Jon Rahm, golf’s Masters champion and former world number one, had always spoken favorably about the PGA TOUR and eschewed any notion that he would join the sport’s rebel LIV Golf circuit.
Fast forward to December 2023 and, well, you can probably guess the rest. The Spaniard has signed on the dotted line with the Saudi-backed venture and is expected to take home pay of around $566 million – more on that later.
That age-old saying pulls through once again: as Jon Rahm’s actions have shown, money talks.
There are some curiosities about LIV Golf.
Helmed by the legendary Greg Norman, the circuit has the aim of making team golf the main attraction of the sport, appointing the big names it has poached from the PGA TOUR and making them captains – Dustin Johnson (4Aces GC), Bryson DeChambeau (Crushers GC) and Brooks Koepka (Smash GC) among them.
It’s thought that LIV will create an entirely new team for Rahm to captain, which could yet feature more PGA TOUR converts.
So, what’s the problem? Well, LIV events are played in a fun environment over 54 holes, rather than the 72 holes of a standard tournament. Crowds are sparse and TV coverage is limited, meaning that the players could potentially lose their competitive edge – a notion born out by the fact that only one of them, Koepka, has won a major event since joining the LIV roadshow.
The latest odds for any of 2024’s majors will have the likes of Rahm, Koepka, and Cameron Smith prominent at the head of the market, but their lack of on-the-edge golf will surely count against them when up against the likes of Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy – PGA loyalists who are playing at the leading courses, and against battle-hardened opponents, week in and week out.
Naturally, Rahm may be impacted by his ambition to win more majors, while his days in the Ryder Cup may be over too given that LIV stars have all but been banished from participation. But with that take-home pay to fall back on, you wonder if he’ll really care all that much.
If the reports of Rahm’s pay packet are correct, LIV has officially made him the best-paid sports star on the planet.
Not since the days of peak Tiger Woods have golfers featured on sport’s rich list, but the $566 million package will see Rahm saunter to the top spot – nice work if you can get it.
The 29-year-old has taken a page out of Lionel Messi’s playbook. The soccer ace penned a unique contract with Inter Miami earlier this year that saw him take an ownership stake in the franchise as well as a salary, with Rahm following suit – that means his potential earning from the deal has no ceiling if LIV can somehow convince the public that team golf is the way forward.
The Spaniard will out-earn Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez to name just a few. Good for him, but not so good for the PGA TOUR and the future of traditional golf.