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LIV rebels Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton handed shock lifeline to play in Ryder Cup

In Sports
April 26, 2024
Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton

Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton have been handed a Ryder Cup boost – Getty Images/Maddie Meyer

LIV rebels Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton have been handed a shock lifeline to play in the Ryder Cup as the DP World Tour denied claims of a loophole allowing them to compete.  

When the duo jumped ship before the start of LIV’s campaign it was feared the defections would disinclude them from the match in New York. Indeed, Rory McIlroy’s immediate reaction to Rahm’s £400 million departure was to demand the DP World Tour rip up the rules to ensure the Spaniard could represent the blue and gold at Bethpage. But contrary to widespread opinion, regulations will not need to be rewritten for the LIV Golf pair to be eligible for Luke Donald’s team in 2025.

Guy Kinnings, the recently appointed DP World Tour chief executive, eased concerns after Rahm and Hatton conceded they had put their Ryder Cup futures in jeopardy, revealing they simply need to pay the outstanding fines and play their four minimum events to remain members.

It raises the prospect of Rahm and Hatton teeing it up at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in November and leaving the way clear for other European Ryder Cup stars to join LIV, knowing they can still appear in the biennial dust-up and play in at least some DP World Tour events where they could earn world ranking points.

“I think there’s been a slight misconception because the reality is, under the current rules, if a player is European, and is a member of the DP World Tour, and abides by the rules as they currently are – so if you don’t get a release and you accept the sanctions – there is no reason why players who have taken LIV membership and maintained DP World Tour membership, could not a) qualify and or b) be available for [wildcard] selection,” Kinnings said.

Kinnings, a former lawyer, is aware that many will be surprised by this news – not least, perhaps, “strategic alliance” partner the PGA Tour, which has issued effective lifetime bans for all the LIV rebels.

Rahm and Hatton – and others such as Adrian Meronk and Thomas Pieters – have been picking up fines and one-week suspensions each time they play in a LIV event. It was assumed they would have to serve what would presumably be a 14-week ban after the LIV season ends, making it practically impossible to fulfill membership obligations and play in the minimum quota.

Yet after consulting his rules department, Kinnings discovered they could serve these bans in the LIV rest weeks throughout the calendar, even though they would have had no intention of playing in those events.

So, they will serve suspensions at next month’s Soudal Open in Belgium and European Open in Germany, despite the chances of Rahm and Hatton wanting to play in these tournaments being negligible to the point of non-existence.

When the LIV season finishes in September, Rahm will be able to play in the Andalucia Masters, the French Open and, if he qualifies, the two play-offs – in Abu Dhabi and Dubai – that wrap up the campaign. The Olympics also counts as a tournament under Tour rules, so Rahm can easily satisfy his commitments. The fines will tot up to more than £1 million, but due to his huge LIV deal that is hardly an obstacle.

In fact, there is even scope for Rahm and Hatton to play on Tour during the LIV season, a fact that will surely make other players sit up and take notice. Certainly, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Henrik Stenson will be interested, if not aggrieved.

The quartet resigned their Tour memberships last year in the wake of an arbitration hearing in London which sided with the Tour in its fight to have the right to issue sanctions. Telegraph Sport understands at least one of these legends handed in their cards in the belief it would be unfeasible to retain their membership. However, it was spelt out in the letters they received when notified of their punishments for playing in LIV events without the necessary permissions from Wentworth HQ.

Kinnings added the caveat that the qualification rules for 2025 could be altered, although also conceded this would be highly unlikely.

He claimed that “this is actually not ‘new’ news” but also acknowledged he had himself been unsure about when the bans would have to be served.

“It’s not a loophole, because that’s the rules that we’ve always had,” Kinnings said when challenged. “And those are the rules we’re just going to continue to apply. They’ve been tested. I’ve got the guys who analyse this in detail, they’ve looked at it and said, ‘it’s up to him and his team’. We’ve spoken to them and they want to do it the right way.”

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