BROOKLINE, Mass. – As the LIV conversation bled into another practice day at the U.S. Open, the championship’s defending champion, Jon Rahm, was not spared a flurry of questions regarding the new Saudi-backed circuit.
Rahm’s answers were mostly nothing new. The superstar Spaniard further solidified his commitment to the PGA Tour by saying, “I've always been interested in history and legacy, and right now the PGA Tour has that.” He also reserved judgment toward those who have defected for big paydays, including mentor Phil Mickelson and countryman Sergio Garcia.
“It's a very nice compensation to then retire and sail off into the sunset,” Rahm said of LIV’s exorbitant cash incentive. “If that's what you want, that's fine.”
Yet Rahm couldn’t help but “feel for Jay Monahan” and also wonder what the ramifications could be for what he considers the “biggest attraction” in golf: the Ryder Cup.
“I hope the Ryder Cup doesn't suffer,” Rahm said. “… I hope we don't lose the essence and the aspect that the Ryder Cup is. That's one of my biggest concerns, to be honest. It's an event we all play for free, and it's one of our favorite weeks, win or lose. I think that says a lot about the game and where I wish it would be at.”
With the next Ryder Cup still more than a year away, both sides have been mum on whether players who join LIV would be permitted to compete or captain. The PGA of America said last week via statement that it “remains committed to the requirement that to be eligible to compete on a U.S. Ryder Cup team a player must be a member of the PGA of America in good standing. Beyond that foundational principle, it would be inappropriate and premature for us to speculate on what may or may not happen 15 months from now in Rome.”
Several players, including Dustin Johnson, have resigned their PGA Tour membership, which provides players PGA membership as well.
“The Ryder Cup is unbelievable and something that has definitely meant a lot to me,” Johnson, a five-time Ryder Cupper who went 5-0 last year at Whistling Straits, recently said. “I’m proud to say I’ve represented my country and hopefully I’ll get a chance to do that again. But I don’t make the rules.”
The U.S. team has three potential players already committed to LIV – Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed – while Mickelson, a 12-time team member, figured to be a captain soon. The Europeans would be hit harder by any Ryder Cup ban of LIV members, as Garcia, Europe’s all-time points leader, headlined a list of potential Cup players and captains that teed it up in last week’s LIV lid-lifter in London. That list also included Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer, Bernd Wiesberger and Sam Horsfield.
It helps that Europe’s two biggest guns, Rahm and Rory McIlroy, have been staunch opponents of LIV, but Rahm still worries how the biennial event would withstand the absence of several of the game’s biggest names being barred from the competition.
“Are they going to be able to play Ryder Cup or not, the players that went?” Rahm said. “In my mind, Sergio, even if he is not breaking 90, he's a no-brainer pick, right? So, what's going to happen? You have quite a few young Americans. Bryson went, somebody that's probably going to be on the team in the future. Phil's captaincy is probably in question now. Where the PGA stands on all of this. We don't know the European side of things yet. I have no idea what's going on or what's going on with the European Tour. How many people may not be able to be around the Ryder Cup and things like that.
“Like I said, I think a week like that is a true essence of the game. That's where we all love to play.”