Cameron Smith defect to LIV golf after end of PGA Tour season – The Washington Post

Cameron Smith defect to LIV golf after end of PGA Tour season - The Washington Post

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The LIV Golf Invitational Series announced Tuesday that it added Cameron Smith, the second-ranked golfer in the world and this year’s British Open championgiving the Saudi-backed fugitive league its highest-ranked golfer.

Smith, a 29-year-old Australian, has three wins this season, including the British Open in July and the Players Championship in March. He also finished in the top 10 in four of his six trips to the Masters – with a tie for third. at this year’s tournament – and was 20th at the season-ending Tour Championship, which concluded on Sunday.

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Joaquin Niemann will also leave the PGA Tour for LIV, giving it another golfer ranked in the top 20. Niemann is ranked 19th in the world and has two career PGA Tour wins, one of them this year at the Genesis Invitational in California. LIV also announced the additions of Harold Varner III (No. 46 in the world), Cameron Tringale (55), Marc Leishman (62) and Anirban Lahiri (92).

Smith has been rumored to be jumping to LIV for weeks, with speculation that he would receive a nine-figure salary simply for joining the new league, which offers a slightly shorter schedule than the PGA Tour and guaranteed tournament paydays. The next LIV event begins Friday outside Boston, and Smith will join major championship winners such as Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson.

The PGA Tour banned players who defected to LIVand on Friday, the new league added its name to antitrust litigation filed by some of its players against the PGA Tour. In the amended complaint, the LIV players say the PGA Tour is an “entrenched monopolist with a vice grip on professional golf” and that it has violated federal antitrust laws in its efforts “to crush nascent competition before it threatens the monopoly of the Tour.”

LIV is too seeking to recognize its tournaments of the Official World Golf Ranking, which would help its players qualify for major championships (which are not run by the PGA Tour). Without OWGR sanction, most of the LIV players will struggle to qualify for the four biggest tournaments on the professional golf schedule.

Smith and the other recent major winners defecting to LIV – it now features the winners of 12 of the last 24 grand slam events — won’t have that problem, at least in the short term and assuming the major championships don’t change their eligibility rules. By winning the British Open, Smith received a five-year exemption into the other majors, and he has an invitation to play in the British Open until after he turns 60.

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Last week, the PGA Tour announced vast changes in an attempt to prevent its biggest names from jumping to LIV. The top 20 players on the tour will commit to playing in at least 20 events, including the four majors and the FedEx Cup finals, and the tour has also boosted the prize money for four non-major tournaments, offering $20 million in prize money at each. In addition, the tour will expand its Game Impact Program, a bonus system introduced last year as a way to reward players who help promote the game, and will give all of its players a guaranteed minimum of $500,000, primarily to smooth the way for players who may struggle to maintain their tour cards (tour newcomers will receive the money at the start of the season).

Some high-level PGA Tour players, such as 2022 rookie of the year contender Cameron Young and former Masters champions Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott, are said to be considering a move to LIV, but are currently sticking with the more established tour.

“We don’t know who’s going to go after this week or next year,” Young said Sunday at the Tour Championship. “I think there’s a really nice core group of kids that are just going to stick around, and a lot of them are highly ranked players in the world. I don’t think the competition on the PGA Tour is going to go down significantly.”

The defections of Smith and Niemann to LIV will also open up spots in the International team at the Presidents Cup, which is next month. Smith and Niemann both earned enough qualifying points to earn spots on captain Trevor Immelman’s team, but their PGA Tour suspensions also apply to the Presidents Cup.

LIV Golf, which has held three tournaments and still has five remaining on this year’s schedule, is funded by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. LIV’s detractors criticized it as an attempt “sports wash” the nation’s shaky human rights record.

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