British Open golf champion Cameron Smith might defect from the PGA Tour.
On Sunday, shortly after winning The Open Championship at St. Andrews, Scotland, Australian golfer Cameron Smith was asked if he had plans of leaving the PGA Tour for LIV Golf. He replied, “I don’t know, mate. My team around me worries about all that stuff. I’m here to win golf tournaments.”
Far from a denial.
LIV Golf is a well-financed startup tour trying to compete with the PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association of America) Tour, which has organized the bulk of pro golf in the country for more than 100 years. LIV is backed by the Public Invest Fund, led by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Legendary Australian golf champion Greg Norman is CEO of LIV Golf.
The new LIV Tour has pulled many golfers away from the PGA Tour with promises of hefty checks. For example, LIV will pay Phil Mickelson $200 million to play in the startup tour, which is nearly double what legend Tiger Woods has earned in prize money during his entire career. LIV gave the world’s number-one golfer Dustin Johnson a four-year, $125 million contract, which double his lifetime earnings of $74 million.
While Smith celebrated his Open victory, he avoided answering the question about joining the LIV Tour.
Why are these players abandoning the PGA Tour so easily? To put it simply—money. LIV has guaranteed every person who plays in its tournaments a six-figure payout per event. Front Office Sports compared the average payout of LIV’s inaugural tournament in London this past June with the average payouts of other top tournaments sanctioned by the PGA:
- LIV London Invitational: $521,000
- Players Championship: $286,000
- The Masters: $288,000
- PGA Championship: $192,000
The top finisher in a LIV tournament will earn $4 million, while the last-place finisher takes home $120,000. Half the players in a PGA tournament—those who don’t make the cut after two days of play—don’t earn any prize money. In total, LIV will hand out $255 million in prize money to its roughly 50 players in 2022, while the PGA Tour will hand out $427 million to those among its 175 touring pros who earn it.
Recently, many other big names have stated that they would also leave the PGA Tour to join LIV prompting the PGA to take action.
“We have followed the Tournament Regulations from start to finish in responding to those players who have decided to turn their backs on the PGA Tour by willfully violating a regulation,” a PGA release read. “The players are being notified that they are suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournament play, including the Presidents Cup. This also applies to all tours sanctioned by the PGA Tour: the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Champions, PGA Tour Canada, and PGA Tour Latinoamerica.”
At a conference in St. Andrews, Tiger Woods commented on the players leaving the PGA for LIV: “I disagree with it. I think that what they’ve done is they’ve turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position.”