Jon Rahm isn’t standing for criticism of LIV players’ efforts ahead of Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jon Rahm bristled.

OK, he didn’t really bristle. Because Rahm never really bristles. He’s too nice and respectful for bristling.

But the 29-year-old Spaniard’s blood pressure did spike at least a tick or two when it was suggested that the players on the LIV Tour (of which he’s one) don’t feel pressure to win, care as much or work as hard as they did when they were on the PGA Tour.

Brian Harman, the reigning British Open champion, had spoken a day earlier about how important it was for him to test his game against the pressure of a PGA Tour event because that’s where the most intensity is to win.

“That’s an argument that, if you haven’t experienced playing in a tournament you can’t really understand,’’ Rahm said. “I understand there’s less people [in the LIV tournament fields]. I understand the team format’s a little different. I understand we’re going shotgun and things are a little bit different (54 holes) to how they are in a PGA Tour event (72 holes).

“But the pressure’s there,’’ Rahm went on. “Like, I want to win as bad as I wanted to win before I moved on to LIV. So, yeah, going down the stretch when you’re in contention is the exact same feelings. That really doesn’t change.

“The same way it was when I went through the Spanish Open or many other events where the field might not be up to the level that it could be on a designated [PGA Tour] event. That doesn’t really … winning is winning, and that’s what matters.’’

Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia walk the course at the Masters. Getty Images

Rahm is one of 13 LIV players in the field for the 88th Masters, which is set to begin Thursday at Augusta National.

There’s little question that each of the LIV players, led by Rahm, who’s the defending champion, carries a chip on his shoulder at this Masters, determined to show they’re at least as good or better than the players who remained on the PGA Tour.

There were 18 LIV players in the field last year and the Saudi-backed tour enjoyed rousing success, placing three of its players in the top 5 by week’s end. Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson were tied for second behind Rahm, who had not left for LIV at that point. And Patrick Reed finished fourth.

Jon Rahm takes a swing during a practice round during the Masters. Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Network

Rahm, who was a massive signing by LIV for a reported price of between $400 million and $500 million, has been a staunch advocate of the PGA Tour and LIV coming to some sort of agreement so all the best players can compete against each other — in addition to the four majors.

Rahm thought he might serve as some sort of bridge to help bring the two acrimonious sides together.

“I understood my position, yes,’’ Rahm said. “And I understood that it could be, what I hoped, a step towards some kind of agreement, yes. Or more of an agreement or expedited agreement. But, unfortunately, it’s not up to me. At the end of the day, I still did what I thought was best for myself.’’

Rahm was asked an interesting question: If he thinks he’s looked at this week as the defending Masters champion or as a LIV player?

“Both,’’ Rahm answered.

Asked which he thinks would be first, he said, “From what I’ve experienced so far, as a Masters champion.’’

Unlike a lot of fellow LIV players, Rahm conceded there are a number of things he misses from the PGA Tour.

“There’s some venues that I miss not being at, not only because I won but just because I love it,’’ he said. “And that’s the reason why I played well in those tournaments. Not being at Palm Springs, Torrey [Pines], Phoenix and L.A. wasn’t the easiest, because those are venues that I absolutely love.’’

Rahm, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., admitted that he had pangs of FOMO (fear of missing out) as he would drive past TPC Scottsdale during the build-out for the Waste Management Phoenix Open knowing he couldn’t play it.

Jon Rahm of Spain reacts with son, Kepa, on the second hole during the Par Three Contest prior to the 2024 Masters. Getty Images

“That was quite hard,’’ he said. “I still love the PGA Tour, I still hope everything the best and I still hope that at some point I can compete there again. You do miss competing against certain people.

“But the competition’s still there [on LIV]. Yeah, they’re smaller fields, but you still have to beat some of the best players in the world and you still have to play at the same level you have to play on the PGA Tour to win those events. So that doesn’t change.’’

Rahm was asked if he thinks his legacy will change now that he’s jumped to LIV.

“Will it change? Yeah,’’ he said. “It’s a bit of a detour on my path. But change can be better.’’

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