Smith leads exodus to LIV

WASHINGTON (AFP) — British Open champion Cameron Smith of Australia is among several US PGA Tour players who will defect to the Saudi-backed rival LIV Golf Series, according to multiple reports Saturday.

World No. 2 Smith had been the subject of several reports about joining LIV Golf shortly after lifting the Claret Jug last month, but has avoided discussion of the subject while playing in this month’s PGA FedEx Cup playoffs.

Golf Channel, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated cited unnamed sources in reporting that several big-name PGA players were waiting until after Sunday’s completion of the PGA’s Tour Championship in Atlanta to announce their plans to join LIV Golf.

Smith will play in next week’s LIV Golf event in Boston along with compatriot Marc Leishman, India’s Anirban Lahiri, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, and Americans Harold Varner and Cameron Tringale, according to Sports Illustrated and ESPN; while Golf Channel named all but Lahiri.

Chilean Mito Pereira will also leave for LIV Golf but was uncertain for Boston, leaving his status up in the air for next month’s Presidents Cup in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The team event, pitting a US squad against a non-European Internationals lineup, would not be open to any player banned by the PGA — and all players who have teed off in any LIV Golf event have been handed instant indefinite suspensions.

LIV Golf’s record $25 million purses and 54-hole format has attracted several big-name players to the upstart series, including Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson.

The Internationals lineup was already hit by defections to LIV Golf by South African Louis Oosthuizen and several countrymen, plus Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and Carlos Ortiz.

“I was chosen by our players to lead the International team to the best of my abilities, and I will carry out this honor fully,” Internationals captain Trevor Immelman of South Africa told Golf Channel.

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