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Show me the money: Jon Rahm and the battle for the future of golf

The golf establishment is being smashed out of bounds by Saudi money, says Jim White. As Jon Rahm’s explosive $450m defection to LIV golf proves, in any throw-your-money-on-the-table competition, there can only be one winner. And it isn’t the PGA

Saturday 09 December 2023 06:30 GMT
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Jon Rahm, left, has announced he is joining the LIV Tour on a contract reckoned to be worth $450m (£358m), while Rory McIlroy, right, remains with the PGA Tour
Jon Rahm, left, has announced he is joining the LIV Tour on a contract reckoned to be worth $450m (£358m), while Rory McIlroy, right, remains with the PGA Tour (Independent)

When he finished stone-cold last in the PGA Tour Championship back in August, for his four days of work the Canadian golfer Nick Taylor earned more than a Briton on the country’s average salary could bank in 10 years. Mind, Taylor’s $500,000 (£398,000) return on his very laboured labour was somewhat overshadowed by the cash the champion, Viktor Hovland, trousered. His reward for a weekend of flawless chipping and putting was an eye-watering $18m (£14,329,800), the kind of money the average Brit would require several lifetimes to accumulate. Well, unless they won the lottery.

But here’s the thing about the PGA Tour Championship: only the most diehard of golf enthusiasts would have noticed it was even happening. This was not the Masters, the Open or the Ryder Cup, the competitions that resonate beyond the 18th hole into the wider consciousness. There was no green jacket or claret jug up for grabs; sporting immortality was not at stake in a competition whose history stretches back no further than 1987. Rather this was the tournament that pays more than all the rest, the one that has become noteworthy solely for how it trades on the financial scale of its winnings. So it was that in one competition, Hovland earned more than all but a handful of Premier League footballers – our standard reference point for the lavishly remunerated – will do across a season.

And that, increasingly, is the way with golf: this is a sport in which money does all the talking.

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