Masters champion Jon Rahm joins LIV Golf

@JonRahmpga / X

Masters champion Jon Rahm jumped from the PGA Tour to Saudi-backed LIV Golf on Thursday in a big-money move that has sent another shockwave through the sport.

The 29-year-old becomes the biggest name to sign on with the rebel circuit funded by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) since Australian Cameron Smith joined after winning the 2022 British Open.

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

One of golf's most popular and charismatic figures, Rahm's departure will be seen as another massive blow to the PGA Tour which has watched many of its stars defect to the breakaway league.

Media reports said the world number three will be paid at least AED 1.1 billion with some outlets putting the guarantee at closer to AED 2.2 billion.

Rumours of Rahm's switch to LIV Golf gathered steam when he pulled out of next month's American Express tournament, a PGA Tour event he has won twice before and where he is the defending champion.

The former-world number one will make his LIV Golf debut at the league's season opening event on February 2-4 at LIV Golf Mayakoba in Mexico.

"When I first met Jon at the age of 17, I knew then that the golfing world was about to witness the birth of a new star," said LIV Golf commissioner and CEO Greg Norman. "Jon has consistently validated that he is one of the top players in the world.

"He’s a generational talent who has proven his merit as a multiple major champion and tremendous ambassador for global golf by placing the game ahead of himself.

"There are very few athletes with his pedigree of talent, leadership, poise, and commitment to bringing progress to the sport on a worldwide stage."

Rahm joins a growing stable of majors winners at LIV that had already included Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.

The Spaniard had declared his "fealty to the PGA Tour" last year but has since had a change of heart after the two rival tours put aside their differences to announce a landmark agreement in June to merge and form a commercial entity to unify golf.

The announcement, which brought an end to legal battles between the parties but triggered antitrust concerns from U.S. regulators, also called for a definitive agreement to be reached by December 31, although the sides can agree to extend the deadline.

But with no agreement on the horizon, Rahm's capture is a coup for LIV adding to the circuit's credibility.

"LIV Golf is here to stay," boasted Lawrence Burian, LIV Golf Chief Operating Officer. "The addition of Jon reemphasizes that our league is not slowing down.

"We are continuing to invest and build aggressively for LIV's long-term and exciting future."

Rahm has been one of golf's most dominant players with 20 career wins, including his two major titles.

He claimed the DP World Tour Championship three times and played in three Ryder Cups, helping lead Team Europe to victory in 2018 and 2023.

His trophy case also includes 2021 PGA of America Player of the Year honours as well twice being voted European Tour (DP World Tour) Golfer of the Year.

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