Jon Rahm, of Spain, walks to the 10th green during...

Jon Rahm, of Spain, walks to the 10th green during a practice round in preparation for the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. Credit: AP/Matt Slocum

AUGUSTA, Ga. — In some ways, golf finds itself at a point in time not unlike pro football in the 1960s, when two rival leagues duked it out but found a path to reconciliation that produced a game far bigger than anyone could've envisioned.

Bryson DeChambeau, for one, is hopeful that the still-smoldering split between the established PGA Tour and upstart LIV Golf could lead to a Super Bowl-like extravaganza that brings everyone together.

“You can look at it like the NFL and you could have NFC-AFC sort of working in their own fields and at the end they come together, put on a huge event at the end of the year,” said DeChambeau, who plays on the LIV circuit. “That could be really cool.”

If nothing else, major championships such as the Masters, which begins Thursday at Augusta National, provide a brief detente in this civil war of the links.

All the top players — from reigning Master champion Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka representing Team LIV to world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy teeing it up for the old guard — will be looking to not only claim a green jacket, but score bragging rights for their de facto team.

“Obviously, the more togetherness that you get, the better it is for everyone. There’s no doubt about that,” said Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters winner who bolted for LIV. “But there’s room for everyone. I don’t think that’s a problem at all.”

Even though LIV appears to have strengthened its hand with its stunning signing of Rahm, who was on the PGA Tour when he won at Augusta a year ago, there are actually five fewer players from the new tour than the 18 who played in 2023.

Brooks Koepka hands over his club on the second hole...

Brooks Koepka hands over his club on the second hole during a practice round in preparation for the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. Credit: AP/Ashley Landis

That's largely because LIV events — with their smaller fields and 54-hole format — do not receive world ranking points, one of the main conduits for entry into the Masters.

Still, the Saudi-funded circuit has demonstrated that its top players can compete with the best of the PGA Tour.

Koepka and Phil Mickelson were runner-ups to Rahm a year ago at the Masters, and Koepka went on to capture his fifth career major title at the PGA Championship. Of the 27 major championships that have been staged since the beginning of 2017, 13 were won by golfers who now call LIV home.

Koepka took issue with those who say the split is ruining the game.

Bryson DeChambeau hands his driver to his caddie on the...

Bryson DeChambeau hands his driver to his caddie on the eighth hole during a practice round in preparation for the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. Credit: AP/Ashley Landis

“Look, the best players in the world never got together week in, week out. I think that’s kind of forgotten,” Koepka said Tuesday. “It was the majors, (World Golf Championship tournaments) ... those were pretty much the 10 events where everyone was, for sure, going to be there. And then it was just kind of sprinkled in everywhere else. I think that’s kind of how it is" now.

But hard feelings remain, especially since a supposed merger agreement announced 10 months ago had yet to be finalized.

Just listen to Fred Couples, the 1992 Masters champion and outspoken critic of LIV.

“I don’t think I’ll ever understand it,” he said. “Now, everything can get better. But let me tell you, if the LIV tour is better for golf, I’m missing something there.”

Rahm acknowledged that when he accepted a reported $350 million offer to join LIV in December, he was hopeful that it would spur the two sides to reach some sort of reconciliation by the time the Masters rolled around.

Now, with a divide that seems as gaping as ever, he's one of the most prominent faces on a tour that has been called everything from the future of the game — with its shotgun starts and team element — to a refuge of sellouts who are helping the Saudis sportswash the image of a repressive regime.

“It’s a bit of a detour on my path,” Rahm said. “But change can be better.”

Just how much things have changed was apparent from the attire he donned a year ago as he departed Augusta National to what he picked out for his practice rounds leading into this Masters.

Gone was the green jacket. Now he's wearing a shirt emblazoned with a Legion XIII logo.

The team he now leads in LIV.

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