Rahm, "next level" that golf is still waiting for

Two weeks after the disappointment at the Masters in Augusta, Jon Rahm returns to action this Friday (3:45, Movistar Golf) in Adelaide, Australia

by Andrea Gussoni
Rahm, "next level" that golf is still waiting for
© Mark Brake/Getty Images Sport

Two weeks after the disappointment at the Masters in Augusta, Jon Rahm returns to action this Friday (3:45, Movistar Golf) in Adelaide, Australia. The tournament holds a similar significance for the LIV as the Phoenix Open does for the PGA: it's a festivity that challenges the traditional norms of golf, a week where the sport lets loose, particularly catering to the enthusiastic fans from Down Under.

Despite the logistical challenges of playing there, Australia remains an underutilized country by the major circuits, a fact hardly up for debate. The tournament at Adelaide's The Grange features the famous 12th hole, reminiscent of the 16th at Scottsdale, complete with an amphitheater surrounding its perimeter.

Jon Rahm, statements

The excitement reached a fever pitch last year when Chase Koepka, brother of Brooks, scored a hole-in-one there, providing ample headlines for the Saudi super league, which found legitimacy in the beer showers, contrasting those who argue for the absence of atmosphere in their tournaments.

"It's definitely one of those weeks I had highlighted on my calendar because of the great things I've heard about this tournament. It's a great city, a great course, and great fans. And I emphasize great fans because of the 12th hole.

I thought it was much shorter, but when I saw it in person, I realized it's honestly much more challenging than I thought. Maybe for setting up a stadium, they could choose a shorter hole, mainly to increase the chances of seeing hole-in-ones.

But still, it's absolutely incredible, something worth seeing," remarked Jon Rahm during his press conference, flanked by Greg Norman, the CEO of the LIV. It was akin to a football club president showing off their latest star signing.

Later, the Spanish golfer delved into an analysis of the current golf landscape, discussing the "next level" that golf believes it can reach by harnessing the disruption brought about by its current 'home', provided all stakeholders agree—an agreement expected in December, but five months later, it remains unclear.

"I don't know anything. I think it's the same situation many others are in. The people behind this, who are very smart, are still trying to determine what's best for golf. I haven't spoken to enough PGA players to know their stance, honestly.

I think there's a widespread lack of information," commented the Basque golfer on the potential outcome of negotiations whose prolonged duration is already eroding viewership (the final round of the Masters saw a 20% decrease in viewership from last year, from 12 million to 9.59, marking the third lowest in its history after the 2020 and 2021 editions, amidst the pandemic).

"I think we all want to see this resolved. I've said it many times. We have the opportunity to take golf to another level in global markets, and if we do it right, we can get a better product for everyone and leave this sport in a better position, as a global sport," added Rahm, whose trophy cabinet on the circuit he joined late last year remains unopened, with five top-10 finishes.

However, this tournament isn't the best place to start due to Australia's tax policies, which require handing over 47% of winnings, reducing the winner's share of four million dollars (3.7 million euros) to around 2.2 million (a little over 2 million euros).

72-hole tournaments, a considered option: "I'd love to provide perspective, but I don't have any. The LIV is completely separate from that negotiation (the weight is carried by its main investor, the Saudi public investment fund, and its president, Yassir Al-Rumayyan).

Our investor wanted to put his money into the LIV because he liked the idea of a franchise model and what we could do with it. I don't know what's happening; we're very busy developing our circuit and preparing the 2025 and 2026 calendars.

Our responsibility is to look after our players, our people, and where we want to go," echoed Greg Norman, who expressed openness to changing the format to 72 holes, one of the reasons why the board governing the world rankings refuses to include the LIV in its structure.

"We are receptive to that idea, but you have to understand there are economic constraints and television considerations. It's a big topic of debate, and we'll continue to study it. We constantly evaluate things that could improve our tournaments, and playing 72 holes is part of the discussion," noted the Australian on an idea Rahm has previously emphasized.

"I think it would help in terms of fans because it's one of the complaints I always receive. In European football, both the Premier League and Serie A, the Spanish and German leagues all play under the same rules. We also do, except for that.

But ultimately, the LIV is a business, and if it doesn't fit into their product, it doesn't fit. I'm just a player, and there are much smarter people than me dedicated to knowing why 54 holes might be a better system," he added to the discussion.

This think tank will now include David Philipps, Ross Hallett, Katie O’Reilly, Tim Taylor, and Pam Sacree, the new wave of 'signings' for the circuit's offices, recruiting talent with backgrounds in organizations such as Endeavor, the Philadelphia 76ers, or Equinox.

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Jon Rahm