A lost ball off the tee on the second-last hole of his first-ever LIV event cost Jon Rahm’s another $7 million payday to go with his nine-figure sign-on fee as the Saudi-backed tour’s biggest signing fell just short of victory in the season-opening event in Mexico.
Instead it was reigning reigning Australian Open champion Joaquin Niemann who took down Sergio Garcia on the fourth-hole of a playoff in early-evening darkness with the duo needing the light from the big screen next to the 18th hole to illuminate the to secure the $6m winner’s cheque.
Despite his late error, Rahm’s new Legion XIII team still cruised to the opening team victory of the season, with all four final-round scores counting towards the total for the first time, giving him a share of the $4.6 million team prize.
Norman copped some criticism for failing to get “even close” to the number of players to join LIV he had spruiked he would.
But Rahm’s immediate impact, coming from behind on the final day to nearly seize victory and missing the play-off by a single shot, was telling with large crowds at Mayakoba following the Masters champion.
“You compete to win, if you’re not competing to win, you don’t compete,” Rahm said, rebuffing any suggestion the no-cut, guaranteed prize money events, plus his massive sign-on fee, reported to be as much as $400m, would impact his drive for success.
“I’m very disappointed in myself, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but I’m very proud of my team.
“This team was just assembled Monday, and we came in and made an impact. The team aspect definitely helped me rally.”
The team win also ensured amatuer star Caleb Surratt, collected $1.1 million as his share of the purse in his first-ever LIV event.
After Australian star Cameron Smith birdied seven of his opening 10 holes in the final round, teammate Lucas Herbert’s shift to LIV looked set to earn him an immediate bump.
The all-Aussie “Ripper GC” was second on the team standings for much of the final day, staring at $2.3 million split between Smith, Herbert, Marc Leishman and Matt Jones.
But Smith couldn;t find another birdie after his opening surge, instead carding two bogeys, finishing in a tie for eighth on the individual standings, and Ripper GC fell just out of the prize money, awarded only to the top three teams.
Herbert finished in a tie for 21st on his LIV debut, still enough to earn a six-figure payday with the headed to Las Vegas this week for the second event of the season.