Australia’s Cameron Smith, the world’s No.2 golfer and most recent winner of the British Open, highlights the latest wave of players to defect from the PGA Tour and join the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Series.
Smith was announced as the newest member of the LIV on Tuesday, along with Chile’s Joaquin Niemann (the 19th-ranked player in the world), Harold Varner III (No. 46), Cameron Tringale (No. 55), Australia’s Marc Leishman (No. 62) and India’s Anirban Lahiri (No. 92).
All the newest signees will participate in LIV’s fourth event, which starts Friday at The International outside Boston.
“LIV Golf is showing the world that our truly global league is attracting the world’s best players and will grow the game into the future for the next generation,” LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman said in a statement.
“The best and the brightest continue to embrace the excitement and energy of LIV Golf and what we’re building: a tangible league for team golf that will connect with new audiences all over the globe. We can’t wait to tee off this week at The International and deliver another memorable event experience for fans.”
The news of Smith joining LIV is not entirely surprising. The UK-based news site, The Telegraph, reported in early August that Smith would be making the jump to LIV to participate in the event outside of Boston.
Smith declined to shoot down the rumors when asked at press conferences multiple times, signaling the Australian was indeed on the verge of joining the LIV.
Smith is by far the most significant coup for the LIV. The No.2 golfer in the world is in the prime of his career and is coming off a stellar season in which he won the 150th British Open Championship and the Players Championship and finished tied for third at the Masters.
Smith and Niemann, 23, are notable additions to the LIV roster, which has mainly attracted PGA golfers that are 40 and older, injury-prone, or are rank-and-file names.
Niemann was regarded as one of the bright future stars for the PGA and is thought to have his best golf ahead of him. He is coming off his most successful year on the PGA Tour with a win at the Genesis Invitational and five top-10 finishes.
“I haven’t made my decision yet,” Niemann said last Friday at the Tour Championship. “Obviously, there’s some things I’ve got to see first, but I’m not thinking about that right now.”
As soon as the new batch of golfers tee off for the LIV on Friday, they will be suspended indefinitely from the PGA Tour. That means Smith and Niemann, who were two of the eight automatic qualifiers for the International team at the Presidents Cup, will be barred from the competition being played in September at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte.
Last week in Atlanta, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced a series of changes to the tour’s schedule and compensation structure in an effort to prevent other tour players from being lured to LIV.
He was then asked if LIV Golf members would be allowed to return to the PGA Tour in the wake of the changes.
“No,” Monahan said. “They’ve joined the LIV Golf Series, and they’ve made that commitment. For most of them, they’ve made multiyear commitments. As I’ve been clear throughout, every player has a choice, and I respect their choice, but they’ve made it. We’ve made ours. We’re going to continue to focus on the things that we control and get stronger and stronger. I think they understand that.”