A report surfaced on Wednesday that raised some eyebrows on Twitter. Matt Adams, from Golf Channel, said that a recent World #1 and multiple major winner was in “advanced discussions” with LIV Golf. That caused fans to speculate that the player is Jon Rahm and that it impacted the PGA Tour hastening merger discussions.
“I was able to learn through sources … a player who was recently ranked #1 in the world [and] is a multiple-time major champion was in advanced discussions with LIV,” Adams said.
“I don’t know what impact that had behind-the-scenes, but if players were starting [to think] … ‘we have no reason to throw our alliance one way or the other, we can make decisions that are in our best financial interest.’”
This is a very interesting report. And, of course, people speculated on the player to whom Adams is referring.
The answer is pretty obvious: Jon Rahm.
First, the question is: what does “recently” ranked #1 mean? Only three players have been ranked #1 during this year: Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy.
It’s fairly safe to assume that Rory McIlroy, given all of his comments, is not this player. Though, he does qualify as a recent #1 and multiple-major winner.
Scottie Scheffler is the world’s current #1-ranked golfer. However, he has only won one major championship: the 2022 Masters. He does not qualify as a multiple-time major champion.
The only other player to be ranked #1 in the world in the past two years is Dustin Johnson. And he’s already a member of LIV Golf.
Realistically the only other player who COULD qualify under this criteria is Justin Thomas. He won two PGA Championships. But he hasn’t been ranked #1 in the world since a one-week stretch in 2020.
If the report is accurate, Jon Rahm must be the player who was considering bolting the PGA Tour for LIV Golf
Rahm is a recently #1-ranked golfer. In fact, he and Scheffler have been trading the mantle back-and-forth since last February.
He won the 2023 Masters and the 2021 US Open. That qualifies him as a multiple major champion.
Then, you take a look at what Rahm has said in the past about LIV Golf. He’s be relatively quiet on the subject, especially compared to guys like McIlroy.
In March, he said that PGA Tour players should be “thankful” for LIV Golf. That sounds more like a positive review of the Saudi-backed league than a negative.
Next, you think about Rahm’s relationships in golf. Sergio Garcia, a fellow Spaniard, is one of Rahm’s close friends. He’s a member of LIV Golf.
Another person very close to Rahm is Phil Mickelson. Rahm attended Mickelson’s alma mater, Arizona State, and played on the golf team where Mickelson’s brother, Tim, was the head coach.
Rahm has defended Mickelson since his defection to LIV Golf. Of course, Mickelson is one of the biggest names on the LIV Golf tour.
It makes sense that LIV Golf might target Rahm, too. They were looking for players with International appeal. As a European golfer who won the 2023 Masters, Rahm certainly has global recognition.
But did those “advanced discussions” impact the broader picture?
Then, the question becomes: if that report is correct, did it affect the PGA Tour quickly and quietly moving forward with the merger.
That’s obviously unclear. Rahm is a big name, but whether or not his defection would have been enough to change the landscape of professional golf, who knows.
What we do know is that if Rahm had gone to LIV, it would have meant that the last three major champions (Cam Smith, 2022 Open, Jon Rahm, 2023 Masters, and Brooks Koepka, 2023 PGA Championship) would all have been members of LIV.
That certainly would not have been a good look for the PGA Tour. Rahm would have represented the best current player to leave.
Whether or not it had an impact, we don’t know.
But usually, where there’s smoke there’s fire.
Just ask Canada about that.