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PGA Tour officially loses star Cameron Smith and five other top 100 players to LIV Golf

A new mass defection from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf hit the legendary golf circuit today when it was made official that top star Cameron Smith and five others have jumped ship to the Saudi Arabia-backed tour.

On Tuesday, LIV Golf announced that 2022 Open champion Smith, as well as Joaquin Niemann, Harold Varner III, Cameron Tringale, Marc Leishman, and Anirban Lahiri, are now members of their roster and will start their tenure with LIV’s fourth event, which starts on September 2 in Boston, Massachusetts.

All six golfers are currently ranked among the top 100 players. India’s Anirban Lahiri is ranked 92, Australian Leishman sits at 62, Tringale is 55, Varner III resides at 46, and Chile’s Niemann is the 19th-ranked golfer in the world. However, the departure of Smith is the shining jewel of this latest round of defections with the 29-year-old currently ranked two in the world.

Related: LIV Golf FAQ – The new circuit challenging the PGA Tour

“LIV Golf is showing the world that our truly global league is attracting the world’s best players and will grow the game into the future for the next generation,” LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman said in a statement [h/t ESPN]. “The best and the brightest continue to embrace the excitement and energy of LIV Golf and what we’re building: a tangible league for team golf that will connect with new audiences all over the globe. We can’t wait to tee off this week at The International and deliver another memorable event experience for fans.”

Cameron Smith’s departure for LIV Golf is a major blow to PGA Tour

pga tour, liv golf
Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Smith taking his talents to LIV is a massive coup for the new tour and a solid gut punch to the PGA. At 29 he is just entering his prime as a player and has an Open championship and six tournament wins already under his belt. However, the Australian has quickly become a popular talent among his contemporaries and fans of the Tour. Friend, and current PGA Tour player, Billy Horschel recently explained why a defection by Smith to LIV would be a tough loss for the PGA.

“If he happens to go, he would be the biggest loss in my mind because you look at his age and what he’s accomplished. Look at the person he is. He’s a great kid and represents himself very well, and he does it the right way. If he happens to go, it would be the biggest loss because I’m biased. He’s one of my best friends.”

Horschel on Cameron Smith defection to LIV

LIV has been able to lure away ranked names like Bryson DeChambeau and PGA greats in Phil Mickelson by offering up massive signing bonuses and record purses for their events. PGA has combated LIV’s advantages by banning athletes on their rivals’ roster from competing in PGA events, as well as expanding their schedule for next season and increasing future tournament purses.