Tony Finau in talks to join Jon Rahm's LIV team

Tony Finau of the United States looks on from the first tee during the first round of the Grant Thornton Invitational at Tiburon Golf Club on December 08, 2023 in Naples, Florida
Tony Finau could be another big-name defection from the PGA Tour - Getty Images/Cliff Hawkins

US Ryder Cup player Tony Finau is in talks to join LIV Golf and become the first member of Jon Rahm’s team following the Spaniard’s £450 million defection.

Rahm is set to announce his side for the breakaway league after he shocked the PGA Tour and DP World Tour by going back on his previous statements and enlisting with the Saudi Arabia-funded enterprise in a record deal on Thursday.

And Finau, his Arizona neighbour and regular practice partner, is being lined up to join the world No 3 with a signing-on fee that sources indicate could top £50 million.

It is understood that one of Rahm’s conditions was to have at least one ally on his four-man squad, although, if LIV are successful, he could have his pick.

Finau, the world No 21, was asked by reporters on Friday if he has considered the chances of him jumping ship. “No, not yet. I haven’t let anything marinate other than just playing right now,” Finau said at the Grant Thornton Invitational. “I’m happy for Jon. He made the best decision he felt was right for his family and himself.”

Rahm’s decision inevitably continues to cause huge ripples throughout the male game, particularly with the ongoing negotiations between the PGA Tour and the Public Investment Fund, the $600billion Saudi treasure chest that bankrolls LIV.

Jordan Spieth, the three-time major winner who sits on the PGA Tour’s policy board, was candid in his views on Rahm’s switch. “I don’t think for him it was the money,” Spieth told AP. “I believe he saw two places that neither one was in a great situation right now, and he said, ‘May as well have the money’.”

As for the Saudis and the timing of this high-profile capture – certainly the most lucrative but also perhaps the most notable in LIV’s 18-month existence – Spieth conceded that he is impressed. “It’s a really nice play by them,” he said. “I think we [the PGA Tour] hold the best hand, but they know what our hand is. It’s a nice leveraging tool with everything going on.”

Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, is due to meet with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the PIF governor and chairman of LIV, as well as Newcastle United, in the forthcoming days, in what are considered as definitive discussions in the mooted merger.

But Monahan – who has been conspicuously silent since the Rahm bombshell – goes into the crunch deliberations in a remarkably weak position. Even Rahm, who has seemingly gone out of his way to be respectful in his comments since his move, recognises Monahan’s fallibility.

“There are people that have lost trust and if he stays the commissioner it’s going to take a long time for a lot of these players to trust him, Rahm told the Pat McAfee Show.

“I do believe there are some who still trust him and [think] he’s the great option. But I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Monahan is essentially a leader without control and Patrick Cantlay, the world No 5, is being depicted as the most powerful voice on the PGA Tour board, with the players allowed the final say over any deal reached before the Dec 31 deadline.

Spieth, however, refuted these reports. “In no way, shape or form does he [Patrick] control anything,” Spieth added to AP. “He, like the rest of us, are all in agreement. We may disagree on the ‘how?’, ‘when?’ and ‘why?’. But our collective duties are to represent the players.”