But that is exactly what the two-time major winner did, demonstrating why his switch had fascinated so many. Joaquin Niemann won the playoff between him and Sergio Garcia in what would have been Garcia’s first win since the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2020 while still on the PGA Tour.
But just two behind them at 10-under, Rahm thrilled, while darkness settled on the El Camaleón Golf Course in Mayakoba, Mexico. He showed why he was worth all the hype, clinching seven birdies right out of the starting gate in the first round. Only one bogey took away some of the thunder from his five birdies on Day Two. But it was his trifecta of birdies on the back nine on the final day of competition that roused the crowd, beginning on the 13th hole.
Up until the final moments, it really looked like the Spanish golfer might have pushed through to his first individual title on the new tour, only to get tripped up on the last holes by bogeys.
Although Niemann ended up with his first LIV title, Rahm certainly impressed with his performance in his inaugural LIV event. His inspired play on Sunday delivered for his team, with all new players including Tyrrell Hatton — who tied for eighth — and just two strokes behind him, Caleb Surratt in 13th.
Surratt makes an interesting case for LIV, deciding to join the Saudi-backed league when turning pro at just 19 years old. He will bank approximately $350,000 in just his first tournament in addition to splitting the $3 million team prize. Overall, it was quite the debut for Legion XIII, living up to the hype of the newest team on the block.
"Tough pill to swallow,” said the highly competitive Rahm, but who also said “I'm very proud of my team."
Besides Team Legion XIII, the other new players on the LIV Tour put in less than stellar debuts, including Jinichiro Kozuma and Kieran Vincent (the sole outlier on Legion XIII), both of whom placed 38th at +3. Hudson Swafford ended up just above them at +2.
Of the new signings, Andy Ogletree fared the worst, placing towards the bottom at 50th. Adrian Meronk wound up with +5 by the end of the day. Kalle Sammoja did a bit better, finishing at +1. Lucas Herbert, even better, ended up in the T21 at -2, with Laurie Canter tying famed LIV golfer Taylor Gooch in 15th place and -4. Time will tell how they all progress as they get used to the tour.
Sunday’s play took away some of the thunder from the PGA Pebble Beach tournament, which concluded without fanfare due to the extreme weather in California. Both tournaments ended with 54 holes and for once, LIV was the only high profile golf to watch on Sunday. Still, Saturday had featured one of the greatest golf rounds ever, with Wyndham Clark being declared the winner after setting the score record at the AT&T ProAm the day before.
Even if Sunday proved disappointing with the tournament cut short, Clark’s run on Saturday was nothing but miraculous.
For LIV, the signing of new players, including some young golfers fresh out of training has proved that the game is continuing to grow. Rahm’s addition has only injected the league with a renewed energy. The merger between the PGA and LIV is still in discussions but has not disbanded. It will be interesting to see what the viewership numbers say about the first LIV outing of the year. It’s a promising start to the competitive year and a very far cry from the original grumblings that the league would be just a footnote in the world of golf.
The next LIV Golf tournament will take place in Las Vegas, NV starting Feb. 8, 2024.