A first bombshell shook golf last June with the agreement between the PIF (Public Investment Foundation of Saudi Arabia) and the PGA Tour. That shock wave is still stirring the waters of a sport that is counting down the hours to December 31, the date on which the aforementioned pact should be formalized. The firms in Jedah, Saudi Arabia, and Jacksonville, Florida, are abuzz with lawyers and executives who are writing clauses against the clock to try to seal an alliance with many points of conflict. However, there is a secret weapon that could tip the scales of the deal: Jon Rahm.

The man from Barrika has a foot and a half in LIV Golf. The rumor started on Sunday of the last tournament of the DP World Tour. This newspaper received the news from one of the most senior executives of the former European Tour. From then on, a whole investigation task began that was met with an absolute silence that draws special attention when it comes from the direct environment of the Spanish player, who has not wanted to make a statement, when on other occasions he did come out on the assault of the rumour, to deny his possible departure to the Saudi league.

In September 2022, it was precisely Jon Rahm who came forward to deny a social media post by one of the most active accounts on LIV Golf. LIV Golf Insider reported that the Spaniard had agreed to make the jump to LIV. "I have to inform you that you've started a rough patch because you and your sources are in a bad way," Jon said. Then, there was also an immediate denial when this newspaper pointed out the issue to his family and his manager.

Just a few months earlier, in June 2022, on the occasion of the US Open, Jon Rahm made his stance and opinion very clear regarding what the Saudi tour meant for him. "Three days for me is not a golf tournament, and without a cut. It's that simple. I want to play against the best in the world in a format that has been around for hundreds of years." The Spaniard went further: "Yes, money is great, but when Kelley and I saw what was going on and started talking about it, we thought: would it change our lifestyle if I make $400 million? No, it won't change anything." "I could retire right now with what I've done and live a very happy life and never play golf again. Actually, I've never played for financial reasons. I do it for the love of this sport and I want it to be against the best in the world. I've always been interested in history and legacy, and right now the PGA Tour owns all of that. There's meaning when you win certain tournaments and that matters a lot to me," he added at the time.

The question right now is obvious, what has changed in just over a year for Rahm to leaf the daisy and negotiate with the Saudis? The most notable difference is the possibility of an agreement that may allow the player from Barrika (even if he emigrates to LIV) to continue competing in the most important tournaments of the PGA Tour and in the Ryder Cup. Could this negotiation be a measure of pressure to come out better positioned in the supposed structure of the PGA Tour that aims to make its players partners in the business?

It was precisely the dizzying economic offer that could have tipped the balance once and for all. Jon Rahm would go on to become the highest-paid golfer in LIV, with an amount of more than $550 million per year (according to the Telegraph), ahead of the highest-earning players now, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.

Rahm, during the Masters at Augusta, in April. Charlie RiedelAP

Nothing is clear about this, the only thing that is known is that there is a negotiation that is convulsing the PGA Tour in recent weeks. "I would be surprised, yes, but a lot of different things have happened in the last few weeks. Things have changed and will continue to change," said Tiger Woods himself when asked about the rumors. "Jon Rahm is one of the greatest assets we have on the PGA Tour. It wouldn't be very good for us in general because we want to play against the best players in the world and that's what Jon is. I know there have been some guys who have talked to him. I know maybe I'm weighing some decisions, maybe I'm not," said Jordan Spieth, another of the PGA Tour's heavyweights.

Everyone is talking, except Jon Rahm, who is scheduled to go to the San Mamés stadium on December 16 to take the kick-off dressed in the green jacket. The Spanish player's entourage warns that this is a private visit and he will not attend to the media. A few weeks ago, Rahm also announced that he would not compete in the famous Tiger Woods (TGL) league, despite being announced of its beginnings. The Spaniard claimed that he could not commit all the time required to participate in this experience. He also won't be defending his title at the American Express earlier this year, although he is expected to be at the tournament of champions that would open 2024 in Hawaii. Coincidences or hints of new winds? We understand that we won't have to wait too long to know the end of this story and Jon Rahm's fate and motives to start a new stage in 2024 or stay on the PGA Tour.

  • Jon Rahm