Jon Rahm defends preparation, LIV decision as he defends Masters title

Jon Rahm defends preparation, LIV decision as he defends Masters title
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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jon Rahm spent parts of his news conference Tuesday defending the competitive aspects of LIV Golf and how it may affect his title defense at the Masters.

Rahm also conceded – as he did recently in an interview with the BBC – that he hoped his move last year to the Saudi-backed circuit would be the catalyst to unify the sport, but that, to his disappointment, it hasn’t yet come to fruition.

“I understood my position,” Rahm said, “and I understood that it could be, what I hoped, a step toward some kind of agreement, or more of an expedited agreement. But, unfortunately, that’s not up to me. I would hope it would be something that would help expedite that process. But at the end of the day, I still did what I thought was best for myself.”

Rahm again expressed support for some of his league-mates on LIV, saying it’s “obvious” that the majors should find a way to ensure that the best players from every tour can earn access to the major championships.

There are 13 LIV players in the field here at the Masters, after their top performer this year, Joaquin Niemann, received a special exemption from Augusta National. Talor Gooch, the 2023 season-long champion, is not in the field, and that has rankled some on the tour.

“They’ll need to figure out a way to evaluate how the LIV players are doing and how they can earn their way,” Rahm said. “I understand there’s less players, and you can’t give 10 or 15 people a start, but there’s got to be a way for some players to earn their way in. That’s the best way I can say it. I just don’t really know what that looks like.”

Here’s a look at which majors, if any, all LIV Golf players are eligible.

Rahm also hit back at the perception that, to this point in the year, he hasn’t either been battle-tested in competition because of the different schedule or his limited competition.

Last year, Rahm had won three of his eight starts entering the Masters. So far, he has yet to win any of his five LIV starts, though he has finished in the top 10 in four of those appearances. He said, despite the smaller fields, “you still have to play at the same level you have to play on the PGA Tour to win those events.”

When asked how he has compensated for not playing as much competitive golf to this point, Rahm countered: “You’re saying playing a bit less is a bad thing. Which I wouldn’t think it is. If I would go based on how I feel today on a Tuesday, I feel physically better than I did last year. But then once competition starts, it doesn’t really matter. Whatever you feel is out the window; you’ve got to go out there and post a score.”

There was an intense curiosity entering last year’s major season how the LIV players would perform in the Grand Slam events, considering the pressure of competing against set 48-player fields and the team angle – a narrative, it should be noted, that was reshaped once Brooks Koepka held the 54-hole lead at the Masters, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed each finished inside the top 5, and Koepka won the PGA Championship the following month.

“That’s an argument that, if you haven’t experienced being in a tournament, you can’t really understand,” Rahm said. “I understand there’s less people. I understand the team format is a little different. I understand we’re going shotgun and things are a little different to how they are in a PGA Tour event. But the pressure is there. I want to win as bad as I wanted to win before I moved on to LIV. Going down the stretch when you’re in contention is the exact same feelings. That really doesn’t change.”

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