British Open champion Cameron Smith joins LIV Golf

British Open champion Cameron Smith will be leaving the PGA Tour and signing with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit, the league announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: Smith, who is the No. 2 golfer in the world on the Official World Golf Ranking list, is the highest-ranked professional golfer to join LIV Golf. He recently won the British Open.

Context: Smith, an Australian, had been rumored to join LIV Golf for months, per the Washington Post. It’s unclear how much his deal was for, but there were estimates he would secure a nine-figure salary if he joined the league.

What they’re saying: “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,” golfer Billy Horschel told ESPN before Smith announced his departure from the PGA Tour.

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

The big picture: LIV Golf has a noted history of luring stars away from the PGA Tour for lucrative sums.

  • Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson are among the notable golfers from the world’s top 50 players competing in LIV Golf.
  • Meanwhile, prolific names such as Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth have all stayed with the PGA Tour.
  • The PGA Tour suspended 17 players who participated in the league’s inaugural event. Suspension looms over PGA Tour golfer who competes at LIV Golf events.

Yes, but: LIV Golf has faced ongoing criticisms for its connection to Saudi Arabia. Families of 9/11 victims have protested the league.

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