Cameron Smith rejects ugly Masters claim as Rory McIlroy responds to $1.3b rumour

McIlroy has been linked with a staggering move to join the Aussie golf star.

LIV golfers struggled at the Masters last weekend, not living up to expectations with Cameron Smith one of the best out of the LIV cohort, finishing sixth overall at two-under. Thirteen LIV competitors turned out for the year's first major but none of them came in the top five and only three finished in the top 10 - Smith, Bryson DeChambeau and Tyrrell Hatton.

While five of the 12 missed the cut and all 13 players finished with a combined +82 for the weekend. It’s a vastly different outcome to 2023 when LIV golfers took three of the top six places before winner Jon Rahm subsequently defected to LIV. And at the PGA Championship last year, LIV’s Brooks Koepka reigned supreme.

Pictured left Cameron Smith and right Rory McIlroy
Cameron Smith has rubbished claims LIV stars are unable to hang with their PGA Tour rivals anymore as Rory McIlroy is reportedly considering defecting to the Saudi-backed league. Image: Getty

With the Masters flop, there have been claims that LIV stars are no longer able to hang with their PGA Tour rivals, largely due to only competing over 54 holes at LIV events. Three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo even went as far as to suggest that playing in the rebel league had robbed the defectors of their competitive edge.

But Smith had a fierce response when asked whether he felt there was any truth to that. "No, no, that's BS," he said of Faldo's claim that tackling the 54-hole LIV league was little more than playing "resort courses in shorts".


Rory McIlroy responds to claims of shock LIV defection

Meanwhile, golfing superstar Rory McIlroy has vehemently denied rumours of a bombshell $850m ($AU1.32 billion) deal to join LIV Golf in what would be one of the biggest defections to the rival golf tour. LIV figurehead Greg Norman was in attendance as a patron at the Masters over the weekend and was seen following McIlroy’s playing group around the Augusta National course in the first round, sparking rumours of a potential defection.

But the rumours have now gone to a new level with multiple reports suggesting the four-time major winner is on the brink of joining LIV. McIlroy has been one of the fiercest critics of the challenger tour, and quickly moved to shut down the rumours on Tuesday.

“I honestly don’t know how these things get started,” he told NBC program Golf Central. “I’ve never been offered a number from LIV and I’ve never contemplated going to LIV.

“Again, I think I’ve made it clear over the past two years that I don’t think it’s something for me. It doesn’t mean that I judge people that have went and played over there.

“One of the things that I realise over the past two years is that people can make their own decisions for whatever they think is best for themselves, and who are we to judge them for that? But personally for me, my future is here on the PGA Tour and it’s never been any different. I will play the PGA Tour for the rest of my career.”

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 13: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts after missing a putt on the sixth green during the third round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 13, 2024 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy has been linked with a bombshell $850m USD ($A1.32bn) deal to join LIV Golf.

He said in January: “I think what LIV has done, it’s exposed the flaws in the system of what golf has … we’re all supposed to be independent contractors and we can pick and choose what tournaments we want to play.

“But I think what LIV and the Saudis have exposed is that you’re asking for millions of dollars to sponsor these events, and you’re not able to guarantee to the sponsors that the players are going to show up. I can’t believe the PGA Tour has done so well for so long."

Given McIlroy’s star power and the fact he was a vocal rival of LIV in the past, his signing would arguably be the biggest scalp in the Saudi-backed league's history. English outlet City. A.M claims the proposed deal is worth $850m USD ($A1.32bn) and it would also include McIlroy receiving a stake in LIV of approximately two per cent.

The site claims: "Two separate sources have told City A.M. that they believe a deal is close". Neither McIlroy nor LIV Golf have released statements on the matter despite media requests.