Professional golf may just be the most dramatic sport in the world at the moment. The drama-filled NBA couldn’t hold a candle to this past week of golf news with Jon Rahm joining LIV Golf for a figure that could very well be over half of a billion dollars plus the game’s governing bodies deciding to make the sport even harder in a handful of years.
Whether or not Rahm joining LIV Golf will actually move the needle will be a waiting game. But at the very least, his move to the breakaway circuit broke the seal for other players to make the jump. It also is clearly portraying the Saudi’s intentions. Hint: they don’t actually care if Rahm moves the needle.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has been a ghost since one of the best players walking the planet left for LIV, and while he’s taken plenty of scrutiny, he may be running the only logical play left in his playbook.
Plenty to tackle, as always, in a fresh edition of Par Talk.
Plenty Of Other Notable Players Will Follow Jon Rahm’s Move To LIV
All of last week the line surrounding Jon Rahm to LIV Golf was that it was a matter of when, not if, the Spaniard would make the jump. That same sentiment appears to be the case when it comes to other big-time players bolting from the PGA Tour to join its rival circuit.
Similar to Rahm, Tony Finau has long-been linked to eventually signing with LIV. Those rumors have ramped up tremendously over the last handful of days. The Telegraph, who hasn’t seemed to miss on LIV rumors thus far, as well as Golf WRX are reporting Finau’s move to LIV is imminent.
On top of that, Finau was asked on Friday if he had put any thought into leaving for LIV. He responded by saying “no, not yet, I haven’t let anything marinate other than just playing right now.”
The “not yet” part of that statement certainly stands out.
It’s also worth mentioning that Finau is facing multiple lawsuits by individuals claiming he owes them millions. Finau has earned over $37 million during his career on the PGA Tour. But what would be a sizable signing bonus from LIV certainly wouldn’t hurt him and his large family’s cause if the lawsuits go south on his end.
The other name being linked to a move to LIV Golf is Rahm’s Ryder Cup teammate, Tyrrell Hatton.
What’s Jay Monahan Supposed To Do?
It has been a year to forget for Jay Monahan. The PGA Tour commissioner has suffered loss after loss both behind closed doors and in the public’s eye. He has now had to watch one of the faces of the Tour leave for LIV.
Monahan sitting next to Saudi PIF governor Yassir Al-Rumayyan on June 6 happily announcing plans for a merger is looking worse and worse by the day. The circles that have been made around Monahan by the Saudi PIF and LIV Golf over the last six months are impossible to ignore.
With the PGA Tour appearing to crumble before our very eyes, Monahan has rightfully been called out left and right by fans, media, and players. While the criticism is warranted, it rarely comes with a suggestion about what Monahan should actually be doing.
I think the reality of the situation is that Monahan can’t do anything. He’s in a lose-lose situation. He recognizes that. Him commenting on the future of the Tour or Rahm leaving for LIV for example would gain him nothing.
Monahan and the Tour can’t come out and say ‘Rahm will be missed’ because that only opens the door for more scrutiny.
His resigning as commissioner is an option, but one that doesn’t exactly accomplish anything. The already vulnerable PGA Tour would be even more vulnerable. The proposed merger could essentially fall apart which would lead to a max exodus of players, and the Tour would be without leadership.
Monahan’s only option is to continue to take blow after blow from multiple angles and hope they stop sooner rather than later.
The Saudi’s Intentions With LIV Golf Have Never Been More Clear
When Monahan and Al-Rumayyan sat on national television with smiles across their faces announcing a merger on June 6, the overwhelming feeling seemed to be that the Saudi PIF would simply invest in the Tour. The Tour would remain the top dog in professional golf. LIV would continue plucking away in hopes of getting on level playing field.
In other words, the Saudis were looking for a seat at the table of professional golf. But the Tour would still very much be seated at the head of said table.
All of us who had that mindset, myself included, currently look like fools.
The Saudis don’t play for second place. They don’t care that they’re potentially lighting billions of dollars on fire with the LIV operation and signing players for obscene amounts of money while the audience is slim to none.
The Saudis play for keeps. Given that their PIF is valued at $700 billion, they can play this game for as long as they want.
It’s been obvious from the jump, but the Saudis don’t seem to care about moving the needle, or even coming close to breaking even.
They want control of professional golf, and can play this game a long, long time. Everyone knew this…except for maybe Jay Monahan.
— Mark Harris (@itismarkharris) December 9, 2023
The Saudi’s End Game
Their plan to go into business with the Tour seems to be a disguise of them potentially killing the Tour and ruling professional golf. Things could change if/when the merger comes to fruition. The longer things are drawn out and the more players jump to LIV, the light at the end of the tunnel from a PGA Tour perspective is getting further and further away.
While more and more wrinkles seem to be getting added to the situation by the day, I continually go back to the New Yorker’s 2022 piece about the Saudis getting involved with golf. In the lengthy piece there is an incredibly important nugget that gets glossed over time and time again.
Back in 2018, Al-Rumayyan appointed his friend, Maje Al Sorour to be the CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation. Prior to LIV ever even being a thought, they claim to have approached Monahan and the Tour with a billion-dollar offer.
“What I said to him is I have a budget of over a billion dollars that I’d like to invest in the Tour,” Sorour told the outlet. “I got no response.”
The Saudis do not often hear the word ‘no’. It certainly seems like that past alleged run-in with Monahan lit a fire under them and the results are unfolding before us in real-time.
Follow Mark Harris on X @itismarkharris and email him at email@example.com