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Rahm: 'A little bit sad' Niemann might not play many majors

Rahm: 'A little bit sad' Niemann might not play many majors

Reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm said it’s “a little bit sad” that a player of Joaquin Niemann’s caliber likely won’t play in all of the majors this year because of his affiliation with LIV Golf.

After winning LIV’s season-opening event Sunday at Mayakoba in a playoff with Sergio Garcia, Niemann started his post-round interview by saying, “But I’m not in the majors.”

That wasn’t entirely accurate.

Niemann, 25, is exempt into The Open by virtue of his victory late last year at the Australian Open. But at No. 74 in the Official World Golf Ranking (he was 19th when he jumped to LIV in summer 2022), and with limited opportunities to play in OWGR-sanctioned events this spring, Niemann faces the prospect of missing the other three majors if he doesn’t advance through qualifying or receive a special invitation.

Niemann’s precarious position has reignited the fiery debate surrounding LIV players’ status in the majors.

“Every other tour in the world can qualify pretty much,” Rahm said Tuesday in Las Vegas, where LIV is playing its second event of the season, “and if anybody thinks that the players here are not capable, or high enough quality to go out and compete in majors, I think they should come and see for themselves, because, again, some of the best players in the world are still here and deserve a chance.”

LIV’s application for world-ranking points was denied last year, leaving few options for their players to improve their status and get into the year’s biggest events. Rahm himself isn’t in that position – he is exempt into the majors for at least the next five years thanks to his win at Augusta National – but he still understands his colleagues’ plight.

“Do I believe he deserves to be in majors? Yes. Does he have the talent to contend and possibly win majors? Yes,” Rahm said of Niemann. “But unfortunately, the reality is that he’s going to have to try to qualify for two of them.

“It’s a little bit sad, but it’s hopefully something that we see a change in the future, encouraging players in LIV Golf to be able to qualify or maybe a change in the world ranking, whatever it may be. Because there’s definitely a lot of players here that are more than capable to contend and win majors and are not going to have the chance in the near future. I hope it changes.”

When he was asked if the majors would be in any way diminished because all of the best players in the world haven’t been assembled, Rahm said, “Ideally, to be the best in the world, you have to beat the best in the world, period. Not that there will be an asterisk, but Joaco not being there is definitely a step down in the level of the field.”