Golf

Canada's Hughes says men's pro golf 'in sad place' as Rahm leaves for LIV

Canadian golfer Mackenzie Hughes said the men's professional golf drama of the past two years, featuring the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League poaching Tour players with large sums of cash, has left the sport he loves in a "sad place."

Two-time PGA Tour winner laments growing divide as 'frustrating to watch'

A golfer follows through on a swing with his driver.
Canadian golfer Mackenzie Hughes said on social media on Friday that he "remains hopeful" for his sport despite growing uncertainty after Masters champion Jon Rahm joined LIV Golf. (Bruce Kluckhorn/The Associated Press)

Canadian golfer Mackenzie Hughes said the men's professional golf drama of the past two years, featuring the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League poaching PGA Tour players with large sums of cash, has left the sport he loves in a "sad place."

"Fans want to see the best compete against each other. Instead, we are watching the top players split into separate camps," Hughes posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. "It is frustrating to watch."

Hughes' comments came one day after Jon Rahm, the reigning Masters champion and world No. 3, announced he was joining LIV. Rahm's salary on the breakaway circuit has been reported to be worth as much as $600 million US.

His departure could also help Hughes directly. The Canadian finished the 2023 season ranked 51st — one spot outside of guaranteed eligibility for the sport's signature events, which include increased purses and prestige, next season. Hughes could now have the opportunity to compete in all of those events without worrying about qualifying.

But the 33-year-old from Dundas, Ont., who has played on Tour since 2016, said "money has changed things."

"Charity used to be a huge priority on tour, but it's taken a backseat. LIV has overvalued the worth of golfers so much that it has ruined our perspective, and pushed purses to unsustainable levels. The marketplace seems broken," he wrote.

Rahm's departure came less than a month before the deadline for the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund try to finalize their June 6 agreement to become commercial partners in a for-profit enterprise, along with the European tour.

The framework agreement was announced days before the Canadian Open, stunning membership of the PGA Tour and the public alike and marking the second straight year the national open was overshadowed by golf's greater problems after the tournament went head-to-head against the inaugural LIV event, featuring Dustin Johnson, in 2022.

Talks have been going slowly, and Tiger Woods said last week there were a lot of moving parts. The biggest moving part turned out to be the 29-year-old Rahm being the latest to defect.

Rahm's addition gives LIV Golf seven of the last 14 winners at the majors, and further weakens the field at PGA Tour events.

The four majors, which exist as separate entities outside of the PGA Tour, remain the only tournaments to include all of the best players in the world, regardless of players' allegiances.

"When I was younger, I dreamed of playing on the PGA Tour," Hughes, a two-time winner, wrote. "I wanted to play against the best. When I got there, I couldn't believe how amazing it was. We've had some issues in the past couple of years, but it's still an incredible place to 'work.'"

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan had been scheduled to meet this week with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the head of the PIF. The meeting was delayed until next week, but it wasn't clear if it was still on or how Rahm's announcement affects the negotiations.

Hughes called on leadership to lead the PGA Tour "back to higher ground."

"The uncertainty has been really difficult for us but I remain hopeful."

With files from The Associated Press

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