The DP World Tour will not be rushed into ripping up its Ryder Cup eligibility rules and will instead see where the merger negotiations go in the wake of Jon Rahm’s £450 million LIV move before bowing to Rory McIlroy’s demands.
As it stands, Rahm remains eligible to appear for Luke Donald’s team at Bethpage in the 2025 match, but under the present regulations that would change when the world No 3 is obliged to ask for a release from Wentworth HQ to play in his LIV event – in Mexico in February – and if he is treated the same as the likes of Sergio García and Ian Poulter, this would be denied.
The Spaniard would then be fined and pick up a suspension. This would apply to other 13 events in the LIV season. He would not be able to fulfil his membership requirement of a minimum of four events and would not be eligible to qualify or be picked as a wildcard.
Of course, if a deal is reached between the PGA Tour with the Saudi Public Investment Fund, the scenario could quickly be altered. However, if PIF is cut out and LIV continues as a separate entity, McIlroy is adamant that Rahm should be allowed to play in New York, as Europe try to win away for the first time in 13 years.
“Jon is going to be in Bethpage in 2025, so, because of this decision, the European Tour are going to have to rewrite the rules for Ryder Cup eligibility,” McIlroy told Sky Sports. “There’s absolutely no question about that – I certainly want Jon Rahm on the next Ryder Cup team.
“I’m going to miss competing against him week in, week out. He has got so much talent, he’s so tenacious and he’s a great team-mate in the Ryder Cup. The thing that I’ve realised is that you can’t judge someone for making a decision that they feel is the best thing for them.”
“Is it disappointing to me? Yes, but the landscape of golf changed on June 6, when the framework agreement was announced, and I think because of that it made the jump from the PGA Tour to LIV a little bit easier for guys. They let the first guys take the heat. This framework agreement legitimised basically what LIV was trying to do.”
Rahm: ‘I hope I can be in future editions of the Ryder Cup’
With his Masters win in April guaranteeing Rahm berths in all four majors for at least the next four years, he conceded on Thursday night that his main concern before joining LIV was what it will mean to his status in the blue and gold. “I love the Ryder Cup… and I surely hope I can be in future editions of the Ryder Cup.
“That’s not up to me right now, but if it was up to me, I’ll be eligible to play, so I surely hope I can keep up the good golf, keep playing good golf and give them a reason to have me on the team. It’s a big risk to take, but I’ve had it in consideration and again, I’m hopeful that I can be part of the team again.”
It is a staggering reversal from McIlroy who has been LIV’s most vocal critic and who was adamant that there should be no way back to the Ryder Cup for tournament legends such as Poulter, García and Lee Westwood, despite his support for Brooks Koepka to play on the US team in Rome.
McIlroy: ‘We’d certainly miss and need Jon at Bethpage’
“I have different feelings about the European team and the other side and sort of how that has all transpired,” McIlroy said. “I don’t think any of those guys should be a part of the European team.”
On Friday, McIlroy went on to social media to clarify the distinction. “We didn’t NEED any of the others in Rome and we didn’t miss them,” he posted on X. “We’d certainly miss and need Jon at Bethpage.”
Of course, the Tour would not countenance creating one rule for Rahm and having another for everyone else and a line will have to be redrawn if Donald is to have the services of the 29-year-old, who has won 6 1/2 points in his last nine matches.
It would be a controversial move and with qualification not set to start until next September it is one which the DP World Tour will hesitate to make.
“It’s good that the next match is 22 months away, because that gives us time,” a Tour insider told Telegraph Sport. “Nothing is certain at the moment, so we’ll look where everything goes over the forthcoming month before jumping in.”
Is it possible that this offers Poulter and Co a return route, if not to the team itself, then to be involved in the teamroom, as assistants or even, in the future, to the captain’s role itself? Plenty needs to happen first – not least the fact that they have all resigned their Tour memberships and would have to back-pay millions in fines before they could rejoin – but after Rahm’s stunning defection everything is up in the air.
However, bitterness towards McIlroy in the LIV ranks remains at a high level. “You can’t spout the self-serving s--- and try relentlessly to alienate us like he has and now try to kiss and make up – and that is going to apply to a few characters,” one of the LIV players told Telegraph Sport. “They’re all trying to hold out olive branches and build bridges now it suits them.”