The third LIV Golf League season tees off in Mexico on Friday, and there figures to be much attention on this opener after Spain’s Jon Rahm became the latest major championship winner to jump from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf.
Playing team golf and only 54 holes will be adjustments for Rahm, the No. 3-ranked player in the world. So will a later start to the season. A year ago, Rahm had already played in three PGA Tour events, including victories at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the American Express.
“It’s definitely a different feel to what I’m used to, golf being quite an individual sport,” Rahm told reporters Wednesday in Mexico. “To actually be thinking about part of management of any kind, it’s somewhat unusual for me.”
Rahm admitted that acquiring three players to fill out Legion XIII’s roster “was a little bit harder than what we would have liked.”
Landing Tyrrell Hatton, his former European Ryder Cup teammate, at the last minute was a boost.
“Tyrrell is somebody I respect a lot,” Rahm said. “He’s a really good friend of mine. We’ve shared the stage in some of the biggest events in the world and more recently in the Ryder Cup. Proud to say we’re undefeated together. It’s somebody that’s always been very high on my list. I think it’s somebody who can perform under any circumstances.”
Here’s what to watch this week in Mexico and in the LIV Golf League’s third season:
What’s next in the LIV Golf League
LIV Golf Invitational Mayakoba
El Camaleón Golf Course at Mayakoba, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Defending champion: Charles Howell III
Defending team champion: Crushers GC
Purse: $20 million individual ($4 million to winner), $5 million team
Surratt’s big jump
Caleb Surratt was the third amateur golfer to join the LIV Golf League, following David Puig (Arizona State) and Eugenio Chacarra (Oklahoma State). Three weeks ago, Surratt was spending time with his girlfriend in Florida when he received a call that an agreement had been finalized. The sophomore drove back to Knoxville, Tennessee, to clean out his dorm room and break the news to his coaches and teammates.
“You go from moving out of your dorm room to competing with the best players in the world, and having two of them truly being your daily mentors on the golf course,” Surratt said. “It seemed like a big opportunity for me and my golf game, and of course everybody is going to be entitled to their opinion. But I have no doubt that this is what was best for me and my golf game and the future of my professional career.”
Rahm said he played a practice round with Surratt at The American Express in La Quinta, California, last year.
“I knew of him enough to know how good it was and what he was capable of,” Rahm said. “His amateur résumé speaks for its own. He seemed ready to turn pro, so when he approached us with it, I’m not going to shy away from somebody who’s ready to make that transition. I’m very happy to have him on the team.”
Bryson DeChambeau’s Crushers GC captured the LIV Golf League team title in 2023, and the former U.S. Open champion believes his squad is the team to beat again. The Crushers GC roster remains unchanged with Paul Casey, Anirban Lahiri and Charles Howell III returning to the team.
Howell won last season’s individual title at Mayakoba with a 54-hole total of 16 under, giving him his first professional victory in four years. Crushers GC also won the team competition with a total of 26 under, which was nine shots better than 4Aces GC.
“If I’m being straightforward, I think it’s us,” DeChambeau said. “If we could just get out of our own way and continue to play like we have, we’re tough to beat. I would say the next team to beat would either be Smash or Legion as of right now. We’ll see how it plays out. You never know what’s to come.”
While DeChambeau has his eyes on back-to-back team titles, he’s also focusing on performing well in the majors. He tied for fourth at the PGA Championship and for 20th at the U.S. Open last season.
“Do I want to win for our team and have our team win every week?” DeChambeau said. “For sure, but the majors are also pretty important to me, as well, and I want to be ready for those because I really haven’t had all the equipment that I think I needed to play the best I possibly can.”
DeChambeau has been vocal about wanting the best golfers in the world playing in the same tournaments more often. He isn’t sure how Wednesday’s announcement that Strategic Sports Group, a consortium of billionaire sports team owners, is investing as much as $3 billion into PGA Tour Enterprises will affect the timeline.
The PGA Tour is continuing negotiations with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which could potentially bring billions of more dollars into the new for-profit entity. The PIF also funds the LIV Golf League.
“I don’t know exactly how it’s all going to shake out when it’s all said and done,” DeChambeau said. “I don’t know what it really means for the PIF’s position in it. What I can say is that any investment into the game of golf is gigantic, especially on their side.
Bryson DeChambeau cards a 58, finishes day with 35-foot putt
Bryson DeChambeau is ecstatic after sinking a 35-foot birdie putt to finish with a 58 on the day.
“You’re just going to see both entities continue to grow, and I hope at some point we’ll come back together. It needs to happen. I hope people can just put down their weapons and come to the table and figure it out because that’s what’s good for the game of golf and for fans in general.”
Rahm said he appreciated Rory McIlroy’s comments about LIV golfers not being punished if they want to come back to the PGA Tour. Players who compete in LIV Golf events have been suspended by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.
McIlroy also suggested that Ryder Cup rules needed to be changed to allow Rahm to play for the Europeans.
“I think [McIlroy] might be seeing that the landscape of golf is changing and at some point you need to evolve,” Rahm said. “So I think he might be seeing that, and everybody is entitled to their opinion, but it’s nice to have the support from a player the caliber of Rory, especially those Ryder Cup remarks he made early on.”
4Aces GC: Dustin Johnson (captain), Pat Perez, Patrick Reed, Harold Varner III
Cleeks GC: Martin Kaymer (captain), Richard Bland, Kalle Samooja, Adrian Meronk
Crushers GC: Bryson DeChambeau (captain), Paul Casey, Charles Howell III, Anirban Lahiri
Fireballs GC: Sergio Garcia (captain), Abraham Ancer, Eugenio Chacarra, David Puig
HyFlyers GC: Phil Mickelson (captain), Brendan Steele, Cameron Tringale, Andy Ogletree
Iron Heads GC: Kevin Na (captain), Danny Lee, Scott Vincent, Jinichiro Kozuma
Legion XIII: Jon Rahm (captain), Tyrrell Hatton, Kieran Vincent, Caleb Surratt
Majesticks GC: Ian Poulter (co-captain), Lee Westwood (co-captain), Henrik Stenson (co-captain), Sam Horsfield
RangeGoats GC: Bubba Watson (captain), Peter Uihlein, Matthew Wolff, Thomas Pieters
Ripper GC: Cameron Smith (captain), Marc Leishman, Matt Jones, Lucas Herbert
Smash GC: Brooks Koepka (captain), Talor Gooch, Jason Kokrak, Graeme McDowell
Stinger GC: Louis Oosthuizen (captain), Dean Burmester, Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel
Joaquin Niemann (captain), Sebastián Muñoz, Mito Pereira, Carlos Ortiz
Hatton (Legion XIII): The Englishman reportedly turned down several offers from LIV Golf before agreeing to a deal worth about $60 million. He was runner-up at The Players in 2023.
Herbert (Ripper GC): A five-time worldwide winner, Herbert joins the all-Australian Ripper GC team. He captured the 2021 Bermuda Championship on the PGA Tour.
Kozuma (Iron Heads GC): The Japanese golfer claimed one of three spots in the LIV Golf promotions event. He is ranked No. 501 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Meronk (Cleeks GC): The reigning DP World Tour player of the year narrowly missed making the European Ryder Cup team.
Ogletree (HyFlyers GC): The former U.S. Amateur champion is somewhat new. He finished last in the first LIV Golf event and wasn’t invited back that season. He worked his way back to the league by winning the Asian Tour’s International Series Order of Merit.
Rahm (Legion XIII): The Masters champion reportedly signed a $300 million deal with LIV Golf. A 22-time worldwide winner, Rahm is ranked No. 3 in the world.
Samooja (Cleeks GC): The Finnish golfer won the LIV Golf promotions event in December, collecting $200,000 and a spot for the entire 2024 season.
Surratt (Legion XIII): Surratt, the 10th-ranked amateur in the world, passed on two and a half more seasons at Tennessee to join LIV Golf. He was the 2023 SEC freshman of the year and individual champion.
Kieran Vincent (Legion XIII): Vincent, from Zimbabwe, survived a three-man playoff for two spots in the promotions event. His older brother, Scott, plays on Iron Heads GC.
Who changed teams
Gooch (RangeGoats to Smash GC): Acquiring Gooch, the reigning individual champion, for struggling Matthew Wolff was quite a coup for Kopeka. Gooch became the circuit’s first three-time individual winner in 2023.
McDowell (Cleeks GC to Smash GC): The 2010 U.S. Open winner finished 42nd in points last season and was in danger of being relegated out of the league. Kopeka threw him a lifeline.
Ortiz (Fireballs GC to Torque GC): Ortiz turned down a contract extension on captain Sergio Garcia’s team to join good friends Niemann, Munoz and Pereira. He finished 15th in individual points in 2023.
Puig (Torque GC to Fireballs GC): The youngest player in LIV Golf last year and a former Arizona State star, Puig ranked fifth in driving distance.
Uihlein (4Aces to RangeGoats): Uihlein was third in the individual points standings in 2022 and finished 12th last year. He led the circuit in driving distance with a 322-yard average in 2023.
Varner III (RangeGoats to 4 Aces): Varner picked up his first LIV Golf victory outside Washington, D.C., last year. HVIII led the circuit in eagles and had five top-10 finishes.
Wolff (Smash GC to RangeGoats): Wolff is hoping a change of scenery will revive his career after he finished 27th in points last season. He butted heads with Koepka throughout the 2023 season.
With the LIV Golf League adding a 13th team, there will be two wild-card players competing in the individual competition each tournament — but not in the team event. They’ll be eligible for season-long individual bonuses.
England’s Laurie Canter, who narrowly missed earning an LIV Golf card in the promotions event playoff, will compete as a wild card in the first two events. He was a reserve for Majestics GC last season.
Hudson Swafford, who missed the entire 2023 season after having hip surgery, is a full-season wild card. He had three missed cuts, withdrew from one tournament and tied for 72nd in five worldwide starts last season. The three-time PGA Tour winner says he’s healthy now.