Golf: Spanish star Jon Rahm goes under the Saudi flag, the American circuit weakened

Until recently, he explained that 400 million dollars (370 million euros) would not change his life

Golf: Spanish star Jon Rahm goes under the Saudi flag, the American circuit weakened

Until recently, he explained that 400 million dollars (370 million euros) would not change his life. But against a sum of between 450 million and 600 million, Spanish golfer Jon Rham finally turned around. The world number 3 announced, on the evening of Thursday, December 7, on the American channel Fox News, that he was leaving the American circuit of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) to join LIV Golf, the competing professional circuit launched in 2022 by the Saudi Arabia.

Other big names in the little white ball have already made the same choice as Jon Rham, but the Spaniard's change of heart comes at a key moment in negotiations between the LIV and the PGA, the American body overseeing the biggest tournaments. , which is thus considerably weakened.

“Over the last two years, golf has evolved a lot,” explained Mr. Rahm. Things have changed a lot and so have I, and I have seen the growth and innovations brought by LIV Golf. This is why I am here today. » Among “the things that have changed a lot” is Jon Rahm’s view of the golden bridge promised by Saudi Arabia. In 2022, the Spaniard said in a podcast: “Money is important, but when we discussed it with my wife, we wondered if our life would change with 400 million dollars. Well no. It wouldn't change anything. »

“For the love of the game.”

On Thursday night on Fox News, Mr. Rahm's speech varied somewhat. “As a husband and father, I have a duty to my family to provide them with the best opportunities and as many resources as possible,” he affirmed, while maintaining, without fear of his own inconsistencies, that he “doesn’t play golf for the money” but “for the love of the game.”

Beyond the contortions of the last winner of the famous Augusta Masters, this resounding transfer is a turning point in the negotiations taking place, behind the scenes, between the LIV Golf of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia and the PGA Tour.

In an attempt to keep the best golfers in the world in its fold, the PGA initially chose to exclude from its tournaments all players agreeing to join the LIV. But the rain of dollars promised by the LIV convinced so many top players (notably the Americans Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka) that the PGA agreed, in August, to consider a merger of the two circuits in 2025.

Since then, negotiations between the two parties, who were given until December 31 to reach an agreement, seem to be making little progress. The specialized site Golf Planet mentions an upcoming meeting between Yasir Al-Rumayyan, director of the PIF and chairman of the board of directors of the oil company Aramco, and Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour. Jon Rahm's spectacular change of camp, which could be followed by other big names in world golf, considerably weakens the American clan in the search for a balanced deal.

This transfer is also yet another illustration of the aggressive policy of soft power through sport that Saudi Arabia is pursuing as part of its Vision 2030 plan, intended to diversify the country's economy, to date essentially based on its income. oil.