Golf-British Open champion Smith joins LIV - report

Jul 17, 2022; St. Andrews, SCT; Cameron Smith talks to media during a press conference after winning the 150th Open Championship golf tournament at St. Andrews Old Course. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) -World number two Cameron Smith has signed a $100 million-plus deal to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series in a major coup for the Saudi-backed series, Britain's Telegraph reported on Tuesday.

The newspaper said the Australian, the current British Open champion, would play at LIV's event in Boston in September.

Smith declined to comment on the report as he builds for the first event of the lucrative FedExCup playoffs in Memphis this week.

"You know, my goal here is to win the FedExCup Playoffs," the 28-year-old told reporters.

"That's all I'm here for. If there's something I need to say regarding the PGA Tour or LIV, it'll come from Cameron Smith, not Cameron Percy.

"I'm a man of my word and whenever you guys need to know anything, it'll be said by me."

Australian golfer Cameron Percy told Australian radio network RSN this week that Smith and compatriot Marc Leishman were on their way to LIV.

"Unfortunate, yeah, they’re gone," Percy said.

LIV declined to comment on the Telegraph report.

Smith's signing would be another hammer blow for the U.S. PGA Tour following the defection of a number of the game's biggest names, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka.

The Telegraph said Smith's LIV signing would not be announced formally until after the FedExCup playoffs.

Smith is second in the FedExCup standings and one of the favourites to win the $18 million prize.

The report comes as a trio of suspended players battle the U.S. tour in court to try to force the circuit to allow them to compete in the FedExCup.

The $255 million LIV series is being bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), which critics say is a vehicle for the country to improve its image in the face of criticism of its human rights record.

A friend of compatriot and LIV CEO Greg Norman, Smith was annoyed last month when asked whether he had signed with the breakaway circuit in the wake of winning the British Open.

But he did not deny it.

The prospect of Smith joining LIV has dismayed some fans and media pundits in Australia, who have said it might detract from his legacy.

"I don’t think he needs the money. I don’t think it is going to be something that he should do," Australian former British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch said last month.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Lincoln Feast)

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