Golf-British Open champion Smith among latest players to join LIV Golf

By Thomson Reuters Aug 30, 2022 | 9:20 AM

By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) – World number two Cameron Smith, who won his first major at last month’s British Open, headlined the latest group of players who have agreed to join LIV Golf, the lucrative Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway series said on Tuesday.

The Australian, who this year won two of the biggest events on the PGA Tour schedule having triumphed at the Players Championship as well as the British Open, is the highest-ranked player to join LIV Golf to date.

The 29-year-old, a six-time winner on the PGA Tour who has been linked to LIV Golf for weeks and refused to deny the reports, will debut in the controversial series at the Sept. 2-4 event being held at The International Golf Club outside Boston.

Smith last competed over the weekend at the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship where he made $640,000 after finishing 20th in a 29-player field a week after withdrawing from the penultimate playoff event citing hip discomfort.

LIV Golf, whose eight events this year have a total payout of $255 million, also said Australian Marc Leishman, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, India’s Anirban Lahiri and Americans Harold Varner III and Cameron Tringale agreed to join the series.

Leishman is a veteran player who has earned six PGA Tour wins during his career, while 23-year-old Niemann collected his second victory on the U.S.-based circuit in February. Lahiri, Varner and Tringale have not won on the PGA Tour.

“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,” Greg Norman, chief executive officer of LIV Golf, said in a news release.

“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.”

This week’s field will feature 12 major champions with a combined 22 majors and four former world number one players.

The PGA Tour, which has seen high-profile players like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau make the move to LIV Golf, has previously said any members who compete on the rival circuit will be suspended indefinitely.

LIV Golf, in which all 48 players in each 54-hole event with no cut are guaranteed a payday, is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which critics say is a vehicle for the country to improve its image in the face of criticism over its human rights record.

In a bid to combat the threat posed by LIV Golf, which launched in June and has so far held three events, the PGA Tour announced last week a number of changes, including enhancements to its schedule and significant purse increases.

LIV Golf was added to an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour according to an amended complaint filed last Friday that showed four of the original 11 players named as plaintiffs removed their names.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris)