Cameron Smith is set to become the poster boy of LIV Golf after becoming the first current top-10 player to sign with the rebel circuit.
The world No.2 and reigning British Open champion says he couldn’t ignore the massive money on offer from the Saudi-backed organisation, while the prospect of playing more golf in Australia was also a lure.
Confirmation of a long-suspected move came with an official announcement from LIV late Tuesday night, with Marc Leishman also jumping ship bringing the number of Australians to eight, with Matt Jones the next biggest name of the octet.
Australian LIV CEO Greg Norman revealed earlier this month the circuit was looking to hold an event Down Under in 2023 and has been scouting potential venues.
“The biggest thing for me joining is (LIV’s) schedule is really appealing,” Smith told Golf Digest.
“I’ll be able to spend more time at home in Australia and maybe have an event down there, as well. I haven’t been able to do that, and to get that part of my life back was really appealing.”
However, he admitted the financial rewards were also tempting – Smith is reported to have received a $US100 million ($A145m) signing-on fee.
“(That) 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 and Leishman are among six players joining the circuit in time for its fourth event, at The International course in Boston teeing off on September 2-4.
The other four are Chile’s world No.19 Joaquin Niemann, India’s highest-ranked player Anirban Lahiri, and Americans Harold Varner III and Cameron Tringale.
Queenslander Smith has had a stellar season, winning the Players Championship as well as the Open. The 29-year-old was also tied for third at The Masters, one of three top-five finishes at Augusta National in the last five years.
Leishman has won six PGA Tour events and has been ranked as high as world No.12, although the Victorian now sits at 62nd.
The 38-year-old has twice finished in the top five in both the Open and the Masters but has missed the cut in seven of his past 15 major appearances.
Both players are still eligible for the Australian PGA at Royal Queensland in November followed by the Australian Open at the Victoria GC, with PGA of Australia chair Rodger Davis welcoming them to the the summer of golf.
“These two major Australian events headline the upcoming summer of golf, one of the biggest for years, and there’s no doubt our fans are looking forward to our growing line-up of homegrown stars like Cam Smith and Marc Leishman,” Davis said in a statement on Wednesday.
The local body said it would continue to navigate through the changes to world golf, which it described as in “a state of flux”.
It said it maintained strong alliances with both the PGA Tour and European Tour, which co-sanctions the upcoming Australian tournaments.
Both Australian players will not be considered for next month’s Presidents Cup.
The $A36m Boston event features a 48-man field playing 54 holes. Other Australians in the field besides Smith, Leishman and Jones are current Australian PGA champion Jed Morgan and Wade Ormsby.