LIV Golf sign up Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman in latest blow to PGA Tour


LIV Golf has made its biggest signing to date with British Open champion Cameron Smith pocketing $100million (£83m) as the latest star name to defect from the PGA Tour.

Smith, the current world No 2, has signed up alongside fellow Australian Marc Leishman, just days before LIV Golf’s upcoming event in Boston this week. 

Smith, who won The Open last month, has been the subject of rumours about jumping to the upstart tour for weeks has now finally been announced.  He also won The Players Championship in March. 

Free-spending LIV Golf has already brought in a host of big-name players, including Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson.

The latest defection over to LIV Golf is set to have major repercussions on the Presidents Cup. 

Smith and Leishman would likely not be allowed to play on the International team against the United States in the Presidents Cup in North Carolina in late September as the PGA Tour has already suspended defectors. 

Leishman has joined his compatriot in teaming up with the Saudi-backed breakaway

Australian duo Cameron Smith (left) and Marc Leishman (right) have signed up for LIV Golf

Smith has been tight lipped publicly amid weeks of rumours prior to this announcement and he again declined to comment after completing his third round in the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta on Saturday. 

The next LIV Golf event – the fourth of eight on its schedule in 2022 – is The International in Boston from September 2-4. 

When news first emerged that Smith would be defecting to the Saudi-backed breakaway series, the world of golf was stunned and dismayed.

The 29-year-old Queenslander had a conversation with Rory McIlroy, who attempted to ‘inform’ Smith about what he would be quitting if he left the PGA Tour, but to no avail. 

Smith is the reigning British Open champion as he poses with the Claret Jug last month

 Smith is the reigning British Open champion as he poses with the Claret Jug last month

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has banned rebels as soon as they play first LIV event

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has banned rebels as soon as they play first LIV event

In disclosing his call to Smith, McIlroy said: ‘I had a conversation with Cameron Smith two days after the Open, and firstly, I wanted to congratulate him. 

‘Guys that are thinking one way or another, honestly I don’t care if they leave or not – it’s not going to make a difference to me. 

‘But I would at least like people to make a decision that is completely informed and basically know this is what’s coming down the pipeline. This is what you may be leaving behind.’ 

The PGA Tour, too, came out swinging on Wednesday in its latest effort to keep hold of their best talents.  

Their announcement on Wednesday detailed a number of lucrative measures that will stuff the pockets of those who reject the Saudi cash offered by Greg Norman’s breakaway group.

In those measures, 20 players will be defined as what will be known as ‘top players’ from 2023.

Rory McIlroy (right) attempted to 'inform' Smith (left) about the future plans of the PGA Tour after his Open victory in July - but it had little effect in getting him to spurn LIV Golf advances

Rory McIlroy (right) attempted to ‘inform’ Smith (left) about the future plans of the PGA Tour after his Open victory in July – but it had little effect in getting him to spurn LIV Golf advances

The Player Impact Program will determine those top 20 players – players who ‘resonate the most with fans and the media’ – and they will be in line for a ‘purse bump’ from $50m (£43m) to $100m (£86m).

For any non-exempt member of the PGA Tour – ranked between 126-150 in the world – the Tour confirmed they will subsidise travel and tournament-related expenses and award $5,000 for every missed cut as part of their new Travel Stipend Program (TSP). 

Tour commissioner Jay Monahan doubled down on his position that none of the LIV defectors can return to the PGA set-up, making it a bombshell move from Smith at such a high in his career.

McIlroy launched his most scathing attack yet on LIV Golf over the weekend – admitting it will be ‘hard to stomach’ having to compete against 18 Saudi rebels at Wentworth.

Fresh from becoming the first player to win the FedEx Cup three times following his victory at the Tour Championship on Sunday, McIlroy will return to Europe for next week’s BMW PGA Championship.

Smith is reported to be pocketing $100m (£83m) by becoming the latest LIV Golf rebel

 Smith is reported to be pocketing $100m (£83m) by becoming the latest LIV Golf rebel

Greg Norman is the CEO of LIV Golf Series following a decorated playing career

Greg Norman is the CEO of LIV Golf Series following a decorated playing career

But the 33-year-old Northern Irishman faces an awkward reunion with some of his old Ryder Cup team-mates, who are being allowed to play at the DP World Tour event despite defecting to the Saudi-backed series.

‘If you believe in something, I think you have to speak up, and I believe very strongly about this,’ said McIlroy.

‘I hate what it’s doing to the game of golf. I hate it. I really do.

‘It’s going to be hard for me to stomach going to Wentworth and seeing 18 of them there. That just doesn’t sit right with me.

‘I believe what I’m saying is the right thing, and I think when you believe that what you are saying is the right thing, you are happy to stick your neck out on the line.’

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