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So, it’s December 8, 2023. In the last 24 hours Jon Rahm has signed for LIV Golf in a deal reported to worth $450million.

It’s a move that will likely see him banned sine die by the PGA Tour, throws his Ryder Cup future into some jeopardy, and will result in him becoming the new team principal and minority owner of a franchise that may or may not be called Los Toros, and which will compete against other outfits, such as the RangeGoats, 4Aces and Ripper.

Imagine writing that all on December 8, 2021. As both a premise and a prospect, it would have been so far-fetched as to be even beyond the estimation of Hans Christian Andersen.

And yet here we are, rubber-necking bystanders, mouths agog, observing but scarcely believing what has become of the men’s professional game. We are beholden to a fever dream.

What a time to be alive!

No sooner had Jon Rahm slipped on LIV’s letterman jacket than mouths started to foam with fury and spittle.

“How dare he turn his back on the PGA Tour?”

“Doesn’t legacy mean anything to him?”

“He’s already made over $50million. He doesn’t need another $450million!”

They’re all perfectly legitimate reactions. They are also very easy to challenge and rationalise when you strip away the emotion and lower the temperature.

Firstly, Rahm is not “turning his back on the PGA Tour”. He has already expressed a desire to maintain his membership of it and the DP World Tour. The only thing currently preventing him from continuing his PGA Tour career is, in fact, the PGA Tour, which (if convention holds) will now suspend him indefinitely. So, who’s turning its back on who?

What Rahm is doing is accepting an opportunity, an opportunity that may well expedite the change and peace most serious golf fans long for.

It could be argued that his signature is a strategic move on the part of LIV and its Saudi Arabian bankrollers. One has to consider their timing, announcing the deal with just 23 days of ‘framework agreement’ negotiations remaining. Is this LIV saying, “Either work with us or we’ll continue to work against you – and we have the means to win that fight”?

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It’s no secret that the league’s deal-breakers and king-makers are seducing several more of the game’s biggest names. Are Yasir Al-Rumayyan and Co. demonstrating their might, their strength, their potential? Is this all one big flex? It may well be, and if it ends up facilitating a ceasefire, isn’t that a good thing? Is all this, indeed, Rahm’s attempt to accelerate some sort of unification?

Who knows. The only thing that’s for certain is that he is not – categorically not – turning his back on the PGA Tour. That is demonstrably inaccurate and any attempt to pursue that narrative (and rest assured many will) is deliberately disingenuous, not to mention intellectually dishonest.

The point of legacy is certainly compelling. Until now, Rahm has positioned himself as a student of the game, aware and appreciative of all that has gone before him. Prior to last year’s US Open, he said: “I want to play against the best in the world in a format that’s been going on for hundreds of years.” So, what’s changed?

Well, maybe nothing. There’s nothing to suggest that what he no longer wants what he described last year. The reality is that somebody has offered him an astronomical amount of money to compromise on his desires and principles. Let’s face it, he’s hardly the first person to settle for more of one thing at the expense of something else. Does it look good? No. Is it disappointing? Yes. But the real world is not, and has seldom ever been, a dais for idealism.

We also have to accept that some professional golfers simply aren’t motivated by history and becoming a part of it. Some of them just want to get paid.

Which brings us to the $450million question. Why did Rahm feel the need to take the money when he already has so much of it?

It’s actually the wrong question to ask. The correct one is this:

Do you have it within you to turn down $450million?

No matter who you are, no matter how much you’ve got, are you capable of saying thanks but no thanks to four-hundred-and-fifty million dollars? Of becoming the highest-paid athlete in the world? Of securing the financial future of your children’s children’s children’s children?

It’s not a life-altering sum of money; it’s a family tree-altering sum of money. Could you turn that down? Could anybody?

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Let’s try to see this from Rahm’s perspective. He is exempt into all four majors – the only events that matter – for at least the next five years; longer in the case of the US Open and for the rest of days in the case of The Masters. Consider once more how different the world was just two years ago. Now imagine how much the landscape could shift again in the next five.

He has been world No.1, played on victorious Ryder Cup teams, won the Race To Dubai, been the PGA Tour Player of the Year, won 11 times on the US-based circuit, ten times on the DP World Tour. He has just turned 29 and already has a Hall of Fame career.

His place in the game’s history is assured and somebody just offered him $450million, not to erase all of that – because you can’t – but to take his career in a different direction for the foreseeable future.

Everybody, absolutely everybody, has a number. Even you, and don’t try to pretend you don’t.

LIV and PIF found Rahm’s, and so here we are.

Conspicuous by his absence is all this is the PGA Tour’s commissioner Jay Monahan. In the same week that the game’s governing bodies announced plans to curb hitting distance – a cornerstone of the PGA Tour’s promotional material for some time now – the circuit’s embattled chief has lost another of his most high-profile players to his frenemies from the Middle East.

Monahan no longer has Rory McIlroy to use as a heat-shield, the Northern Irishman having wisely decided to give up being, as he put it, a ‘sacrificial lamb’. So where, exactly, is Jay?

As 2023 ends, the same old questions abound. Maybe 2024 will yield more answers and less uncertainty.

Then again, maybe that’s just too much to ask.

Michael McEwan is the 2023 PPA Scotland ‘Columnist of the Year’ and ‘Writer of the Year’

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Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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