British Open champion Cameron Smith has signed a $100 million deal to join LIV Golf, The Telegraph reports.
Smith declined to address the report when asked about it Tuesday afternoon. The reported signing marks another significant win for the controversial Saudi-backed golf league as it secures the services of a reigning major champion and one of the game's rising stars.
Smith, 28, is a six-time winner on the PGA Tour. The Australian is less than four weeks removed from securing the British Open with a remarkable display of putting on the back nine at St. Andrews on Sunday to wrest the championship from Rory McIlroy.
After winning his first major title, Smith faced questioning about rumors that he was in negotiations with LIV Golf. He bristled at the inquiry.
“I just won the British Open, and you’re asking about that," Smith responded. "I think that’s pretty not that good. I don’t know, mate. My team around me worries about all that stuff. I’m here to win golf tournaments.”
He joins other high-profile defectors from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf, including fellow major winners Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed. The players have made the jump thanks to lucrative guaranteed deals, such as Smith's. The PGA Tour, meanwhile, has suspended players who sign with LIV Golf from competing.
Judge rules against LIV Golfers; Smith plans to play in FedEx Cup playoffs
Eleven LIV Golf players, including Mickelson and DeChambeau, filed a federal antitrust suit against the PGA Tour challenging those suspensions. Three of those players — Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones — joined the suit as they sought to play in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs that start Thursday. The winner of this year's FedEx Cup championship — a season-long contest — is slated to take home $18 million.
Opening arguments in a hearing for a temporary restraining order to the ban were being heard in a U.S. district court Tuesday as news of Smith's deal with LIV Golf broke. Judge Beth Labson Freeman later ruled that the LIV Golf plaintiffs will not be eligible to compete in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Per the Telegraph, LIV Golf is not expected to formally announce the Smith signing until after the completion of the FedEx Cup playoffs, a decision that could open the door for Smith to compete for the $18 million top prize. He's slated to compete at this week's St. Jude Championship, the opening tournament of the three-event playoff. He's the No. 2 seed of the 125-man playoff field.
Smith skirted questions about his reported LIV Golf deal at a Tuesday afternoon news conference from the St. Jude's Championship. He neither confirmed nor denied the Telegraph report and a statement from follow Aussie golfer Cameron Percy that he's "gone."
“My goal here is to win the FedEx Cup playoffs," Smith said. "That’s all I’m here for. If there’s something I need to say regarding the PGA Tour or LIV, it will come from Cameron Smith, not Cameron Percy.
"I”m a man of my word. Whenever you guys need to know anything, it will be said by me."
When pressed about LIV Golf and being a man of his word, Smith said this:
“I have no comment to that," Smith continued. "Like I said, I’m here to play the FedEx Cup playoffs.”
LIV Golf competitors face criticism for joining a league that's funded by a Saudi Arabian government with a considerable track record of human rights abuses. The league itself is criticized as a "sportswashing" effort to legitimize the Saudi regime on a world stage.