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Apr 9, 2024 12:15 pm

PGA-PIF merger uncertainty still a topic at Masters

jon rahm

Defending Masters champion Jon Rahm said he “still love(s) the PGA Tour” and wants the ability to compete there again someday despite departing for LIV Golf this winter.

Whether a merger between the PGA Tour and LIV’s Saudi financiers will open an avenue for that return is still unknown.

The two-time major winner from Spain had his pre-Masters press conference Tuesday morning — one day after BBC published an interview in which Rahm said he hoped LIV would consider moving from 54-hole events to traditional 72-hole events as a way to bring the sport closer to “unification.”

The former No. 1-ranked golfer in the world was asked Tuesday whether part of his motivation for joining LIV was to “try to bring the game together” again.

“I understood my position, yes. And I understood that it could be, what I hoped, a step towards some kind of agreement, yes,” Rahm said. “Or more of an agreement or expedited agreement.

“But, unfortunately, it’s not up to me. But I would hope it would be something that would help expedite that process. But at the end of the day, I still did what I thought was best for myself.”

That doesn’t mean Rahm’s decision to leave was easy. He reiterated Tuesday that he misses “competing against certain people” on the PGA Tour as well as a number of historic venues. Rahm’s defection meant he was not able to defend 2023 titles at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui, The American Express in the California desert or the Genesis Invitational, the Tiger Woods-hosted signature event in Los Angeles.

“Not being at Palm Springs, Torrey (Pines), Phoenix and L.A. wasn’t the easiest. And I’ll keep saying that because those are venues that I absolutely love,” Rahm said.

Rahm still lives in his adopted home of Arizona and said driving past TPC Scottsdale, famed for its par-3 16th stadium hole, is “quite hard” for him.

“I still love the PGA Tour, and I still hope everything the best, and I still hope that at some point I can compete there again,” Rahm said.

Rahm also claimed the major championships need to find a new way to ensure the best players in the world qualify for their fields — a reference to LIV Golf players not earning points in the Official World Golf Ranking — but he declined to say for what he’d advocate in particular.

“They’ll need to figure out a way to evaluate how the LIV players are doing and how they can earn their way,” Rahm said. “And I understand there’s less players and you can’t give, right, 10 people or 15 people a start, but there’s got to be a way for some players to earn their way in. That’s the best way I can say it. I just don’t really know what that looks like.”

Rahm is one of 13 LIV players in this week’s field, including seven LIV members who previously have won a green jacket. Augusta National also extended an invitation to Joaquin Niemann of Chile, who did not have the world ranking necessary to get in but won the Australian Open in December.

The U.S. Open and Open Championship feature open qualifying at locations around the world.

It is unclear whether a merger of the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is any closer. They announced their surprise “framework agreement” June 6, 2023, with a self-imposed Dec. 31 deadline for a final deal that came and went.

Until such a merger were to happen, the four majors are the only times the best players from LIV Golf will join the best of the PGA and DP World tours.

Norway’s Viktor Hovland, one of the PGA Tour’s rising stars, was asked what it was like for him to see Rahm, Brooks Koepka and other LIV players he hadn’t seen in a while.

“They’re certainly a couple of the guys out there that I miss and I think it’s good that we get to meet and get to play against each other again,” Hovland said. “Hopefully, everyone at home will enjoy seeing everyone kind of play against each other.”

–Field Level Media

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