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Rahm headed to Las Vegas as newest member of LIV Golf

The Las Vegas LIV Golf event just got a little more interesting.

Jon Rahm, the reigning Masters champion and part of the current big three in golf, abandoned the PGA Tour for LIV Golf on Thursday for a signing bonus rumored to be in the neighborhood of $500 million.

The move means Rahm is banned from PGA Tour events other than the four majors. He will make his American LIV debut Super Bowl week at Las Vegas Country Club.

“I am proud to join LIV Golf and be part of something new that is bringing growth to the sport,” Rahm said in a release. “I have no doubt that this is a great opportunity for me and my family and am very excited for the future.”

The move is a huge change in direction for Rahm, who has been a strong advocate for the PGA Tour over the 18 months since LIV Golf launched. Lures of huge signing bonuses did not sway Rahm, he said on numerous occasions, because he cared more about tradition, legacy and the Ryder Cup. He also said several times that he already had more money than he could ever imagine.

That has apparently changed.

“It was a great offer. The money is great, obviously it’s wonderful,” Rahm told The Associated Press. “But what I said before is true: I do not play golf for the money. I play golf for the love of the game and for the love of golf. But, as a husband, as a father and as a family man, I have a duty to my family to give them the best opportunities and the most amount of resources possible, and that is where that comes in.”

Rahm will be captain of his own team at LIV, which will debut outside Cancun, Mexico, when the season kicks off Feb. 2-4. The following week brings the tour to Las Vegas for the first time, with LVCC hosting the event Feb. 8-10, wrapping up on Saturday on the eve of the Super Bowl at Allegiant Stadium.

“There are very few athletes with his pedigree of talent, leadership, poise, and commitment to bringing progress to the sport on a worldwide stage,” LIV commissioner Greg Norman said. “We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Jon to the LIV Golf family.”

Rahm, 29, has been one of the best players in golf since winning his first PGA Tour event in 2017. He has 11 PGA Tour titles and 10 more in Europe, with victories in the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and the Masters in April at the top of the list. Rahm has spent 52 weeks as the No. 1 player in the world rankings, and hasn’t been out of the top 10 since July of 2019.

For the past two years, Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy have alternated between the top three spots in the rankings, creating a modern-day version of a big three in golf.

That will slowly come to an end. Players on the LIV Golf circuit do not accumulate world ranking points, resulting in players slowly dropping on the list. Brooks Koepka (17), Cameron Smith (23), Joaquin Niemann (59) and Patrick Reed (72) are the only LIV players still in the top 100. Other former top players like Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson have long disappeared from the top 100.

Rahm’s move comes as the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund try to finalize a merger that was announced in June, shocking the golf world. The two sides have until the end of the year to complete the deal, with progress reportedly slow.

LIV officials, however, are moving ahead with their tour and point to Rahm’s signing that it will continue to be a factor in golf.

“LIV Golf is here to stay,” chief operating officer Lawrence Burian said. “The addition of Jon re-emphasizes that our league is not slowing down. We are continuing to invest and build aggressively for LIV’s long-term and exciting future.”

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. Reach him at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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