Open champion Cameron Smith has issued a defiant statement after reportedly signing with the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series.
Australian golfer Cameron Percy said this week his countryman’s move was a done deal and a report emerged on Wednesday morning (AEST) confirming the news.
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According to the UK Telegraph, Smith has signed a deal worth more than $AUD140 million and will play at an upcoming LIV event in Boston. The world No. 2 would be the highest-ranked player to defect from the PGA.
Smith fronted the media at a press conference on Tuesday ahead of the FedEx Cup playoffs, where he was asked about his involvement with LIV. The 28-year-old said he had “no comment” on reports of his defection and also clipped Percy for saying he had made the bombshell move.
“You know, my goal here is to win the FedEx Cup playoffs. That’s all I’m here for,” Smith said. “If there’s something I need to say regarding the PGA Tour or LIV, it’ll come from Cameron Smith, not Cameron Percy.
“I’m a man of my word and whenever you guys need to know anything, it’ll be said by me.”
Asked a follow-up question, Smith added: “I have no comment to that. Like I said, I’m here to play the FedEx Cup playoffs. That’s been my focus the last week and a half.
“Like I said, it’ll come from me, not Cameron Percy.”
According to sports reporter Matt Infield, Smith said “thanks guys” and “walked out” of the press conference when asked another follow-up question about LIV.
The Telegraph reports Aussie legend Greg Norman — who is spearheading the LIV revolution — was in discussions with Smith before he won the Open and held the coveted Claret Jug aloft last month.
The historic victory will certainly have helped bump up his asking price and it adds context around the Australian’s testy response to a journalist when asked about his plans to join LIV following his win at St Andrews.
“I just won the British Open and you’re asking about that? I think that’s, pretty, not that good,” Smith said at the time.
Pressed further on his plans, Smith added: “I don’t know, mate. My team around me worries about all that stuff. I’m here to win golf tournaments.”
Smith’s lack of a denial sparked rumours he was already well on his way to LIV — and it appears he’s made up his mind.
Speaking to RSN radio this week, Percy revealed Smith and fellow Australian star Marc Leishman had joined the Saudi-backed golf tournament, claiming the PGA Tour had known for years that a rebel tour was being formed.
“Unfortunate, yeah, they’re gone,” he said.
“I had a long conversation with (2013 Masters champion) Adam Scott and he was very interesting talking to about it, just where it is.
“He said he met with these guys (LIV) in 2017 (and) they were ready (to) do all this. So, the tour has known for a long time that this stuff’s in the works.
“The more and more you look into it, some people don’t care, some people have got a conscience and do care.
“It really comes down to, you know, ‘They just executed 80 people this week, just chopped their heads off’. They’re not the nicest people in the world.
“Do you just look past that and go, ‘Oh well, I’m rich I don’t really care’. It’s a tough one, it really is.”
Australian Matt Jones and Americans Talor Gooch and Hudson Swafford were among 11 LIV Golf players who filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA for banning them for playing in LIV Golf events, arguing they are independent contractors while the PGA sees them as members who can be punished for violating organisation rules.
The court fight might take years to solve but the fight for this year’s PGA playoff crown will be decided by the end of the month after next week’s BMW Championship and the Tour Championship in two weeks at Atlanta.
“It’s kind of part of it now,” Reigning Masters champion and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler said.
“Guys are going to leave. There’s another tour going on and now they’re suing us, so there’s a lot going on.”
“I’m not going to speak about the guys that are going to LIV and all that speculation. If that’s what they want to do, that’s what they want to do.
“My dream was never to maximum myself my financial benefits. The PGA Tour is where I want to play and it continues to be the place where the best golfers in the world play.”
Scheffler said the LIV-PGA dispute remains the talk of the locker room.
“It’s being discussed a decent amount just because it’s a life-altering decision for people,” he said.
“When you do go join another tour and you break the rules that we have out on our tour, yeah, I understand we’re independent contractors, but at the same time there’s certain rules that you have to follow as being a member of an organisation.
“We’ll see what happens. All that stuff will shake out in due time. It definitely is a topic of discussion around who’s going and stuff like that. I think there may be only a handful more guys that will leave. Outside of that who knows.”