Cam Smith among PGA players reportedly defecting to LIV Golf

Cameron Smith, the world’s No. 2-ranked player and 2022 Open champion, is reportedly among a new group of PGA Tour players set to defect to LIV Golf.

Marc Leishman, Harold Varner III, Joaquin Niemann, Anirban Lahiri and Cameron Tringale are also expected to join the new circuit, according to the report by ESPN on Saturday. The report said that Mito Pereira is also considering joining LIV.

Smith would be the highest-ranked player to leave the PGA Tour for LIV Golf. The 29-year-old Australian has won six PGA Tour events, as well as The Players in March.

Meanwhile, LIV Golf has joined the antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour in an amended complaint in which four players have removed their names.

That leaves seven players — most notably Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau — along with LIV Golf as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The four who withdrew their names are Carlos Ortiz, Abraham Ancer, Pat Perez and Jason Kokrak.

The amended complaint was filed Friday afternoon in the U.S. District Court in Northern California. Three players still on the lawsuit — Matt Jones, Talor Gooch and Hudson Swafford — previously sought a temporary restraining order to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

The judge denied their request two weeks ago.

The lawsuit claims the PGA Tour has used monopoly power to try to squash competition and has unfairly suspended players.

Greg Norman, the CEO of LIV Golf, has said the league would fully support the players in any legal action they pursued. LIV Golf, backed by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, now is directly involved.

Earlier in the week, the PGA made its boldest response yet to LIV, revealing a plan for the best players to commit to a 20-tournament schedule in which they will compete against one another up to 17 times for average purses of $20 million.

Related: Top PGA Tour players to commit to 20-event big money slate

“This isn’t some sort of renegade group trying to take some sort of power grab of the PGA Tour,” said Rory McIlroy, a player-director on the tour board. “This is, ‘OK, how can we make this tour better for everyone that’s going to play on it now and everyone that’s going to play on the PGA Tour going forward.’”

Of the sweeping changes PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan laid out, the most significant was what came out of a private meeting of 23 top players last week: a new model that assures the best play in the same tournaments more often.

Veteran golfer Lee Westwood responded to the news harshly, saying that the PGA changes were simply an effort to “copy” LIV Golf.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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