Joaquin Niemann additionally will depart the PGA Tour for LIV, giving it one other golfer ranked within the prime 20. Niemann is ranked nineteenth on this planet and has two profession PGA Tour wins, one in all them this yr on the Genesis Invitational in California. LIV additionally introduced the additions of Harold Varner III (No. 46 on this planet), Cameron Tringale (55), Marc Leishman (62) and Anirban Lahiri (92).
Smith has been rumored to be leaping to LIV for weeks, with hypothesis that he would obtain a nine-figure paycheck merely for becoming a member of the brand new league, which presents a considerably shorter schedule than the PGA Tour and assured event paydays. The following LIV occasion begins Friday outdoors Boston, and Smith will be a part of major-championship winners akin to Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson.
The PGA Tour has banned players who have defected to LIV, and on Friday, the brand new league hooked up its identify to an antitrust lawsuit filed by a few of its gamers towards the PGA Tour. Within the amended grievance, the LIV gamers say the PGA Tour is “an entrenched monopolist with a vice-grip on skilled golf” and that it violated federal antitrust legal guidelines in its efforts “to crush nascent competitors earlier than it threatens the Tour’s monopoly.”
LIV is also seeking to have its tournaments recognized by the Official World Golf Rating, which might assist its gamers qualify for main championships (which aren’t run by the PGA Tour). With out OWGR sanctioning, most of LIV’s gamers will battle to qualify for the 4 greatest tournaments on the skilled golf schedule.
Smith and the opposite latest main winners defecting to LIV — it now options the winners of 12 of the last 24 grand slam events — is not going to have that drawback, at the least within the brief time period and assuming that the main championships don’t alter their qualifying guidelines. By profitable the British Open, Smith obtained a five-year exemption into the opposite majors, and he has an invite to play within the British Open till after he turns 60.
Final week, the PGA Tour introduced sweeping changes in an try to hold its greatest names from leaping to LIV. The tour’s prime 20 gamers will decide to taking part in in at the least 20 occasions, together with the 4 majors and the FedEx Cup playoffs, and the tour additionally beefed up the prize cash for 4 non-major tournaments, providing $20 million in prize cash at every. Plus, the tour will increase its Participant Influence Program, a bonus system launched final yr as a approach to reward gamers who assist promote the sport, and can give all of its gamers a assured minimal of $500,000, primarily to clean the way in which for gamers who would possibly battle to maintain their tour playing cards (tour rookies will obtain the cash firstly of the season).
Various high-level PGA Tour gamers, akin to 2022 rookie of the yr contender Cameron Younger and former Masters champions Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott, have been rumored to be mulling a transfer to LIV however for now are sticking with the extra established tour.
“We don’t know who’s going to go after this week or subsequent yr,” Younger said Sunday on the Tour Championship. “I believe there’s a very nice core group of men which can be simply going to remain, and lots of them are extremely ranked gamers on this planet. I don’t assume the competitors on the PGA Tour goes to go downhill considerably.”
The defections of Smith and Niemann to LIV additionally will open up spots on the Worldwide staff on the Presidents Cup, which is subsequent month. Smith and Niemann each had earned sufficient qualifying factors to earn locations on Captain Trevor Immelman’s staff, however their PGA Tour suspensions additionally apply to the Presidents Cup.
LIV Golf, which has held three tournaments and nonetheless has 5 remaining on this yr’s schedule, is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund. LIV’s detractors have criticized it as an try to “sportswash” the nation’s shaky human-rights report.