Open champion Cameron Smith says money was “a factror” in him becoming the highest-ranked player to join the Saudi Arabian-funded LIV Golf series.
The 29-year-old world number two has been confirmed in the field for the next LIV tournament in Boston. Smith refused to be drawn on his future after winning The Open – his first major, at St Andrews in July.
The Australian will be joined in the event, from 2-4 September, by Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, the world number 19.
Speaking to Golf Digest, Smith said that the guaranteed money on offer for participating in the LIV series was one of his reasons for leaving the PGA Tour.
“[Money] 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 also stressed that the schedule and opportunity to spend several months each year in his native Australia had also been a major consideration.
Smith and Niemann, 23, are among six new faces competing in the 48-strong field in Massachusetts in what is the fourth LIV event of its inaugural series.
They include Australia’s Marc Leishman, 38, who was runner-up at the 2015 Open at St Andrews as well as Americans Harold Varner III, 32, and Cameron Tringale, 35, plus India’s top-ranked pro Anirban Lahiri, 35.
Players competing in the LIV series are currently barred from playing in PGA Tour events, although the DP World Tour has temporarily lifted suspensions on LIV golf players.
Smith has joined the LIV series following the culmination of the FedEx cup which marks the end of the PGA Tour season.
He has risen up the world rankings after consistent results on the PGA Tour and especially in the majors. He has won six PGA Tour titles, including this year’s Players championship, and also finished tied second at the 2020 Masters and tied 13th in the 2022 US PGA.
Niemann, who spent almost a year as the world’s top amateur, won his first PGA tour title in February when he claimed a wire-to-wire victory at the Genesis International in California.
While Smith is the highest-ranked player to sign up to the LIV Golf series, he is not the only major winner.
Americans Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are among those to have signed up for the Saudi-back tour, which is being led by two-time major winner Greg Norman.
The latest departures will increase the tension in the game and come a week after the PGA tour held a summit of its top players headlined by Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, to discuss the threat posed by the LIV series.
McIlroy has been vocal in his support of the PGA Tour, saying it would be “hard to stomach” playing alongside LIV Golf players at the BMW PGA Championship – the flagship event on the DP World Tour – at Wentworth from 8 September.
European Ryder Cup players Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter – who have all signed up to LIV Golf, are expected to play at the BMW PGA.
McIlroy said: “I hate it. I really do. It’s going to be hard for me to stomach going to Wentworth in a couple of weeks’ time and seeing 18 of them there. That just doesn’t sit right with me.
“So yeah, I feel strongly. I believe what I’m saying are the right things and I think when you believe that what you’re saying is the right thing, you’re happy to stick your neck out on the line.”
A total of eight LIV tournaments have been planned for this year, with events having already taken place at Donald Trump’s Bedminster course in New Jersey, Centurion Club north of London and in Portland, Oregon.
Plans are in place to expand to a 14-tournament LIV Golf league, which will start in 2023. Next year’s tournament dates and locations have not yet been announced.
The league has a prize fund of $405m (£336m), with the 48 players for each event split into 12 teams of four for 54-hole, three-day tournaments that feature shotgun starts and no cut.