Open champion Cameron Smith, the current world No 2, has been revealed as one of the six latest recruits to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series.
As reported by Telegraph Sport earlier this month, Smith agreed to a whopping nine-figure sum worth more than $100 million to join the Rebel Series, which will rule him out of future PGA Tour events once he completes it in week three. invitation to Boston.
Smith will be joined by 23-year-old Chilean Joaquin Niemann, stealing one of the game’s most exciting young players from under the noses of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
The arrest of Niemann – the world’s highest-ranked player under the age of 25 – will raise the most eyebrows in the locker room because the Chilean was part of last week’s top players meeting, 23 players ahead of Woods and McIlroy, which forced the PGA Tour to offer an additional $100 million annually in incentives and overhaul its program in favor of the top pros.
LIV Golf, whose eight events this year have a combined output of $255 million, also said Australia’s Marc Leishman, India’s Anirban Lahiri and Americans Harold Varner III and Cameron Tringale have agreed to join the series.
Which players have signed up?
Brooks Koepka, Duston Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson are perhaps the most famous names to join Greg Norman’s breakaway championship, but Open champion Smith’s arrest is one of the biggest blows yet to the PGA Tour.
The 29-year-old Australian, who has been linked with LIV Golf for weeks, will make his controversial series debut at The International Golf Club outside Boston on Friday.
As our chief sportswriter Oliver Brown writes:
[Smith’s] The signing is arguably the Saudis’ most significant coup to date and could be a turning point for the competition – a moment where a gilded freakshow has turned into a sporting event that can demand the world’s attention.
Where are the eight LIV Golf events?
The breakaway circuit started at the Centurion Club in Hertfordshire, with the second event won by Branden Grace in Portland, Oregon.
Henrik Stenson won his second US tournament, with one more event on the American swing before tournaments in Bangkok and Saudi Arabia, culminating in the tour finale at Trump Doral in Miami in late October.
June 9-11: Centurion Golf Club, Hemel Hempstead – won by Charl Schwartzel
July 1-3: Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, Portland, US – Branden Grace won
July 29-31: Trump National Golf Club, New Jersey, USA – Henrik Stenson won
September 2-4: The International, Boston, USA
September 16-18: Rich Harvest Farms, Chicago, USA
October 7-9: Stonehill Golf Club, Bangkok, Thailand
October 14-16: Royal Greens Golf Club, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
October 28-30: Team Championship, Trump Doral, Florida, USA
What is the format?
The 48-man field will play in 12 teams of four, which was determined by a draft.
The first seven events of the regular season will consist of three 54-hole events, with no cut and shotgun starts, while the final event will be a four-day team knockout event.
LIV then plans 10 events in 2023, followed by “a full season” of 14 tournaments in 2024 and 2025.
What is the prize money?
LIV Golf says the total purse for its eight events will “reach an unprecedented $255m” (£204m).
The first seven events of the regular season will have a prize pool of $25m (£20m), with the individual winner receiving $4m (£3.2m), the final winner collecting $120,000 (£96,000) and a team event to give 5 dollars m (£4m).
In the eighth season-ending event, teams will compete for a share of $50m (£40m) in prize money.
How to watch
Coverage is streamed on the organization’s website as well as YouTube and Facebook, with Arlo White anchoring a three-person broadcast booth.
Why is it controversial?
The Saudi-backed circuit has been on a collision course with the two major Tours – the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour – which have refused to allow players to appear in the rebel events.
briefly restating the legal battles
Ian Poulter successfully challenged his DP Tour ban, meaning he was controversially reinstated at the Scottish Open, but there are expectations of more legal action ahead.
LIV’s chief executive Norman has also been criticized for the breakaway track’s rise, with its Saudi investors accused of “washing up” the country’s poor human rights record.
However, Norman said LIV Golf was “independent” and the Saudis “were not my bosses”. The Australian told Sky Sports: “We [LIV Golf] they are independent. I don’t answer Saudi Arabia. I can tell you unequivocally, that is not the case. I don’t answer to MBS.”
What are the plans for next year?
In July, LIV confirmed the 2023 schedule would expand to 14 events, but insisted these would not clash with golf’s major championships.
While exact dates and locations have yet to be announced, LIV says it wants to increase its footprint in North and Latin America, Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe.
The 48 players competing in each event will still be divided into 12 teams of four and there will still be no cut, 54 holes and a shotgun start.
There will be a combined prize pool of $405m (£332m).