In a deal that could have a far-reaching impact on the future landscape of men’s professional golf and inject even more uncertainty into an already-fractured sport, Masters champion Jon Rahm has agreed to leave the PGA Tour for the Saudi Arabian-financed LIV Golf League, sources confirmed to ESPN on Thursday.
LIV Golf is expected to announce Rahm’s addition Thursday, barring a last-minute change of heart from the former world No. 1 player, the sources said.
The deal is believed to be longer than three years, is reportedly worth more than $300 million and will include an ownership stake for Rahm in a new LIV Golf team, according to sources. LIV Golf is recruiting additional PGA Tour players to fill out the roster of Rahm’s team.
Rahm’s decision comes at a time when the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund are attempting to hammer out the final details of a framework agreement that would combine their commercial interests into a new for-profit entity, PGA Tour Enterprises.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the PIF, are scheduled to meet next week. PIF has spent more than $3 billion funding the LIV Golf League the past two seasons. The framework agreement is set to expire Dec. 31; Monahan called the date a “firm deadline” last week.
The framework agreement gives Monahan authority to determine the future of LIV Golf, which has struggled to gain a foothold in the U.S. but has generated significant interest in Australia, Singapore, Spain and other countries. Sources told ESPN that the future of LIV Golf and whether team golf has a place in the sport’s future ecosystem have emerged as sticking points for the Saudis during negotiations.
It’s unclear how Rahm’s defection will impact the proposed alliance. LIV Golf’s ability to poach a player of Rahm’s caliber would seem to give the Saudis leverage in negotiations, as the PGA Tour is also entertaining offers from a handful of U.S.-based investors.
The June 6 framework agreement included a clause that prohibited both sides from attempting to poach each other’s players, but it was removed after the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division raised concerns that it restricted competition.
A conglomerate led by Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Penguins, is among the final potential bidders, sources told ESPN. So are Liberty Media Corporation, which has ownership stakes in Formula One, Sirius XM and the Atlanta Braves, and Acorn Growth Companies, an Oklahoma City-based equity group that had previously focused on the aerospace and defense industries.
Sources previously told ESPN that the PGA Tour could form a partnership with both PIF and a U.S.-based equity firm because of concerns that a PIF-only deal would not be approved by federal regulators in the U.S. and abroad.
Rahm is the second reigning major championship winner to leave the PGA Tour for the LIV Golf League at the height of his career. In August 2022, Australia’s Cameron Smith signed with LIV Golf about six weeks after he picked up his first major championship at the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews Links in Scotland.
Rahm, 29, won 11 times on the PGA Tour and collected more than $51.5 million in on-course earnings during his career. This past season, he won four times and pocketed about $16.5 million in purses. He is a finalist for PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Rahm joins LIV Golf’s roster of captains that also includes past major championship winners Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson.