New Open champion Cameron Smith will reportedly become the latest player to drop a bombshell on the golfing world by heading a list of six players set to become the latest recruits for the controversial LIV breakaway competition.
The Australian became the first player from his country to claim the famous Claret Jug since Greg Norman at Royal St George’s in 1993, pipping Rory McIlroy to glory on Sunday.
His celebrations were soured, however, when he clashed with a British journalist about joining the rebel Saudi LIV tour just minutes after his stunning victory in St Andrews.
Major players have and continue to be tempted away by the ludicrous sums of money on offer, with the breakaway being backed by $2billion of Saudi money and the total prize money pot across eight events amounting to around £205million.
There has been a frenzy of speculation around Smith and others – including Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson and English star Tommy Fleetwood – about their desire to join up with the Saudi-backed LIV Series.
And now a report has added to the mounting whirlwind by claiming Smith, 28, is set to follow up winning the most prestigious golf major by joining the breakaway tour headed by fellow Aussie Norman.
It claims he is set to be joined by another countryman in Marc Leishman.
Also among the fresh batch of rebels is Stenson, who is set to be stripped of the Ryder Cup captaincy, just two months after he was announced as the skipper for the match against the US in Italy next year.
Open champion Cameron Smith is reportedly set to join the LIV breakaway tour this week
He became the first Open champion from Australia since 1993 before his celebrations soured
Stenson missed the cut at The Open by a single shot and would not be drawn on his future when asked about it on Friday, replying when asked about the makeup of his forthcoming schedule: ‘Undecided.’
However, Swedish outlet Expressen claim the 2016 Open winner will arrive at Royal Troon on Monday, soon after which news is expected to follow that he will be the latest defector to LIV.
English star Tommy Fleetwood is also reportedly set to defect, after a report in The Times in June suggested his wife and manager, Clare Craig, was at the Centurion Club last month.
Double Masters winner Bubba Watson is also among the names being linked with the controversial LIV tour.
Meanwhile, The Mirror claim last year’s Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama will finalise his future next month after being targeted by LIV Golf.
Among the fresh batch of rebels is Henrik Stenson, who is set to lose the Ryder Cup captaincy
English star Tommy Fleetwood is also reportedly set to defect to the breakaway tour
The report claims Smith is set to be joined by another countryman in Marc Leishman
The Japanese is reportedly considering his options after being approached by the Saudi-backed breakaway.
But should the world No 14 sign up to the breakaway, he would join fellow European stars Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Martin Kaymer and record Cup points-scorer Sergio Garcia.
Garcia confirmed on Sunday he will be formally resigning from the DP World Tour.
Those who have also signed up to the mega-money tour include six-times major champion Mickelson – who is reportedly being paid £160m alone – former World No 1s Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, earning £104m and £125m respectively to sign up, and former US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, also making £104m.
Hideki Matsuyama has also been targeted and will reportedly finalise his future next month
Double Masters winner Bubba Watson is also among the names being linked with LIV
But the lead name in the latest list is Smith, who shot a total of 268 across his four rounds to finish 20 under par – the lowest under par score a winner has finished in majors history and the lowest ever four-round score at St Andrews.
However, he clashed with a reporter who asked him about joining the rebel Saudi LIV tour by saying: ‘I just won the British Open and you’re asking about that? I think that’s pretty, not that good.’
The breakaway series is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) – the owners of Premier League outfit Newcastle United.
It has led to players facing criticism for taking part in the Saudi-backed tour due to the kingdom’s dismal human rights record, while detractors have also labelled the competition as ‘sportwashing’.
The breakaway series – headed by Greg Norman (right) – is backed by Saudi Arabia’s PIF
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in 2018 at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey after criticising his country’s government, and a UN special rapporteur and the CIA have since claimed Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman gave the orders for the killing.
US President Joe Biden raised the murder of Mr Khashoggi during a meeting last week with the Saudi Crown Prince, who continues to deny the allegations, while Saudi prosecutors have blamed ‘rogue’ Saudi agents.
The kingdom have also carried out mass executions this year, with 81 people convicted on broad terrorism charges in March, taking the total number to 92 in 2022. The current figure is unknown.
Bin Salman has also led a crackdown on women’s rights activists, with current rights severely restricted, while homosexuality remains illegal.
Saudi ruler Mohammad Bin Salman has been accused of ordering Jamal Khashoggi’s murder
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