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Jon Rahm joins LIV Golf: Rickie Fowler, Jason Day among PGA Tour players reacting to defection of world No. 3

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Reality has set in for players on the PGA Tour as one of their best and brightest stars will no longer be with them on a weekly basis. With world No. 3 golfer Jon Rahm defecting LIV Golf, the departure of the two-time major champion and 2023 Masters winner has sent shockwaves through the golf world.

“Ultimately, down the road, division isn’t a good thing,” said Rickie Fowler. “I’m hopeful things will continue to work in the right direction for the greater of the game. But what that is, I don’t know. I wish I could tell you. We’re kind of all on this ride together and kind of figuring out and learning as we go.”

Rahm’s election to jump to LIV Golf comes at a time when the professional landscape is in flux. However, after two years, it appeared the game was finally on the road to recovery as the PGA Tour began negotiating with the Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund — the financial backer of LIV Golf — to house commercial operations under a new for-profit entity.

Whether the move to acquire the Spaniard is a negotiation tactic or simply a big-money signing will be revealed in due time, but it certainly has an effect on the greater ecosystem. An 11-time winner, former world No. 1, valiant Ryder Cup competitor and the current Masters champion, Rahm is among the biggest draws in the game. His decision does just as much to help LIV Golf as it does hurt the PGA Tour.

“This is a huge part of the jigsaw puzzle that you’ve seen Jon go,” Justin Rose told Sports Illustrated. “And then I don’t know who else goes with Jon. I mean, obviously, if it’s just Jon, that’s bad enough. What does that mean now … if it’s Jon plus a trickle?” 

“We’re all trying to evaluate PGA Tour versus LIV in the sense of the fan base and the economics around both tours, but he’s the delta. He moves the delta. He weakens one side and strengthens the other. So, it’s a big move.”

A big move indeed, and a big purchase from the PIF, which has not been shy with its checkbook since the inception of LIV Golf. Rahm’s signing will make him the highest paid player in the league with reports of a deal that exceeds $300 million and includes additional equity in his own team. 

This amount is jaw dropping in the golf world and comparable to elite quarterbacks in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes’ 10-year deal amounts to $450 million, while Joe Burrow makes an annual salary of $55 million. Rahm is not only in that neighborhood now, he has the best lot as well.

“If anyone offered you 400, 500, 600 million — I don’t know what the number is, but it’s somewhere in that ballpark. If someone offered you that much, you’d play on Mars, you know what I mean?” Jason Day said. “So, yeah, I don’t think it has anything to do with the PIF and the PGA Tour deal or something.” 

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