One of sport’s worst kept secrets has been confirmed after LIV Golf announced Cameron Smith, the Open champion, has agreed to become their highest-ranked recruit. Smith, the world No 2, will tee off in this week’s LIV event in Boston after accepting a deal believed to be worth more than $100m.
Speculation over Smith’s exit from the PGA Tour started immediately after his Open success at St Andrews last month. During post-tournament media duties the Australian refused to rule out a switch to the Saudi Arabian-backed scheme. Rory McIlroy said he called Smith days later in an attempt to inform the 29-year-old over what he would be leaving behind by joining LIV.
What has happened undoubtedly represents a blow to the PGA Tour. Smith won their marquee event, the Players Championship, earlier this year. He would also have been a leading figure in September’s Presidents Cup, which the PGA Tour controls. Smith will instead be blocked from the match between the United States and an International Team because of an automatic PGA Tour ban for joining LIV.
Smith is the standout name from LIV’s latest batch of recruits which also includes Harold Varner, Joaquín Niemann, Cameron Tringale, Marc Leishman and Anirban Lahiri. Hideki Matsuyama remains part of the PGA Tour, despite recurring whispers that the former Masters champion is high on LIV’s wanted list.
“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,” said Greg Norman, the commissioner of LIV Golf. “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.”
LIV plans to stage tournaments in Australia, which appealed to Smith and his compatriot Leishman. Smith also has the comfort of exemptions from major championships for the foreseeable future after his Open success. In the short term, however, his world ranking is likely to plummet since LIV events do not reward participants with ranking points.