ATLANTA – LIV Golf has secured its highest-ranked player to date, Australian Cam Smith, who won the British Open at St. Andrews last month and is also the reigning Players Championship winner.
A source confirmed to Sports Illustrated that Smith will be joined next week at the LIV Golf event outside of Boston by fellow Australian Marc Leishman, Joaquin Niemann, Harold Varner III, Anirban Lahiri and Cameron Tringale.
Golf Channel also reported those names as leaving for the LIV Golf Invitational Series along with Mito Pereira, who a source said is not going to play the Boston event, leaving his status for next month’s Presidents Cup In flux.
Smith, Niemann and Pereira are among the top eight qualifiers for the International team that will take on an American squad at Quail Hollow in Charlotte. The PGA Tour has said any players who participate in a LIV Golf event will be suspended indefinitely.
Smith, 28, who shot a final-round 64 to capture the Claret Jug at the Home of Golf, is ranked second in the world and is being joined by another competitor who made it to the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship – Chile’s Niemann, who told Golf Channel on Friday he was still undecided about the move.
Smith has been linked to LIV Golf for weeks, sidestepping questions about it at both the Open and the FedEx St. Jude Championship two weeks ago. He did not refute the talk in Memphis, saying “no comment” when asked and saying he was focused on winning the FedEx Cup. Smith pulled out of last week’s BMW Championship with an injury and is out of contention for the FedEx title with one round to play Sunday.
Niemann attended the players-only meeting in Wilmington, Delaware last week prior to the BMW Championship and was said to be wavering. He won the Genesis Invitational, hosted by Tiger Woods, in February.
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LIV Golf, which had its first event in early June, is not expected to add any more players this year – unless Pereira signs on at some point after the Boston event. There are five tournaments remaining on the LIV schedule. In the original concept for this season, a player was required to play at least four of the first seven events in order to be eligible for the season-ending team championship at Doral in late October.
Niemann is just 23 years old and his win at the Genesis Invitational was his second PGA Tour title. He is represented by the same company that also manages Garia and Carlos Ortiz, two other LIV Golf players.
Leishman, 38, is a veteran player with six PGA Tour wins who along with Smith will help form an all-Australian team.
Lahiri, 35, of India, has no PGA Tour victories but has won seven times on the Asian Tour and twice on the European Tour.
Varner, 32, has not won on the PGA Tour but captured the Saudi International tournament in February with a birdie-eagle finish that clipped Bubba Watson by a shot.
Tringale, 34, has not won on the PGA Tour but has been a member since 2010.
The eight-tournament LIV series was put together in March and will transition to a 14-team league format in 2024 with 12 four-man teams. Purses are $25 million per event, with $50 million for the season-ending Tour Championship.
The Saudi-backed series has been hugely controversial, but has signed past major champions such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen to guaranteed contracts.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism