The PGA Tour misses his former star Jon Rahm

The headline that leads this piece could very well end with ellipses

by Andrea Gussoni
The PGA Tour misses his former star Jon Rahm
© Manuel Velasquez / Getty Images Sport

The headline that leads this piece could very well end with ellipses. In that case, it would continue like this: "...and Koepka, and DJ, and DeChambeau, and Cam Smith". Let's start by acknowledging that we're not reinventing the wheel by saying that the PGA misses the enormous talent it has lost in these years of conflict with the LIV.

But the truth is that this start to 2024, when the circuit needed strong narratives in the wake of the departure of the Basque golfer, who by results and charisma at the time of his departure was among its five most powerful images (sitting at the table with McIlroy, Spieth, and Scheffler, with Tiger in the presidential chair), has been rather poor.

Jon Rahm, results

Let's take a look at the list of winners in the first seven tournaments of this year, which make up the West Coast Swing, the tour along the west coast of the United States, major tournaments aside, probably the best time of the season due to the pedigree of the courses played and those star-studded fields provided by Signature Events like the Sentry, Pebble Beach, or the Genesis.

Chris Kirk, Grayson Murray, Nick Dunlap, Matthieu Pavon, Wyndham Clark, Nick Taylor, and Hideki Matsuyama make up the list. Jon Rahm, Si Woo Kim, Jon Rahm, Max Homa, Justin Rose, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm. This last one is from last year.

Do you notice the difference? Because there is one. It's not about dismissing the potential appeal of Kirk and Murray's redemption stories, two recovered alcoholics who have returned to elite golf; or Dunlap's story, the first amateur to win on the PGA Tour in 33 years; or Pavon's story, the first French champion on the circuit; or Clark's consolidation as primus inter pares.

But surely they are not the names sponsors had in mind when they agreed to increase their contributions to prize purses to combat the inflationary cycle caused by the LIV's emergence in this sport. In fact, the goal of having a series of tournaments, those Signature ones, with $20 million to distribute, without a cut or with a very lenient one, is to have the best players concentrated for more days and more events per year, which should in principle produce more champions appealing to the audience, sponsors, and television networks.

It sounds terrible, but in this hyper-commercialized world of which professional golf is a part, nobody except the French public, who are not exactly the golden goose for the PGA, wants to see Pavon hitting metal at a course like Torrey Pines.

Nor a winner after 54 holes at Pebble Beach like Clark, no matter how dignified his 60 on Saturday was for the victory, or the horde of drunks that turned the Phoenix Open into a rave. They want to see what happened last Sunday: Hideki Matsuyama, a Masters champion, shooting a 62 to claim Riviera (a victory that, by the way, made him the most successful Asian in the history of the circuit, with nine in total).

Or Tiger Woods, who had to withdraw on Friday with flu symptoms, completing 72 holes in an official tournament, regardless of what his scorecard says. Or Jordan Spieth at the top of the leaderboard over the weekend, which didn't happen this time because the PGA still thinks it's reasonable to disqualify (and not just add two extra strokes, for example) someone for turning in an incorrect scorecard.

As if a tennis player were expelled from a match for asking for a ball that landed a meter from the line to be called in. The good part is that the battle for ratings is still a victory for the PGA. In part because the LIV has not yet secured a major television partner (The CW isn't one) in the United States, but the truth is that the final round of the Saudi super league event in Las Vegas was watched by 297,000 people, while the Phoenix Open, on the same day, attracted 1.7 million viewers.

A week earlier, a rerun of the third round at Pebble Beach drew nearly 1.2 million viewers, with 430,000 viewers following the conclusion of the LIV Mayakoba, even though it ended with an exciting playoff between Joaquín Niemann and Sergio García.

Many of the problems mentioned above are beyond the PGA's control, as it has no power over the weather, Tiger Woods' body, or the amount of alcohol the illustrious parish of Phoenix can absorb. But, until the organization clarifies how it will improve the product exactly, apart from making already obscenely rich athletes even richer, with the $3 billion that the Strategic Sports Group will inject into its coffers, what has become clear in this month and a half of 2024 is that professional golf needs peace, and that this requires some kind of agreement, at least a ceasefire, between the PGA and the LIV.

So that neither one nor the other has to miss players like Rahm, but above all so that the fans don't miss them, because in the end, they are the ones who pay for the show.

Pga Tour Jon Rahm