Winning is winning – Jon Rahm confident LIV switch will not harm Masters defence

Jon Rahm insists his competitive edge has not been dulled by his move to LIV Golf as he bids to become just the fourth player to win back-to-back Masters titles.

Rahm’s shock move to the Saudi-backed breakaway competition came after he had previously pledged his loyalty to the PGA Tour and criticised LIV’s 54-hole format, with no cut and a shotgun start as “not a golf tournament”.

The two-time major winner has failed to win any of the five LIV events he has played but travelled to Augusta on the back of finishing fourth in Miami on Sunday and winning the team event at Doral.

Jon Rahm's team were victorious in Miami
Jon Rahm’s team were victorious in Miami (Photo by Scott Taetsch/LIV Golf via AP)

“Yeah, they’re smaller fields but you still have to beat some of the best players in the world and you still have to play at the same level you have to play on the PGA Tour to win those events.

“I understand there’s less people. I understand the team format’s a little different. I understand we’re going shotgun and things are a little bit different to how they are in a PGA TOUR event.

“But the pressure’s there. I want to win as bad as I wanted to win before I moved on to LIV. Going down the stretch when you’re in contention is the exact same feelings. That really doesn’t change.

“Winning is winning and that’s what matters.”

At this time last year Rahm had played eight PGA Tour events and won three of them, although his last two events before the Masters had seem him withdraw from the Players Championship due to illness and fail to advance from the group stages of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

“If anything, if I had to go based on how I feel today, on a Tuesday, I feel physically better than I did last year,” added Rahm, who started the first round with a four-putt bogey but still shot an opening 65.

“But then once competition starts, it doesn’t really matter. Once the gun goes off, whatever you feel is out the window. You’ve got to go out there and post a score.

Rahm believes his preparation for his Masters defence has been fine
Rahm believes his preparation for his Masters defence has been fine (Peter Byrne/PA)

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

Rahm faced the “quite daunting” prospect of making a speech at his Champions Dinner in front of what he described as an audience of “all the living legends in this game”.

That audience includes fellow LIV players and former champions Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel and Patrick Reed, but a lack of world ranking points for LIV events makes it much harder to earn a place in the year’s first major.

“There’s got to be a way for certain players in whatever tour to be able to earn their way in,” Rahm said.

“I don’t know what that looks like. But there’s got to be a fair way for everybody to compete. They’ll need to figure out a way to evaluate how the LIV players are doing and how they can earn their way.”

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