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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Matt Verri

Sergio Garcia interview: LIV deserves more than being golf's IPL - we're going nowhere

Stances have softened, U-turns are in motion, but agreements remain hard to come by in the world of golf.

Ask those involved in peace talks between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, as merger discussions drag on beyond an initial December 31 deadline.

And ask Sergio Garcia, who has little appetite for Rory McIlroy’s recent proposals. The Northern Irishman has offered a more conciliatory tone towards LIV Golf, seeing a future for the tour as the sport’s answer to cricket’s Indian Premier League, but Garcia is unconvinced.

“I don’t think we want to be important for one month,” he tells Standard Sport. “We all deserve more than that.”

Golf remains in flux, peace in our time prematurely declared in response to a framework agreement, but the mood in the LIV camp has been buoyed by the arrival of Jon Rahm.

The Masters champion signed a deal believed to be worth £450m, with Garcia, captain of LIV's Fireballs GC team, viewing it as a statement of intent rather than a bargaining chip in negotiations.

Jon Rahm has made the big-money move to LIV Golf (AP)

“It shows we’re here to stay for a long time,” he insists.

“People were thinking this is going to be two or three years and then gone. You’re seeing guys sign through to late 2020s and maybe even the 2030s.”

There has been little criticism of Rahm's move from his peers. Viktor Hovland, instead, has pointed the finger at the "great deal of arrogance" from the PGA Tour leadership. Anger from players towards commissioner Jay Monahan has been clear since news of a merger was sprung on them, but Garcia believes those who made the initial jump to LIV have also played a role in Rahm avoiding condemnation.

“[Rahm] should probably thank us a little bit for that - we knew being the first ones we would take some heat," Garcia says.

“We believed in the product, we believed in how good LIV is and it can become even better. We just had to ride the wave of criticism, but now people are starting to see the reality of it.”

McIlroy has admitted Rahm’s decision was a smart business move and swiftly insisted that he must remain eligible for future Ryder Cups. Garcia hopes that door is left open for more than one Spaniard.

“It would be nice for Jon to be a bridge to join the DP World Tour and be a member again, play a few tournaments and be eligible to have at least a chance of playing the Ryder Cup,” Garcia says.

That appears improbable unless the tours finally agree a formal deal and remains impossible for now, with Garcia resigning his DP World Tour membership last year. He insists he is willing to reapply and pay outstanding fines, but the issue of suspensions remains a sticking point.

“I was going to [reapply for membership] this year - I talked to my managers, I talked to my wife,” Garcia says. "I was ready to do it.

"I love the Ryder Cup - I have that engraved in my heart"

“But after seeing that players here in LIV stayed as members and got a one-year ban, obviously it’s not worth it.

“I’m not willing to get my membership, pay all my fines and then get banned for a year. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Garcia watched from afar as the Europeans won the Ryder Cup in Rome last year, the first time he was not involved in the event in some capacity since 1997.

He contacted several of the players to wish them luck in the build-up and Rahm was keen to seek his advice, making it clear Garcia’s presence was still felt.

“Jon reached out to me and said they were seeing me as one of their leaders,” Garcia says.

Did he find it difficult being limited to a watching brief?

“Obviously it was a little bit hard, because I wanted to be playing there,” Garcia admits. “I love the Ryder Cup - I have that engraved in my heart and I can’t take that away.”

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