Jon Rahm once said “$400,000,000 won’t change my life.” $600,000,000 will though. For the week that’s in it, Rahm has rolled back.
Everyone has their price and for Rahm that price makes him the world’s highest paid athlete in a deal that has once again moved the goalposts in golf’s civil war at potentially the most crucial time with a December 31 deadline on the framework agreement looming.
The timing could not be worse for PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan who is due to meet with the Yasir Al Rumayyan to try and reach a deal. Safe to say he is firmly up against it having already broken the bank to try and help the PGA Tour keep pace with the Saudi riches.
When LIV began in 2022 it seemed the danger to the PGA Tour was minimal. Yet while the crowds continue to be depleted and golf fans continue to struggle to take the tour seriously as a competitive entity, 2023 has seen LIV gain some backbone.
Brooks Koepka’s major championship win at the PGA was a serious statement for LIV Golf but the signing of Rahm has lifted the tour into another dimension and has struck a hammer blow to the PGA Tour.
As it stands heading into 2024, PGA Tour events will not feature Rahm, Koepka, Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.
LIV boast two of the last four major champions and had LIV been rewarded world ranking points, certainly three of the top-5 players in the world (Rory, Scheffler, Rahm, Smith and Koepka).
Whether you are for or against it, there is no denying that LIV Golf is getting harder to ignore.
It’s like when Covid-19 first arose, we all scoffed and smirked nonchalantly at the notion of it being a deadly disease. Then when it started to gather momentum we took a glance over our shoulders as if to say, out of sight, out of mind. Like Covid, LIV now has a stranglehold on the world of golf and Monahan is too late, he should have reacted eighteen months ago.
The Saudis have now put an incomprehensible weight on the PGA Tour. Despite the Tour ramping up prize funds, bringing in PIP and trying to make the best players earn more money in order to stave off the Saudi advances, it has all been (expensively) in vain.
It was entirely unsustainable anyway, reportedly asking sponsors to stump up more sums of cash for tournaments that were already being depleted and losing TV viewing figures.
Football is trying something similar to try and make the top of the pyramid richer without having to glance at the Saudi jewels. Earlier this week, the Premier League announced that it has agreed a new deal with Sky and TNT Sports in which the competition will receive £6.7bn over four years for its UK television rights.
Saudi Arabia have their fingers in a lot of pies in the world of sport and while their main target is football, they have their tentacles wrapped around golf.
By the new year they could have full control of golf at professional level, and will have acquired it quite quickly.
Rory McIlroy has expressed concerns over golf’s future relevancy in the world of sport in the wake of Rahm’s move to LIV. He’s right.
Golf is in danger of becoming like tennis. It only matters for the grand slams, four times a year. And even that will get boring once the main protagonists go past their peak and eventually fall off the top of the game.
Golf’s desperation to chase the profit has left it broken, potentially beyond repair. Money doesn’t fix everything and the overall picture for professional sport is a grim one.
The best athletes in the world deserve to earn the riches but golf is not sharing its end of the bargain with a competitive edge.
The best golfers in the world are no longer playing in the same place. At the moment, all the best footballers are playing on the same stage, give or take a marquee name or two past their best going to the Saudi Pro League. And while Liverpool and Mohamed Salah resisted the Saudi dollar in the summer there is clearly no end to their efforts of persuasion and they have broken golf’s resistance.
Sport is being reduced to a money-making exercise and while fans of other sports might start finger wagging, pointing and laughing. Just remember, your beloved sport that you have grown up watching for fun, for the admiration of athletes showing, passion, determination, integrity and above all, competitiveness, could be next.
Just last weekend, Ronnie O’Sullivan, one of the world’s greatest sportspeople won a record 8th UK Championship. He picked up a remarkably modest £250,000 winners cheque and was seen the next day smoking a cigarette while waiting for a bus.
Saudi Arabia sucks all the good out of sport and mocks those of us who celebrate its traditional core values.
Now sport has sacrificed itself for immense profit chasing and high-profile athletes promoting Saudi Arabia in meaningless PR stunts.
Spanish golfers have always been something to admire. Everyone coming through the system, latching on to the stories and success of legends who have gone before them.
A question for Jon Rahm in his next general press conference should be: ‘What would Seve Ballesteros think of you now?’
One would imagine he is turning in his grave.
Turns out Phil Mickelson was right all along…