and leaves PGA

The Spaniard will join the Saudi-backed golf league for an estimated $500-$600 million, a massive blow for the PGA circuit.

The Spaniard will join the Saudi-backed golf league for an estimated $500-$600 million, a massive blow for the PGA circuit.

Jon Rahm has officially signed with LIV Golf, the controversial Saudi-backed rival to the PGA Tour.

LIV Golf has acquired him on rumored four-year deal worth an estimated $500-$600 million for the Spanish star. It’s one of the biggest deals in the history of sports, both in terms of the numbers and the sporting significance. Rahm’s departure is a huge blow to the PGA in the midst of negotiations to resolve a two-year conflict between the two circuits.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Rahm’s deal with LIV had been in the pipeline for some time. Sources close to the 29-year-old claimed that Rahm was in New York on Thursday, reportedly finalizing the details of the contract.

While an official announcement from the LIV is still pending, their Twitter account posted a word search puzzle asking followers to find names of players on the tour. “Rahm” appeared in the fifth line from the top. Shortly afterward, Rahm appeared on Fox News to confirm his decision.

“As you can see, it’s official. After all the rumors, some of which were true, I am officially joining LIV Golf. It hasn’t been an easy decision. It’s fun to play for something more than just yourself. LIV Golf has brought something fresh and new, and it excites me,” he began.

“I can’t comment on the details; it’s a private matter and will remain private. It’s been a great offer. Money is great, but as I’ve said before, I don’t play golf for money but for the love of the game. But as a husband and father, I need to seize these opportunities.”

“It’s been a factor, but there are others. Being part of a team, being a captain, leading my teammates is special. I hope some kids in the future grow up as fans of my team, just as I grew up a fan of Athletic de Bilbao. No one is forcing us to do this; it’s our decision. I’ve had a great platform on the PGA Tour, and I’ll always be grateful. If all goes well, I still want to have that platform in the future.”

“I know they listen to players here; I hope to have conversations and give my input for positive changes in the future. But my goal is to grow golf,” he explained.

Who else has signed for LIV Golf?

Since its inception in 2021, LIV has recruited aggressively from the North American circuit. The likes of Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, and the Spanish golfer Sergio García, all major champions, have all signed. They have secured the signature of veterans like Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, and Ian Poulter, as well as young talents like Eugenio Chacarra and David Puig.

But the signing of Rahm, one of the world’s best, is a major coup. He won the 2021 US Open and this year’s Masters, with a total of 19 victories and multiple stints as the world number one. Most crucially, he is still in his prime.

Rahm will have his own team and could recruit Tony Finau and Tyrrell Hatton as teammates. The Fireballs - featuring Sergio García, Eugenio Chacarra and David Puig - will not be his destination, as had been speculated.

LIV Golf tournaments offers live music and more relaxed dress codes, aiming to bring more fans to the sport. The competition is both individual and team-based, with prize purses of $20 million per tournament. The fields consist of 48 players and tournaments are 54 holes, played over three rounds.

Can Jon Rahm play in majors?

Rahm’s move to LIV Golf has potentially enormous implications for the future of the sport. The outcome of the PGA-LIV negotiations will be known by January 1, barring an unforeseen extension. The preliminary agreement reached in June would allow the US circuit and the PIF, the Saudi Public Investment Fund that finances LIV, to merge into a for-profit entity into which the latter organization would inject some of its immense capital, and shares would be distributed among the players in an unprecedented profit-sharing model.

John Rahm is one of the most high-profile names to move to LIV Golf.
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John Rahm is one of the most high-profile names to move to LIV Golf.Andrew RedingtonAFP

However PGA has other interested investors considering a move, such as Fenway Sports Group or Endeavor.

If there is no agreement, and both structures continue to operate separately in a hostile environment, Rahm has the assurance of exemptions to play in the four majors at least until 2027. And as long as he does not renounce his affiliation with the DP World Tour he can be eligible for the Ryder Cup.

Once his signing is confirmed, his LIV Golf schedule will begin on 2 February 2024 in Mayakoba, Mexico. He will play 14 tournaments across 2024, plus the four majors.