Smith joins LIV Golf in coup for Norman’s Saudi-backed series

Cameron Smith, the British Open champion, has signed a $US100 million-plus ($140 million) deal to join LIV Golf in a major coup for the Saudi-backed rebel series.

The London Telegraph understands the Australian, who declined to comment on a potential deal immediately after his dramatic win at St Andrews, will now play at LIV’s upcoming event in Boston.

While Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka were also seen as major recruits, the signing of Smith is seen as arguably more significant given he is the world No.2.

LIV refused to comment on Monday night, but Greg Norman, the architect and chief executive of the series, is understood to have reached an advanced stage with Smith before the Open. Smith will almost certainly have commanded a bigger fee since then, having been initially offered about $100 million.

A formal announcement is not expected until the three-week FedEx Cup play-off series has finished. Smith reaffirmed his commitment to the series last month and is in the field in Memphis for tomorrow.

Smith, who is second in the FedEx standings and one of the favourites to land the $18 million title, could heap major embarrassment on the Professional Golfers’ Association if he secures the biggest cheque in golf before announcing his defection.

Cameron Smith kisses the Claret Jug at St Andrews last month.Credit:AP

The Telegraph revealed immediately after the 28-year-old’s Open title at the “Home of Golf” that Norman was keen to build an all-Australian team.

Australian golfer Cameron Percy appeared on Australian network RSN Radio via telephone on Monday, suggesting Smith and Marc Leishman were on their way to LIV. “Unfortunate, yeah, they’re gone,” Percy told RSN.

He has since elaborated on the comment, telling Australian Golf Digest: “Look, I was just conveying what was said in the locker room during the many rain delays we’ve had on tour the past few weeks.”

The Telegraph, however, has subsequently learnt that the deal, as far as Smith is concerned, is done. He is certain to play in the FedEx as the PGA Tour has so far waited until the players actually hit a ball in LIV until it has banned them.

World No.2 Smith is arguably the biggest signing yet for the rebel series.Credit:AP

The Tour’s policy in throwing out players was being put to the test in court in California last night, with Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford launching efforts to overturn their suspensions.

Smith, who has already claimed $3.6 million for winning the Players Championship this year, will join the other rebels for the first time at the LIV Invitational in Boston from September 2.

Sources said he had already agreed in principle before the Open for about $100 million, “but his fee will have gone up”.

LIV supremo Norman had been the last Australian to lift the Claret Jug, in 1993, before Smith, who has previously said it was “not good” to be asked about the breakaway. “My team around me worries about all that stuff,” he said at St Andrews. “I’m here to win golf tournaments.”

The Smith deal will be announced as LIV primes itself to announce that it is heeding the advice of the R&A and will take the circuit to eight countries in its first season as a league next year.

Scottie Scheffler, the top-ranked player in the world, said he was curious to see what would come out of the California hearing.

“If they win, come out here and play, that’s something that’s up to the courts, I can’t control what’s going to happen in a court case,” he said.

Telegraph, London

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