‘Hypocrite’ Masters champ confirms $908m defection

Jon Rahm has announced a bombshell move to LIV Golf, a stunning blow to the PGA Tour as it races to try to finalise a commercial agreement with the Saudi Arabian backers of the rival league.

Rahm tweeted on Friday to confirm what had been reported for days – the 2023 Masters champion signing a deal that various reports have put anywhere from $454 million to $908 million.

“I am proud to join LIV Golf and be part of something new that is bringing growth to the sport,” the Spaniard tweeted.

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“I have no doubt that this is a great opportunity for me and my family and am very excited for the future.

LIV Golf is staging a three-day promotions event in Abu Dhabi this week.

The Wall Street Journal, along with other outlets, earlier suggested there was still a chance Rahm might change his mind.

Sports Illustrated reported he was on his way to New York to finalise the deal. Executives from the PGA Tour and Rahm’s manager did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The American Express, which Rahm won in January, held its media day this week and Rahm was not mentioned as part of the field.

Rahm is the biggest catch yet by LIV Golf — a two-time major champion, a 29-year-old Spaniard just coming into the prime of his career. And it comes at a time when the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund are trying to finalise their framework agreement for a new commercial deal that includes the European tour.

The agreement stunned the golf world when it was announced June 6 and attracted the interest of the Justice Department and Congress, which has held two hearings on the deal. Since then, other private equity firms have joined the negotiations.

The framework agreement originally had language that would put a stop to poaching players, but that was removed at the Justice Department’s request.

Signing with LIV runs counter to everything Rahm has said about the league. He has declared his support for the PGA Tour dating to February 2022. As recently as August he told a Spanish podcast that “I laugh when people rumour with LIV Golf. I’ve never liked the format”.

Reports indicate Rahm would have his own four-man team at LIV Golf, which enters its third season next year offering $30 million purses for 54 holes with no cut. His equity in a team would likely contribute to the deal he signs.

Rahm had said as LIV was recruiting players for its start in 2022 that “the only appeal I see is monetary, right?”.

“So like I said just earlier on, I think there’s a lot more to be able to play for besides just money on the PGA Tour. There’s history, there’s legacy. At the end of the day, I’m in this to win tournaments, I’m in this to play against the best in the world,” he said.

His signing with LIV will give the rival league two of the major champions this year.

Rahm currently is No.3 in the world ranking. He is close friends with Phil Mickelson — they are represented by the same management and Mickelson’s brother was Rahm’s coach at Arizona State — and with fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia.

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