Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman join LIV Golf, ditch PGA Tour, Australians

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Australian golfers Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman have been announced as the newest LIV Golf defectors on Tuesday night.

It had previously been reported the offer to lure Smith was around $143 million.

It’s major news for the sport given world No.2 Smith will be the highest-ranked player to defect from the long-standing and powerful PGA Tour to side with the Saudi-backed rebel league, which is headed up by Australian icon Greg Norman.

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News of Smith’s defection first leaked as he won the British Open last month, although he had declined to confirm or deny the rumours.

He held off in order to compete in the Tour Championship to have a crack at the $26 million winner’s prize, but fell considerably short of first place.

The winner of that, Rory McIlroy, has been the strongest critic of his fellow professionals signing with LIV, which was originally viewed as a way to leverage the PGA Tour into increasing prizemoney and giving players more power.

Norman’s first big recruit was multiple major winner Phil Mickelson, whose name has largely turned to mud in recent months, not only for his defection but also flippant comments made about the human rights crimes the Saudi government is accused of.

LIV has slowly recruited an impressive roster of professional golfers, highlighted by Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.

But, until now, LIV had failed to lure a current top-10-ranked player. Smith is the first. He sits only behind America’s Scottie Scheffler in the world rankings.

While LIV Golf has been accused of tearing the sport apart, it is making moves to heighten the profile in Australia.

Norman plans to bring three tournaments Down Under next year, where Aussies will be able to see Smith, Leishman and other top names – a luxury that antipodean fans would otherwise likely never get.

The next LIV Golf event is this week in Boston, where Smith and Leishman could make their debuts in the new league.

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