PGA Tour Pro Says Jon Rahm ‘Broke An Unwritten Code’ With LIV Golf Defection

A current top-100 PGA Tour player believes Rahm's move to LIV Golf could end up pushing any kind of unity much further down the road

Jon Rahm at LIV Golf Mayakoba
(Image credit: Getty Images)

An anonymous PGA Tour pro says Jon Rahm "broke an unwritten code" when sealing a move to the LIV Golf League last year and that the Spaniard will receive blame if the sport's very public civil war continues to be a distraction.

A couple of months before the PGA Tour announced a $3 billion investment deal from Strategic Sports Group - which may later include LIV Golf's backer, the PIF - Rahm put weeks of speculation to bed by confirming he would be playing his golf in the 54-hole league after signing a reported $566 million contract.

He also kicked off a mini spurt of signings for LIV, which included Rahm's Ryder Cup teammate, Tyrrell Hatton and Poland's rising star from the DP World Tour, Adrian Meronk.

Speaking to Golf Digest writer, Joel Beall, a current PGA Tour golfer who sits within the world's top-100 - but does not have a Major title to his name - shared all on how the rank-and-file of America's circuit feel about one of the most significant switches since LIV arrived on the scene.

The player who referred to himself as "not a star" revealed that PGA Tour pros - for the most part - have never really had any issue with their peers who have jumped from circuit to circuit, later noting "except for the ones who, you know, tried to sue the tour out of existence."

He continued: "From afar, you might think Rahm’s defection to LIV was better received by his peers than past jumpers. The truth is, not really. The reason most guys are pissed has to do with our selfishness. Tour pros are like most fans in that we want this drama to end.

"A lot of us think Rahm’s departure will prolong this schism, and now that the tour has its private-equity investment in place with Strategic Sports Group, both sides feel like they have the upper hand. Having all this drag into another summer is something we didn’t want, and if it continues, Rahm, rightfully or not, will receive blame."

Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton in the Saturday foursomes at the Ryder Cup

Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton (right)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The secret star went on to say that the reason current Masters champion, Rahm is so poorly thought of right now is down to the fact that - to him - progress on some kind of unity at the top level appeared to be gaining momentum before the Spaniard's decision.

The anonymous pro said: "Rahm broke an unwritten code. Both sides had a hands-off approach to recruiting during the period when negotiations were being banged out and—maybe this is me being naive—it seemed like everyone understood that. It’s like Jon (or Jon’s team) thought they were above the detente. 

"As the best player in the world, Jon could maybe claim he shouldn’t be lumped in with us. But, man, if there was one upshot from the past half year, it was this feeling of tour players coming together for a common cause. When a guy breaks from the pack to actively hurt that cause, that burns."

Phil Mickelson and Jon Rahm are good friends

Phil Mickelson and Jon Rahm are good friends

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Moving on to discuss the motive behind Rahm's switch, the secret player accused the former World No.1 of falling "for whatever [LIV Golf's] Phil Mickelson was selling him" and said the deal was done because - quite simply - Rahm was offered more than $500 million to do so.

The mystery golfer said: "We also don’t buy this notion that Jon thought his defection could ultimately be what brings the golf world together, like he’s a human olive branch. Please. He is not what got the SSG deal to the finish line, or what will bring PIF and the tour together. Jon did this because he got half a billion dollars. Full stop.

"Jon clearly fell for whatever Phil Mickelson was selling him. As Phil admitted recently, he’s a divisive figure now (and I think that’s putting it nicely). Phil and Jon can say all they want about how Phil didn’t influence Jon’s decision. I’m telling you, from a player’s perspective, we don’t believe that one bit.

"Jon looks at Phil not as a friend but as a family member, and it's no secret they are represented by the same agency. On that front, it’s disappointing that Jon couldn’t see through the charade."

Jon Rahm and Joaquin Niemann at LIV Golf Mayakoba

Jon Rahm and Joaquin Niemann at LIV Golf Mayakoba

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the final knockings of Golf Digest's most recent edition of 'The Undercover Pro' newsletter, said player insisted he - nor any of his competitors - are particularly bothered about Rahm's perceived hypocrisy as "it’s nothing new" on either side.

He also credited the two-time Major champion with being a top professional during his time on the PGA Tour.

However, the mystery player ended his monologue by stating that Rahm did "hurt a lot of us by what he did" and that very few people will forget his actions - even if the sport does come together in the end.

He said: "I’ve seen Jon do a lot of good. He’ll donate time to guys who are struggling and need help with their games, both on tour and at home in Scottsdale. He’s also a professional, not one of these grab-ass, frat bros the tour occasionally churns out.

"But Jon hurt a lot of us by what he did, and even if the tour is in a slightly better shape post-SSG deal, that hurt towards Jon remains.

"I do hope this fight between the tour and LIV ends soon, and if Jon comes back, I'll still treat him with respect. But pros aren't good at forgetting, and Jon's defection is something we'll remember."

Jonny Leighfield
Staff Writer

Jonny Leighfield is our Staff News Writer who joined Golf Monthly just in time for the 2023 Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup. He graduated from the University of Brighton with a degree in Sport Journalism in 2017 and spent almost five years as the sole sports reporter at his local newspaper. An improving golfer who still classes himself as ‘one of the worst players on the Golf Monthly team’, Jonny enjoys playing as much as he can and is hoping to reach his Handicap goal of 18 at some stage. He attended both the 150th and 151st Opens and is keen to make it an annual pilgrimage.