Jon Rahm on ‘nerve-wracking’ 2024 Masters Champions Dinner, his failed attempt to expedite golf’s unification

AUGUSTA, Ga. —At the start of last year, Jon Rahm wanted to be a fly on the wall for what he predicted would be a “tense” Champions Dinner as a handful of LIV Golf players reunited with their former PGA Tour colleagues at the 88th Masters.

Fast forward to this week and the 29-year-old is hosting the annual Tuesday night gathering at Augusta National Golf Club as the defending champion, and he’s brought a little Spanish flair down Magnolia Lane.

“Everybody I talked to seems very excited about the menu, which, if anything, has put a lot more pressure on me, even though I’m not cooking, right. So, yeah, I’m definitely a little nervous,” said Rahm Tuesday during his pre-tournament press conference. “It is quite daunting to think about the room you’re going to be in and having to stand up and talk to that group of players, right. I mean, it’s basically all the living legends in this game, active and non-active. Everybody who’s been somebody in this game is there. So as wonderful as it is to be a part of, it’s still, yeah, a little nerve-wracking for sure.”

MORE: Champions Dinner menus over the years

The big man from the Basque region didn’t just dish on his menu, he also talked about his best memories with the green jacket – not many get to throw out the first pitch at a World Series – as well as the divided professional game and what needs to happen to get more LIV players in major fields. LIV had 18 players in last year’s field, and that number has dropped to just 13 this year.

“I understood my position, yes. And I understood that it could be, what I hoped, a step towards some kind of agreement, yes. Or more of an agreement or expedited agreement,” Rahm said of the ongoing talks between Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the PGA Tour. “But, unfortunately, it’s not up to me. But 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.”

“I still love the PGA Tour, and I still hope everything the best, and I still hope that at some point I can compete there again,” he added later.

As far as a way to get more LIV players involved in the majors, Rahm echoed what many of his cohorts have said over the last year: there’s smarter people who can figure out how to unify the game. Players like Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, who were among the first to break away and leave for LIV, have called for new qualification categories for LIV players since the Saudi-backed league isn’t recognized by the Official World Golf Ranking. Rahm agrees.

“But the obvious answer is that there’s got to be a way for certain players in whatever tour to be able to earn their way in. That’s the only thing can I say,” he explained. “I don’t know what that looks like. But there’s got to be a fair way for everybody to compete.”

2024 Masters
2024 Masters

Jason Day gets a hug from Jon Rahm at the practice facility during a practice round for the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. (Photo: Katie Goodale-USA TODAY Network)

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

Add Rahm to the long list of LIV players who are quick to point out a problem without offering up any solution.

As far as his title defense is concerned, Rahm is riding a weaker wave of momentum into the first men’s major of the year compared to last season. Instead of three PGA Tour wins in eight tournaments, he’s played five LIV events with finishes of T-3, 8, 5, T-8 and T-4. His team, Legion XIII, have won two events, including last week at LIV Golf Miami at Trump National Doral. Many view fewer competitive rounds as a negative, but the two-time major champion actually sees this year’s change in preparation as a positive.

“Well, you’re saying like playing a little bit less is a bad thing. Which I wouldn’t think it is. If anything, for the, if I had would go based on how I feel today on a Tuesday, I feel physically better than I did last year,” Rahm said. “But then once competition starts, it doesn’t really matter. Once the gun goes off, whatever you feel is out the window. You got to go out there and post a score.

“So it’s not something that I have in mind, but I do feel, I do feel fresh and ready for it.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek