First Coast’s PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions events will not have their defending champions in the field the next time they play.
The Players champion and Ponte Vedra Beach resident Cameron Smith signed a contract with the LIV Golf Series on Tuesday, meaning the Australian will be suspended by the PGA Tour along with other members who played in the LIV Golf Series. He sees it this weekend in Boston.
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The Tour said the suspensions were due to players including Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeCambeau and Patrick Reed not receiving the required release to play in an event outside the PGA Tour.
LIV Golf, sponsored by the Saudi Investment Fund, has lured players with a total purse of $255 million for eight 54-hole, uncut events this year. The average purse is $20 million, with $4 million for the winner.
Smith earned $3.6 million for winning The Players, professional golf’s richest prize, before the start of the LIV Series.
LIV Golf plans to expand to 14 tournaments next year and more in 2024. Two races are scheduled in the US this month, with another near Chicago following this week’s event.
Smith won The Players in dramatic fashion last March, scoring a final 66 and beating Anirban Lahiri by a shot.
Speaking of Lahiri – he’s gone too. India’s No. 1 joins Smith in bowling for the LIV Golf team, along with former First Coast resident Harold Warner III, Smith’s compatriot Marc Leishman, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann and Cameron Tringale.
Financial terms were not disclosed. The PGA Tour is currently trying to force disclosure of LIV Golf contracts in preliminary legal moves to defend an antitrust lawsuit brought by seven former Tour members who play with LIV Golf.
Smith joins Phil Mickelson as First Coast event champions who will not retain their titles. Mickelson won the Champions Tour’s Furyk & Friends at Timiguana Country Club last year, but went with LIV in the first wave of PGA Tour players in June.
Last week, when PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan was asked if players who went to LIV Golf could ever return to the PGA Tour, he gave a very short answer: “No.”
Losing Smith at the LIV Golf Series is the biggest blow to the PGA Tour so far. Tour supporters have been able to argue that all of its former members who went to LIV Golf were in their prime (Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Johnson), particular misfits (DeCambeau and Reed) or B-list players (Charles). Howell III, Dalore Cooch, Hudson Swafford).
However, Smith, 29, is the first player since Jack Nicklaus to win the Players and British Open in the same year, third in the FedEx Cup points list entering the second week of the playoffs and tied for second. The world behind Scotty Scheffler.
Smith’s departure was teased at the Open at St Andrews in July, with no comment from LIV Golf. Speculations are that he will sign for a package of around $100 million.
He has earned more than $27 million on the PGA Tour.
When he was Accessed by Golf Digest, Smith was frank.
“[Money] “That was definitely a factor in making that decision, and I wouldn’t ignore it, or it wasn’t a factor,” Smith said. “It was obviously a business decision and an offer I couldn’t ignore.”
Smith also noted that he could spend more time in his home country by playing less in the LIV series.
“It’s a great thing for me to join [LIV’s] “The schedule is very attractive,” Smith said. “I can spend a lot of time at home in Australia and also have an event there. I couldn’t do it and it was so tempting to have that part of my life back.
“I’ve lived here for seven years and I love living in the US, but the little things like seeing your partner at friends’ weddings, birthday parties and rugby league games are really hard,” she said. .
Smith and Leishman have each won six PGA Tour events, Niemann two. Warner, Lahiri and Tringale have never won on the PGA Tour, and Tringale has the dubious distinction of winning the most money (just $17.4 million) of any player in PGA Tour history without a win.
Warner, Lahiri and Tringale have combined for 692 PGA Tour starts and more than $37 million in earnings.
LIV Golf will feature six of the top 30 players in the World Golf Rankings this weekend when they play the International Course in Bolton, Mass.
Smith’s pending suspension will continue a streak without a back-to-back champions at The Players. Mickelson is the fifth player from LIV Golf to win the title, joining Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Henrik Stenson.
Golfweek.com contributed to this report.
Contact Gary Smits at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GSmitter