The world’s No. 2-ranked golfer and the current Open Champion of the Year is taking his talents to Saudi Arabia, as Cameron Smith becomes the highest-profile signing of the LIV Golf Tour to date.
The long-rumored transaction was made official this morning, as Smith will join Joaquin Niemann (No. 19 in the world), Harold Varner III (46), Cameron Tringale (55), Marc Leishman (62) and Anirban Lahiri (92) as members of the breakaway circuit. All the new signees will be in Boston this week for the LIV event at The International Golf Club beginning on Friday.
Picking off of one of the best players in the world is perhaps the biggest coup yet for LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman. Smith has been considered a candidate for making the move since before his dramatic win at St. Andrews in July, and was rumored to have already signed his agreement before firing a final round 62 at the Home of Golf. How much he cost himself by signing before that victory and the associated larger price he could have commanded is unknown.
As the schism in professional golf continues, one of the biggest bones of contention is how LIV players will be able to qualify for the majors. As of now Smith is now exempt for all majors through the end of 2026, and the 29-year-old will be able to play in the Open Championship until 2054. If he’s able to perform in those events, he’ll lend needed credibility to the rest of his league.
Niemann is a two-time winner on TOUR, including last year’s Genesis Invitational hosted by Tiger Woods. Invitational winners are fully exempt on TOUR for the following three seasons. Leishman has six wins in the US, and joins his fellow Australian in Smith in making the leap. The two Aussies were partners in Leishman’s last victory in the only team event on TOUR in the 2021 Zurich Classic.
Varner’s leaving is also a blow, as he was one of the few Black stars on the PGA TOUR as the game tries to increase its diversity in the wake of Tiger Woods now playing a very limited schedule. While he hadn’t won a pro tournament in the United States yet, the two-time winner worldwide had three top-10 finishes last season.
Tringale also never broke his maiden on TOUR, but finished with five top-10s last year. Lahiri finished second to Smith in The Players Championship this season, and also had three top-10’s.
Here is the complete list of current LIV golfers, with their place in the Official World Golf Rankings as of August 30.
2022 LIV Tour golfers
|Harold Varner III||46|
|Hennie Du Plessis||165|
|Charles Howell III||197|
|Ratchanaon "TK" Chantananuwat*||321|