Cameron Smith news leaves golf world seething after $145 million move

Cameron Smith, pictured here in action at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
Cameron Smith in action at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Cameron Smith has gone from hero to villain in the golf world after the Aussie star confirmed he's defecting to LIV Golf in a deal reportedly worth $145 million.

Rumours have been circulating for months that the World No.2 and recent British Open champion was poised to join the Greg Norman-led rebel series, which is controversially funded by $3 billion from Saudi Arabia.

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On Tuesday night the bombshell news was confirmed, with Smith and Norman both announcing the massive coup for the new series.

Norman revealed earlier this month that LIV is looking to hold an event in Australia in 2023 and have been scouting potential venues, a fact that Smith pointed to in coming to his decision.

"The biggest thing for me joining is [LIV's] schedule is really appealing," Smith told Golf Digest.

"I'll be able to spend more time at home in Australia and maybe have an event down there, as well. I haven't been able to do that, and to get that part of my life back was really appealing."

Smith admitted the financial rewards were also tempting, with the 29-year-old reported to have received a $US100 million ($A145m) sign-on fee.

"[That] was definitely a factor in making that decision, I won't ignore that or say that wasn't a reason," Smith said.

"It was obviously a business decision for one and an offer I couldn't ignore."

Smith's compatriot Marc Leishman has also signed up with LIV Golf, the arrival of which has split the golf world down the middle.

Many have claimed LIV Golf is the latest example of Saudi Arabia trying to 'sportswash' its image and take the focus away from the country's questionable human rights record.

Smith and Leishman bring the number of Australians on board with LIV to eight, with Matt Jones the next biggest name of the octet.

The Aussie stars are among six players joining the circuit in time for its fourth event at The International course in Boston, Massachusetts - teeing off on September 2-4.

The other four are Chile's World No.19 Joaquin Niemann, India's highest-ranked player Anirban Lahiri, and Americans Harold Varner III and Cameron Tringale.

"LIV Golf is showing the world that our truly global league is attracting the world's best players and will grow the game into the future for the next generation," Norman said.

Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith, pictured here in action at the Zurich Classic in 2021.
Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith at the Zurich Classic in 2021. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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Smith is the first current top-10 player to join LIV. He has had a stellar season after winning the Players Championship as well as the Open.

He was also tied for third at The Masters, one of three top-5 Masters finishes in the last five years.

Leishman has won six PGA Tour events during his career. The 38-year-old is now ranked 62nd in the world and has reached No.12 in the past.

He has twice finished in the top five in both the Open and the Masters. However, he has missed the cut in seven of his last 15 major appearances.

Cameron Smith, pictured here with the Claret Jug after winning the British Open.
Cameron Smith celebrates with the Claret Jug after winning the British Open. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Both players are still eligible for the Australian PGA and Australian Open but will not be considered for next month's President's Cup.

The $36 million Boston event features a 48-man field playing 54 holes. Other Australians in the field besides Smith, Leishman and Jones are current Australian PGA champion Jediah Morgan and Wade Ormsby.

The news of Smith's defection has left the golf world heavily divided, with many criticising the Aussie star's decision.

"Cameron Smith is a massive loss. Even the most pro-PGA Tour supporters can't sugarcoat it," tweeted golf writer Jason Sobel.

"He's second in the OWGR, won The Open and The Players. Terrific player. Popular, too."

with AAP

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