ATLANTA — As Billy Horschel approached the 18th green in Sunday’s final round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club, he couldn’t help but wonder if it was the last time he would play with his good friend, Cameron Smithon the PGA Tour.
Horschel and Smith both live in Ponte Vedra, Florida. They play golf together and go offshore fishing in their spare time.
“If he happens to go, he would be the biggest loss in my mind because you look at his age and what he’s accomplished,” Horschel said. “Look at the person he is. He’s a great kid and represents himself very well, and he does it right. If he happens to go, it would be the biggest loss because I’m biased. He’s one of my best friends. .”
Smith, 29, is leaving the PGA Tour for LIV Golf, the new circuit announced Tuesday. Smith is No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking and won the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews in July. Chile Joachim Niemann (the 19th-ranked player in the world), Harold Varner III (No. 46), Cameron Tringale (No. 55), Australia Marc Leishman (No. 62) and that of India Anirban Lahiri (No. 92) also joins LIV Gulf, which is financed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
LIV Golf said the six players will compete in its fourth event, which begins Friday at The International outside Boston.
“LIV Golf is showing the world that our truly global league attracts 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 connection for team golf that will connect with new audiences around the world. We can’t wait to get going this week. at The International and deliver another memorable event experience for fans.”
Smith is the biggest loss for the PGA Tour. The Australian is in the prime of his career, having won The Players in March and his first major championship at the 150th Open Championship. Smith is a six-time winner on the PGA Tour and a popular player among fans and fellow competitors.
“He is a good friend of mine”, that of Australia Adam Scott said “I play a lot of practice rounds with Cam. I’m going to miss that. It’s one less good player I have to beat, though.”
Smith and Niemann, who was a wire-to-wire winner at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera in February, were automatic qualifiers for the International Team that will compete in the President’s Cup at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 20 . 25.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has suspended players for competing in LIV Golf tournaments without conflict-of-events releases. Because the Presidents Cup is sanctioned by the PGA Tour, Smith and Niemann will be ineligible to play. It is a blow for the International team, which already assumed to be a considerable inferior to the Americans.
International team captain Trevor Immelman is scheduled to announce its captain’s picks on September 6. Hideki Matsuyama, Sunjae ImTom Kim, Corey Conners, Mito Pereira and Scott qualified for the team. Immelman will add six players to the 12-man roster.
“All I can say is Trevor is as ready as he can be for anything,” Scott said. “I really feel for him. He’s been in a tough spot for quite some time. He’s got a plan, and whoever he’s got to go with, he’s going to go with it. It’s just a fact that we’re the underdogs and it’s a stacked American team, even with maybe some [of their] guys are missing too, just not at 11 o’clock.”
Pereira, who had a lead on the 72nd hole at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills and tied for third, will also go to LIV Golf at some point in the future, sources previously told ESPN.