AUGUST 30, 2022
LIV Golf has landed another superstar.
On Tuesday, the breakaway Saudi-backed tour announced the signing of six new golfers. Headlining the group is Australia’s Cameron Smith, the No. 2 ranked golfer in the world who won the British Open in July. He will be joined by fellow countryman Marc Leishman, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, India’s Anirban Lahiri and Harold Varner III and Cameron Tringale of the United States.
Financial details for any of the signings were not immediately available. However, The Telegraph previously reported that Smith has a $100 million-plus agreement with LIV, which is now well known for offering players enormous guarantees. Forbes estimates that upfront payments from LIV Golf boosted the earnings of the world’s ten highest-paid golfers by $370 million this year.
Like Smith’s reported figure, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka all reportedly landed upwards of $100 million from the new tour, with half believed to be upfront. Mickelson’s $138 million haul before taxes and agents’ fees over the last 12 months is $8 million more than what the highest-paid athlete in the world, soccer legend Lionel Messi, was paid over the 12 months through May.
After much speculation, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and Cameron Young of the U.S. will both still call the PGA Tour home for now. Matsuyama reportedly had a $400 million guarantee on the table from LIV. Young reaffirmed his decision while speaking to reporters at the Tour Championship, but didn’t shut the door entirely. “Frankly, throughout the whole process with them I was very interested,” Young said. “I think they have a bunch of good ideas.”
With $2.4 billion in backing from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund over the next couple of seasons, LIV aims to reshape the professional golf landscape. The outfit hired Greg Norman as CEO and Commissioner in August 2021, after the former No. 1 golfer in the world had toyed with a similar idea for nearly 30 years.
Much remains to be sorted out, including how LIV can balance its exorbitant spending with potential profitability.There’s also a legal battle playing out. In August, a contingent of LIV golfers led by Mickelson sued the PGA Tour in antitrust court over the latter’s decision to ban any LIV defectors. Several players have since dropped the suit, but LIV officially joined as a plaintiff on Friday, alleging that its “ability to maintain a meaningful competitive presence in the markets will be destroyed.”
So far, LIV has held three of its eight scheduled events for 2022. Smith and the other new signings will debut at the next event in Boston on September 2.