Jon Rahm has emerged as a chief diplomat in the LIV vs. PGA Tour skirmish. The big Spaniard continues to pledge his loyalty, or even “fealty” as he put it back in February, to the PGA Tour and provided one of the more succinct dissections of LIV and why he was unmoved by the league during a monologue this summer at the U.S. Open. But he’s not been openly hostile to it and its defectors like some other leading players, and Ryder Cup bonds seem to be a motivating factor.
He expressed his dismay at the prospect of his countryman Sergio García never playing in a Ryder Cup again earlier this year, and then came out this past weekend with a clear plea for the biennial team matches not to get in the middle of the tour battle.
“The Ryder Cup is not the PGA Tour and European Tour against LIV,” Rahm said after winning the Spanish Open in Madrid. “It’s Europe versus the U.S., period.” He added, “The best of each against the other, and for me the Ryder Cup is above all. I wish they could play but it doesn’t look good.”
These comments, combined with a genuine congratulations for LIV Bangkok winner and fellow Spaniard Eugenio Chacarra, encouraged the bot brigade and weird coalition of unaffiliated enthusiasts of an inanimate golf league. But… on the Ryder Cup, he’s not wrong. Rahm is obviously a more persuasive messenger than say, Greg Norman or Bryson DeChambeau or Keith Pelley, and that probably has an influence on me here. The message itself stands alone, however, and the Ryder Cup staying above the fray seems like the smartest path (except in the case of Henrik Stenson, who clearly violated various pledges and contracts, who used his captaincy to drive up his price with LIV, and for whom dismissal seems well earned).
Why would the Ryder Cup diminish itself in service of the PGA Tour? Because of the precious ecosystem? It’s the absolute best event in golf right now, riding a three- or four-decade heater. You’ve worked hard and had so much go right to get to that pinnacle. Why try to bench that or fiddle with the lineup and let yourself be used as a stick or deterrent in this other battle? There are other ways LIV defectors will be punished for turning their backs on the PGA Tour. The strategic alliance with the European Tour may play a part in the bans coming down on that side of the contest, but that still seems like an unproductive overreach by the Euros. It would definitely be so on the part of the PGA of America, whose Seth Waugh indicated in the past that LIV players would be disqualified from Team USA eligibility.
The Presidents Cup bans made sense given the Tour’s ownership of that event. At the moment, the LIV-related losses for either side in the Rdyer Cup would not be as cataclysmic as they were for Trevor Immelman’s International team. Perhaps that plays into a current hardline stance—removing some older Euros and a few Americans would not create the cloud that hung over Quail Hollow. But that can change, both next year and in the next decade, assuming the turf wars continue. So don’t put a policy in place now that can make you look weak later if you need to walk it back. The Ryder Cup, while in the “ecosystem,” is not the PGA Tour. It should go the way of the majors and watch the battle play out in other arenas. Here you have a pillar of the European team for the next decade, a player still in the ecosystem, making a statement that should serve as a guide.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg Newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.