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Could LIV Golf move to 72-hole events? The league's top points-earner says ‘discussions will be had’

December 12, 2023
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Asanka Ratnayake

From LIV Golf’s inception in June 2022, Jon Rahm had been diplomatic toward fellow pros who had signed with the league backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The league’s newest member never publicly took issue with those who jumped to the upstart circuit. Rather it was LIV’s format that didn’t sit well with him, saying he had “never liked” the idea of no cuts, 54-hole events and shotgun starts.

Now that Rahm is the proud owner of a LIV Golf letterman’s jacket after jumping from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour for a deal reported to be worth somewhere between $300 million and $600 million, the question is whether he might have enough sway to introduce tweaks to the fledgling circuit. The 29-year-old Spaniard sounded optimistic last week during his introductory press conference.

“For all those things that I like about this movement [LIV], there’s always going to be some things that are not perfect, but that’s the situation,” Rahm said. “I’m hopeful that the leaders of LIV Golf might listen to some of my advice and maybe see some changes in the future for the better of the game.”

Exactly what he would want to see changed isn’t entirely clear. From the outside looking in, it seems the most effective pivot LIV could make would be extending its tournaments to 72 holes and introducing a 36-hole cut. That would seem to satisfy Rahm, who had said previously that “shotgun [starts], three days to me is not a golf tournament.” Having 54-hole events was also one of several reasons why, in October, LIV was denied an application to receive Official World Golf Ranking points.

But how would that go down with LIV’s other members, a list that includes major winners like Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith and Bryson DeChambeau? Perhaps most qualified to comment is LIV’s 2023 individual season-long points winner, Talor Gooch.

“He [Rahm] has been vocal about some stuff he didn't love, but he wouldn't have come to LIV if he thought he was going to win 10 tournaments a year and have no competition,” Gooch said. “He's a true competitor. It's beyond exciting [to have Rahm].”

Gooch won three titles from 13 individual LIV events in 2023. He also posted five top-10 finishes. All that accounted for more than $15 million in individual prize money and an $18 million bonus for the individual championship. The 32-year-old Oklahoma native thinks there’s two schools of thought when it comes to keeping LIV’s 54-hole identity.

“We haven't had an open forum discussion with all the players,” said Gooch, who last week was transferred from Bubba Watson’s RangeGoats GC to Koepka’s Smash GC. “But you get both sides … guys who would welcome it [72 holes] and some guys who are opposed to it. Discussions will be had, and it'll be interesting to see what comes of it.”

Gooch contends there are varying opinions among players, with some who would vote to add a fourth round to LIV events, even though he isn’t in favor of the move.

“I think LIV Golf was meant to be something different; I think it's not supposed to be a carbon copy of the rest of professional golf. I lean towards keeping it at 54 holes,” Gooch said. “Part of it too, from my experience on the PGA Tour, was Thursdays are just irrelevant from a fan perspective [except for] only a couple times a year.

“I’ve always been an advocate of ... I think the majors absolutely should be four rounds, but I don't necessarily think everything else should be four rounds, almost similar to tennis. We want to do everything we can to make the most entertaining product but [also] the product that's going to reveal the best golfer.”

Gooch’s tennis comment was referencing how men’s Grand Slams contest a best-of-five-sets format while playing in three sets at regular ATP events.

Despite his strong play on the LIV circuit, without those events offering World Ranking points Gooch has plummeted down the OWGR from a career-high of No. 31 to No. 298. As such, Gooch, who is not exempt into the field at any of the four men’s majors for 2024, will need to tweak his schedule in order to qualify for any of them via their OWGR criteria. To get into the Masters in April, Gooch would have to play plenty of Asian Tour and other sanctioned events outside of LIV to crack the top 50 by the end of March. The PGA Championship in May also will be tough. The U.S. Open and Open Championship, however, each offer the opportunity to play in qualifiers to earn spots into their fields.

“I haven't even thought that far ahead, to be honest,” he said. “Of course, I want to play in all the majors. As [2024] begins, hopefully we can figure out how to get that done. If qualifying is one of the routes, that's something I'll look at.”