Tiger Woods and his fellow player directors have written to the rest of the PGA Tour membership to try to calm the fevered speculation of Jon Rahm imminently moving to LIV Golf.
Rumours of Rahm jumping ship to the breakaway league have intensified since resurfacing a few weeks ago. The fact that there has been no denial from the Spaniard or his team has inevitably only increased suspicions, with figures up to $600m (£470m) being bandied around as a signing-on fee.
And with merger negotiations continuing between the PGA Tour and the Saudi sovereign wealth fund – the $600bn treasure chest that bankrolls LIV – confusion abounds and fears build on the fairways.
Woods and the other pros on the Tour’s policy board have attempted to reassure the restless locker room with a memo sent late on Friday night. “With the 2024 season just around the corner and with so much speculation in our game, we wanted to speak to you directly,” it said.
“Since Tiger joined the policy board on Aug. 1, the player directors have been doing everything we can to ensure the PGA Tour is best positioned to thrive for decades to come. We have learned a lot, and we are encouraged by progress on multiple fronts.”
Details in the message were scant, but it did provide further evidence that the players – or least their six representatives on the policy board – are heavily involved and this echoes Woods’s statement earlier in the week that “no major decision can be made in the future without the prior involvement and approval of the player directors”.
Rahm’s defection would throw everything up in the air
There is a Dec 31 deadline for a deal, although this can and almost certainly will be extended. The scenario is rendered yet more uncertain because of US investors lining up to invest in the new incarnation of the Tour and the US Congress ready to investigate any resulting carve-up with a foreign body.
Rahm’s defection would throw all this up in the air. LIV insiders insist they are not aware of any talks with the two-time major winner. However, the silence from Rahm’s camp is curious, to say the least. In February of last year, Rahm pledged “fealty” to the PGA at a time when speculation about LIV defection was rife.
“This is my official, my one and only time I’ll talk about this, where I am officially declaring my fealty to the PGA Tour,” Rahm said. “I’m a PAC member, and I have a lot of belief in (commissioner) Jay Monahan and the product that they’re going to give us in the future. There has been a lot of talk and speculation about the Saudi league. It’s just not something I believe is the best for me and my future in golf, and I think the best legacy I can accomplish will be with the PGA Tour.”
Jordan Spieth is alongside Woods on the policy board and has been prepared to discuss the issue. “We really hope that he [Rahm] is continuing with us,” Spieth said. “I know there’s been some guys that have talked to him. I know he’s maybe weighing some decisions, maybe not. I really don’t know, so I don’t want to insult him and say he’s weighing decisions if he already knows he’s not or he is. You know, that’s somewhat out of my control in a way.”
Woods said he would be ‘surprised’ if Rahm joined big names such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Cam Smith and Bryson DeChambeau on the renegade circuit. ‘Hypothetically, would it surprise me? Yes, but there’s so many different things that have happened in the last 48 hours, but also in the last few weeks,” Woods said. “Things have changed and will continue to change.”
Woods and Spieth are both playing in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. After two rounds Spieth was sharing the lead on nine-under with Scottie Scheffler, while Woods was 10 behind, standing in 15th place in the 20-man field.