When you're one of the world's best players, it doesn't much matter which tour you tee it up on; victories are soon to follow.
Jon Rahm shocked the golf world when he jumped from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf, the breakaway Saudi-funded golf tour, last December. Now, he has delivered on the promise LIV paid for, nearly winning LIV's season-opening event at Mayakoba in Mexico. Rahm finished at -11, just outside a playoff between Sergio Garcia and Joaquin Niemann. After four playoff holes of even-par golf, with the entire course shrouded in darkness, Niemann dispatched Garcia with a long birdie putt.
Even though Rahm didn't win the tournament outright, his newly formed team, Legion XIII, easily won the team title. Rahm's teammates include Tyrrell Hatton, who joined LIV Golf less than a week ago, and Caleb Surratt, a former amateur standout at the University of Tennessee who also joined LIV last week.
"Very disappointed in myself," Rahm said immediately after his round, clearly struggling with letting the tournament get away in the last two holes. "Tough pill to swallow. But I'm very proud of my team."
Garcia was the first to finish in regulation, tapping in on No. 18 for a -12. Behind him, Rahm's tee shot on the 17th drifted left, forcing a drop and a penalty stroke. Rahm bogeyed that hole to fall a stroke off the pace. His tee shot on 18 drove straight into a greenside bunker, effectively ending his chances for a playoff-joining birdie.
Niemann had ridden a 59 in the tournament's first round, on Friday, to a strong lead, but carded a 70 on Saturday, and then incurred a two-stroke penalty after the round was over for an improper drop. He wavered throughout Sunday, dropping behind Garcia and Rahm in the tournament's final holes. But a late birdie on the 16th put him back at -12, and he slid a potential tournament-winning putt just past the final hole of regulation.
Garcia hadn't won a professional tournament since the Sanderson Farms championship in 2020, but played some of the steadiest golf of his recent career — particularly on the greens — to force the playoff.
With sunset rapidly approaching on the fourth playoff hole, Garcia and Niemann rode carts up to their tee shots. Garcia's tee shot ended up on the edge of the bunker, and while Garcia's approach rolled just over the hole, it didn't drop, and Niemann rolled in a long birdie putt to secure the victory.
The tournament marked a first in recent months for LIV: golf for golf's sake after an offseason that included billion-dollar investments, broken deadlines and significant player defections from the PGA Tour. LIV enjoyed an unexpected potential viewership benefit when the Tour's event, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, was postponed to Monday because of bad weather in Northern California. It remains to be seen whether LIV was able to capture some of those viewers who missed out on Sunday PGA Tour golf.