NASSAU, Bahamas – Jon Rahm can pinpoint when his voice in the game started to be heard.
“This is a clear moment, very clear,” he said. “The second I won the U.S. Open apparently I got all the credibility I needed. Before that, nobody cared. I got COVID, Memorial happened, then I win the U.S. Open and all of a sudden my opinion matters, that’s kind of how it went.”
On Wednesday, ahead of the 2022 Hero World Challenge at Albany Club, a course where he has notched a win in 2018 and a runner-up a year later in three career starts, Rahm spoke elegantly about the role of money in the game of golf.
“I’m in a very, very, very, very privileged position in life. I’m no one to be thinking about money,” he said. “Luckily, I’ve played really good golf and I’ve had the opportunity to earn more money than I need.”
But Rahm acknowledged that he and his fellow PGA Tour brethren have benefited from the formation of LIV Golf and the existential threat it has created to the Tour’s supremacy. He argued that LIV’s aggressive spending to attract players to the upstart league has sped up the Tour’s plans to raise purses and increase the Player Impact Program money from initially $40 million last year to $100 million split between the top 20 finishers. (Tiger Woods finished first for the second straight year despite playing just nine rounds this year.)
“I think on this side of things we should be thankful that LIV happened,” Rahm said. “I don’t know if those changes would have happened if LIV wasn’t in the picture. So to an extent, yeah, we should be thankful.”
Rahm finished fifth and was awarded $6 million in the most recent PIP standings, which rewards the 20 players with the most positive impact on the Tour’s business.
“I’m not surprised I was in fifth place, pretty much to be expected. It’s not something I spend much time thinking about, right? I’m not going to change how I operate today to go any higher or lower on the PIP, that’s just not who I am. I’m here to win golf tournaments and I’m not going to be doing anything extra to change that,” he said. “I know in the social media aspect of things I might be a little or quite a bit behind a lot of people, but if you play good golf, things usually take care of themselves.”
Rahm also was quick to point out that money isn’t what makes his world go round.
“It’s not why I started playing, it’s not the reason why I play. So when I’m doing my schedule, when I’m practicing and I’m getting my things done, money is not really on my mind. If it was, I probably might have gone to LIV, right? If money is your goal, that’s clearly the path to go down,” he said. “Every decision I make when it comes to golf is to become the best player I can become.”
At the 2016 Quicken Loans, Rahm’s professional debut, he finished T-3 and earned $400,000 but said all that really meant to him was that he could “go to Chipotle and order extra guac if I wanted to and not feel guilty about it.”
“I’m still mad I bogeyed 17 and didn’t birdie 18 to not win,” he said. “Yeah, I was asked when that round finished, like Jon, you could have made par?par and finished second for $700,000, and my answer was almost I don’t frickin’ care.”
But when asked if he would skip playing in more than one of the mandatory 13 elevated events plus three more of his choosing during the upcoming season – a requirement to earn the PIP money – he clarified that the money is a nice byproduct of his success and it was unlikely he would forgo those riches for the flexibility to take more time off.
“Listen, I’m saying I’m not playing for money. I’m also not stupid, OK?” he said. “If I’ve earned it and all I have to do is play maybe two or three events I haven’t played before for $20 million, yeah, I might make the effort and do it. It’s an added motivation, but I’m not going to be giving away millions of dollars just because I don’t want to play one or two events.”