2023 Open Championship: Jon Rahm offers softer opinion than fellow Tour pros regarding PGA Tour-PIF deal
HOYLAKE, England – Jon Rahm struck a different tone than some of his other high-profile peers Tuesday, saying PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan deserves time to work through the framework agreement with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and that the stars who remained with the Tour don’t necessarily need to be compensated for their loyalty.
Over the past six weeks, several players have expressed anger at being left in the dark during negotiations; confusion at what the future landscape looks like; and now frustration that there still have been so few answers. Monahan returned to work Monday after a month-long absence because of an undisclosed health issue, and Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth suggested last week that Monahan will have to repair the trust he’s broken with some of the players.
“I don’t stand alone when I say that,” Schauffele said.
Full-field tee times from the 151st Open Championship
But Rahm seemed more forgiving when speaking to reporters Tuesday at Royal Liverpool. He said that Monahan is a “really good man” who has treated his family well, and that he has done a “fantastic job” at the helm of the Tour. Though he acknowledged that the deal between the Tour and PIF was “unexpected,” Rahm said that the two sides deserve time to work out the details ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline.
“The turn they took without us knowing was very unexpected,” he said, “but I still think he’s been doing a great job. Right now, after that happened, I only think it’s fair to give them the right time to work things out.
“I still think they have the best interest of the players at heart. All we have right now, it’s a framework agreement. It’s an agreement to have an agreement. We really don’t have anything right now to be able to say or judge what they’ve done.”
So his faith in management, and Monahan in particular, hasn’t changed?
“No,” Rahm said. “Again, he still has all the time to work this agreement to basically prove that this was the right decision.”
Of the many details still to be ironed out, two of the most pressing appear to be how (if at all) to compensate those who remained loyal to the Tour, and how to reintegrate the LIV defectors back into the Tour landscape.
A day after the shocking announcement, Rory McIlroy described himself as a “sacrificial lamb” and suggested that players who eschewed the Saudi millions should, in some way, be made whole for sticking with the Tour in their fight against an existential threat.
“The simple answer is yes,” McIlroy said at the RBC Canadian Open. “The complex answer is how does that happen.”
Even less-heralded players, such as Chesson Hadley, opined that week that they deserved some sort of restitution.
“I would like to be rewarded for my decision to stay loyalty,” Hadley said.
Monahan has vowed to reward the players, in some manner, to helping support the direction of “this pro-competitive, legacy-driven juggernaut” and that more details were forthcoming.
Rahm, however, didn’t share that viewpoint. Yes, the reigning Masters champion could have delivered a crushing blow to the establishment by bolting for LIV – he was reportedly offered a mind-boggling amount of guaranteed money – but opted to stay with the Tour.
And that, he said, was an important distinction to make: It was his decision.
“I wasn’t forced into anything,” he said. “Do I think they absolutely should be and there must be a compensation? No. I just stayed because I think it’s the best choice for myself and for the golf I want to play.”
“We all had the chance to go to LIV and take the money and we chose to stay at the PGA Tour for whatever reason we chose,” he added. “I already make an amazing living doing what I do. I’m extremely thankful, and that all happened because of the platform the PGA Tour provided me. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve done enough for me, and their focus should be on improving the PGA Tour and the game of golf for future generations.”
But if the Tour concocts a plan to reward the high-profile players such as Rahm, he said with a laugh, “I’m not going to say no.”
One of the other key agreed-upon items – besides dropping the costly litigation between the warring sides – was that LIV players could be reinstated after the conclusion of this season.
The question is how.
Rahm said he understands both sides – that some Tour loyalists want the LIV players to pay a steep price for leaving, while he also understands the appeal of allowing those to return to make the Tour’s biggest events even bigger. Rahm believed that some punishment was in order, but he was still grappling with his own feelings on the severity of any would-be punishment, or if it should be doled out on a case-by-case basis, or if the players who left even have a desire to return.
“Right now, it’s kind of the game of waiting,” he said. “Hopefully, they can reach a partnership that they both are happy what the outcome is going to be, and everybody can move on and be the best golf produce we can put out there. Whatever that looks like, I don’t know.”