In his press conference ahead of The Players Championship, world number one Jon Rahm admitted that he could see both sides of the argument ahead of the PGA Tour’s planned 2024 schedule, with certain designated events set to become reduced field, no cut tournaments, though did feel that the planned format would be beneficial in the long run.
“I can see the logic in what they are disapproving of,” Rahm said when asked if he’d been approached by any disapproving Tour members, “but I think in the long run once you take a step back and you realize it truly is the best for everybody, it’s the best product for the PGA TOUR, I think they will understand. But I really can’t say much on the matter because nobody has come to me asking my opinion.”
Rahm is one of the few PGA Tour and DP World Tour members to publicly express his desire to see LIV golf defectors remain eligible for Ryder Cup participation, partly due to his experience partnering Sergio Garcia at Whistling Straits in 2021, and when asked if he felt that defending champion Cameron Smith should be present to defend his title at Sawgrass, again, he gave a balanced response.
“I mean, yes and no,” he responded. “I feel like as defending champion you’ve earned a right. But we’re talking about a very unique circumstance in the world of golf, right. I’ve always thought on those selective events that you need to qualify, CJ Cup, for example, if you were to win, you should automatically be into next year’s CJ Cup to defend the tournament. That’s my belief, that defending champions should always be there.
“We’re talking about different circumstances right now. Some players made a choice of going to a different golf league knowing that they weren’t going to be allowed to play here. And yes, this is a massive event. It is very close to major quality event, but it’s still a PGA TOUR event.
“So with that regard, no. I don’t think just him should be allowed to be here.”
Fears have been raised that the re-formatted PGA Tour will further alienate and minimise the DP World Tour with whom they have a strategic alliance, and though Rahm is a vehement supporter of the European Tour, he believes that the players aren’t the ones who should be determining the future of the game in Europe.
“Well, I’m going to leave that to the people in charge of the strategic alliance,” he shrugged. “My job is to play, not to decide what happens. Obviously they’re making changes here to keep up with the times, and I’m hoping they can make the necessary changes in Europe to improve that tour as well.”
The arrival of LIV Golf has caused major upheaval in the golfing world, creating rifts among players and caused the PGA Tour to take a hard stance against defecting players, but has also forced golf’s premier tour to put reforms in action – something Rahm feels shouldn’t have taken an existential threat to see come into being.
“Oh, it’s LIV Golf. I mean, without a doubt,” he responded to a query as to what had prompted the reformatting. “Without LIV Golf, this wouldn’t have happened. So to an extent, like I’ve said before, we should be thankful this threat has made the PGA TOUR want to change things. I think I said it last week, as well; I wish it didn’t come to the PGA TOUR being, you know, under fire from somebody else to make those changes and make things better for the players, but I guess it is what we needed. So, yeah, it is because of LIV Golf, otherwise we wouldn’t have seen any of this.”
Like Phil Mickelson, Rahm is an Arizona State graduate, and with Mickelson’s brother Tim as a former coach, the players have a long-standing relationship that predates Rahm’s rise to the top of the game. Mickelson has been outspoken about the lack of transparency between PGA Tour directors and the players, and a lack of honesty on the PGA Tour’s behalf, and when asked his thoughts on that, Rahm admitted that lines of communication could be better.
“That’s a tricky question because I don’t know when Phil said that. Obviously there’s been some of us that have had more knowledge of certain things than the rest of the TOUR. Do I think that’s right? Not necessarily, no. But it’s happened way too many times where you if you let information run out that shouldn’t get to the media, it always gets to the media. Then the problem is maybe that information is important to some tournaments, and I wouldn’t want to be a tournament director or a sponsor finding this out through somebody else that isn’t either Jay Monahan or somebody on the PGA TOUR.
“So that’s the reason for some of this communication being a little bit different. But I do agree a little bit with that stance, yeah. I think in general, a lot of times it could be a little bit more clear with why things are done or when things are done.
“But I think that’s what this player meeting was all about. Just letting the membership know. Again, like I just said, it’s tricky because you can’t just make everybody aware of everything at all times, because it always get out, and you don’t necessarily want that private information to get out.”