Door is open for Jon Rahm to play in 2025 Ryder Cup and it's not a loophole, says Guy Kinnings

New European Tour Group chief executive officer opens up in media chat in London

London Bridge could have been falling down and no-one in the private dining room in the nearby steak restaurant would probably have noticed. Not when Guy Kinnings, in his first sitdown with a small group of UK and Irish golf writers since succeeding Keith Pelley as the European Tour Group’s chief executive officer, was being grilled about Ryder Cup qualification and, in particular, Jon Rahm’s position for next year’s match at Bethpage Black following his mega-money switch to LIV Golf.

Wearing his trademark pink tie for the Central London chat that was a mix of on-the-record and off-the-record material, Kinnings also spoke about ongoing talks between the DP World Tour, PGA Tour and Saudia Arabia’s Public Investment Fund around a framework agreement struck last June, insisting that PIF chief Yasir Al-Rumayyan is as keen as anyone to ensure there is no “damage to the game” in the long term but also making an astonishing revelation that all the main parties have not yet sat around the same table.

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However, the bulk of the questions posed to Kinnings was about whether the likes of Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton, both members of Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team in Rome last year but now LIV Golf players, could be eligible for the next contest against the Americans, with Rory McIlroy wasting no time in saying he believed there should be “no question about that” when Luke Donald, having been reappointed on the back of his brilliant captaincy, bids to land a first away success since the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ in 2012.

Guy Kinnings, the European Tour Group's new chief executive, chatted with a group of UK and Irish golf writers in Central London on Thursday. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.Guy Kinnings, the European Tour Group's new chief executive, chatted with a group of UK and Irish golf writers in Central London on Thursday. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.
Guy Kinnings, the European Tour Group's new chief executive, chatted with a group of UK and Irish golf writers in Central London on Thursday. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

“No, it can’t be left, you are right,” said Kinnings, one of the most-respected figures in the game, having been Colin Montgomerie’s long-time manager when he worked for IMG before moving to the DP World Tour to become Pelley’s deputy and being an obvious replacement when the Canadian returned to his home turf to take up a dream post with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd, in reply to being asked about the Ryder Cup situation being one of the pressing matters in his intray at the organisation’s Wentworth Club headquarters.

“The reality is that until we announce the qualification process, which we don’t need to do yet as that doesn’t start for another four to five months, it’s kind of speculation. But, if you look at what the qualification/eligibility criteria was for 2023, then I think there has 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, there are sanctions and if you accept those sanctions and take those penalties and work with that - there is no reason why players who’ve taken LIV membership but maintain membership with the DP World Tour could not a) qualify or b) be available for selection.”

Ahead of last year’s match, a number of players, including Ryder Cup legends Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, were hit with sanctions for playing in LIV Golf events without an official release from the DP World Tour and, facing fines of up to £800,000, they all resigned as members of the circuit. The same rules are still being applied, meaning Rahm and Hatton, for example, are facing a one-event suspension and a fine for playing in this week’s LIV Golf event in Adelaide, but, providing they play in four DP World Tour events this year outside of the majors, the door is open for them to be wearing European colours again at Bethpage Black next September.

“I think it is,” said Kinnings in reply to being asked if the belief that Rahm, a two-time major winner and current world No 4, had effectively written himself out of future Ryder Cups by joining the Saudi-backed breakaway circuit was a misconception. “To be honest, I think some people had said ‘oh, you are going to have to change the rules’ and then came back and said ‘actually, I don’t think you do’.”

The onus now is on Rahm to play those four events at some point this year to retain his membership and, even though he would probably have had no intention to play in either of them, his one-event suspension from that LIV Golf event in Australia will be wiped out by either next week’s Volvo China Open or the Soudal Open in Belgium later in May, depending on when the entries closed and when he was notified of any sanctions. “It’s not a loophole,” insisted Kinnings of that being suggested to him, “because that’s the rules we’ve always had and those are the rules we are going to continue to apply. They have been tested and, if everyone applies and follows those rules as they are, that’s……..”

But how can a player be suspended from an event when they weren’t going to play in it? “Because rules are rules,” said Kinnings of the sanctions that have been in place since the DP World Tour won a legal battle with LIV Golf players in a Sports Resolutions hearing last year. “Rules are for all of the membership and it’s important for people to know how those apply and they apply to every member.”

While it was pretty shocking to hear that all then main parties have not yet sat around the same table, Kinnings is hoping that those talks around the framework agreement will produce an exciting end result at some point this year, though it will be 2026 at the earliest before a bold new landscape for the game is likely to start taking shape.

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“I’ve got loads of stuff in my intray that involves the DP World Tour, all our other tours and the Ryder Cup, but we all know there is one single topic that really needs to get sorted first and the rest of the stuff will flow from there,” he said. “You know, this is the irony of what we are facing right now. Golf is in such a really healthy state. In so many metrics, golf couldn’t be stronger. You know, participation levels, interest, whatever. But until we get the solution of what is the future of the game is going to look like, it’s kind of you have that faint sense of it’s the elephant in the room in every conversation you could possibly have.

“So, from my perspective, all I want to do is make sure we as quickly as possible get the right people around a table to talk about what can a future look like. I don’t expect them to go in knowing all the answers. There’s lots of things have to get worked at. What does the product look like, probably from 2026 and beyond? What’s the pathway? What does it mean for things?

“But, until you get into the room with the right people with the right intent to try and find a solution, you are never going to work out a deal and, at the end of the day, this is what is needed right now as quickly as we can. We’ve all seen - even with a great Masters - that TV figures are down. If we listen to the fans, there’s something that needs to get fixed and I see it as a huge opportunity because, if you can unite and go global, that’s exactly what we are all about.

“I was talking to the guys from the Strategic Sports Group (which struck a billion dollar commercial agreement with the PGA Tour earlier this year) and I said ‘listen, we’ve got to get together, we’ve got to pull it all together, we’ve got to find the product that works - it probably won’t be until 2026 but beyond there - and is good for the game, something that fans like and works for everyone. But, at the end of the day, it has got to be something that is appealing to them. It’s got to work for all parties and everyone is going to have to do things they don’t necessarily want to, a compromise. But that’s what you do if you strike a deal, it won’t happen until we get everyone in a room together.”



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