Rahm expects ‘tense’ Masters champions dinner amid LIV Golf feud

Spain’s fifth-ranked Jon Rahm said Tuesday he expects more PGA Tour players to exit for Saudi-backed LIV Golf in 2023 and anticipates a tense champions dinner at the Masters.

Rahm spoke ahead of Thursday’s start of the PGA Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, Hawaii, a select event of tournament winners of Tour Championship qualifiers.

Rahm, the 2021 US Open champion, predicted more golfers will leave the PGA despite boosted prize money at selected events for the higher prize money offered by LIV Golf.

“I think we all know where we stand,” Rahm said. “There are still going to be players that choose to transition to LIV is my guess.

“But for a lot of us, I think we see the direction the PGA Tour is going toward. They’re making the necessary changes to adapt to the new age and I think it’s better for everybody.”

The PGA has boosted prize money at a limited number of selected events with an eye to keeping top talent from departing the way British Open champion Cam Smith of Australia did.

“It’s an exciting year. We’re all curious about how it’s going to work out,” Rahm said. “We’re all excited to see how it’s going to unfold.”

The Masters announced last month it will not change qualifying criteria for the 2023 Masters, ensuring LIV Golf players will be able to compete.

That includes several recent past green jacket winners, including three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson, fellow Americans Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson; Spain’s Sergio Garcia and South African Charl Schwartzel.

They will be breaking bread with, among others, proud PGA proponent Tiger Woods.

And Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley, while not mentioning LIV Golf, made it clear the split is an unwelcome development.

“Regrettably, recent actions have divided men’s professional golf by diminishing the virtues of the game and the meaningful legacies of those who built it,” Ridley said.

Rahm said he wishes he could be a fly on the wall at Augusta National in April for the Masters champions dinner, and not for the fabulous menu past winners will consume.

“It’s probably only funny to me, but I think the Masters Champions Dinner is going to be a little tense compared to how it has been in the past,” Rahm said.

“So I keep thinking about it because I wish I could be there and just be able to see how things work out. Too bad the US Open doesn’t have one of those.”

Rahm said golfers will have to deal with any personal issues at the majors.

“I didn’t feel a difference in any of the majors last year,” Rahm said. “If somebody has a problem with LIV players, they’re just not going to deal with them and that’s about it.

“I respect their choice and the ones I was friends with before I’m still going to be friends with. It doesn’t change the way I’m going to operate with them.”

Rahm says any major issues can be avoided by players staying away from each other, although that could be more difficult depending upon the Masters pairings.

“I think a lot of animosity, if there’s any, might be created more by (reporters) more than anything else,” Rahm said. “I don’t think there’s that much of a problem between players, at least in person.”

Rahm wants the DP World Tour and PGA of America to get on the same page for the Ryder Cup, hoping Europe can win back the trophy in Rome.

“Some people that are going to have to make some tough choices,” Rahm said. “My guess is I hope the PGA of America and European Tour make a decision together. I don’t think it would be smart to have one team allowing LIV players and one not.” — Agence France-Presse

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