NASSAU, Bahamas — Jon Rahm has signaled on several occasions that he is happy with the PGA Tour and not making a jump to LIV Golf, the latest his commitment to compete in the inaugural TGL season, the new tech-infused golf league that is partnering with the PGA Tour to begin in 2024.
But Rahm also acknowledged Wednesday that the presence of LIV Golf has made life better for him and his colleagues who are remaining with the PGA Tour.
“I think on this side of things we should be thankful that LIV happened," Rahm said at Albany, site of this week’s Hero World Challenge. “I don’t know if those changes would have happened if LIV wasn’t in the picture. So to an extent, yeah, we should be thankful."
Rahm, the 2021 U.S. Open champion who won the DP World Tour Championship two weeks ago in Dubai, was referencing several enhancements to the PGA Tour that have already started with an increased Player Impact Program pool of $100 million.
When posed a similar question on Tuesday—as it related to Phil Mickelson and his role with LIV and how it might have benefitted the PGA Tour after all—tournament host Tiger Woods was not taking the same view as Rahm.
“No, absolutely not, no,’’ Woods said when asked if Mickelson deserved any credit or an apology. “We (the PGA Tour) took out an enormous loan during the pandemic in which that, if we had another year of the pandemic, our Tour would only be sustained for another year. So we took out an enormous loan. It worked, it paid off in our benefit, hence we were able to use that money to make the increases that we've made."
Woods misspoke on that issue. While the Tour was in a dire situation during the pandemic in 2020—losing three months of tournament play and having to spend substantial sums for testing, charter flights for players and tournament support without spectators—it did not take out a loan, according to a PGA Tour spokesman.
The Tour used reserve funds and “mitigating actions to offset the impact of the pandemic."
Some of those actions were company layoffs, hiring freezes, wage frees and reduction in pay for Tour executives. Commissioner Jay Monahan gave up his base pay for the duration of 2020.
But to Woods’ point, the Tour came out of the pandemic in better shape because it was able to return to play in June of that year, thus able to collect television rights fees and not dip into reserves even more.
Monahan has cited the Tour’s reserves as the main reason for starting the PIP program, which began last year at $40 million and now has increased to $100 million.
The 23 players who will get funds from the program are required to play in a series of elevated or “designated events" beginning in 2023 that include the four major championships, the Players Championship and 12 predetermined events, including the Sentry Tournament of Champions to start 2023.
All of the tournaments have seen their purses raised, a majority of them now $20 million.
Given where the PGA Tour/LIV Golf drama has gone, it was unlikely that Woods would give his longtime rival, Mickelson, much credit.
But Rahm comes at it differently. He played college golf at Arizona State for Mickelson’s brother—and now caddie—Tim. And he forged a relationship with Phil as well and is represented by the same management company.
Mickelson, who was the subject to considerable backlash earlier this year when he made comments about the PGA Tour being greedy by not sharing more with the players, was one of the first to sign on with LIV Golf.
"Well, listen, you're entitled to your own opinion and it's not my place to judge what you think and where you're coming from," Rahm said. “Phil is my friend and I'm going to treat him as such. I understand why people think the way—why people thought certain things.
“I may agree with it or not, but it's not my place to tell them what to say or not to say obviously. Some things I agree with, some things I didn't agree with."