The prospect of multiple PGA Tour players making the jump to LIV Golf after the conclusion of the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the Tour Championship has loomed for weeks. According to multiple reports, those defections are imminent as the PGA Tour’s 2021-22 season comes to a scheduled conclusion Sunday, with as many as seven players expected to be announced shortly afterward.
Most notable of the bunch is expected to be Cameron Smith, the winner of the Open Championship in July and the Players Championship in March and the No. 2-ranked player in the world. The 29-year-old Australian has offered no comments when ask about previous reports of his potential move over the last month, but Golf Channel reported Saturday afternoon, shortly followed by Sports Illustrated and ESPN, that Smith will be in the field at next week’s LIV Invitational Series event at The International in Bolton, Mass.
Joining him, according to the reports, will be fellow Aussie Marc Leishman, Joaquin Niemann, Cameron Tringale and Harold Varner III. Niemann had been reported to have attended the players-only meeting organized by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy last week in Delaware. At that meeting several proposed changes to the PGA Tour schedule and structure that were eventually unveiled on Wednesday by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan were discussed in hopes of convincing players to keep from leaving. Niemann told Golf Channel on Friday: “I haven’t made my decision yet. Obviously, there’s some things I’ve got to see first, but I’m not thinking about that right now. I want to finish the playoffs and then see what my decision will be.”
Mito Periera, another up-and-coming South American golfer, also is reported to be headed to LIV, although exactly when he’ll make the jump is unclear. Golf Channel reported that he would be set to play in Boston as well, but on Saturday afternoon, the 27-year-old from Chile posted a picture of himself in an International Presidents Cup team uniform on his Instagram account and stated how honored he was to play in the competition, set for later in September at Quail Hollow Club. If he were to play in the next LIV event, he would be suspended by the PGA Tour and be ineligible to compete in Charlotte. Sports Illustrated is reporting he will not be playing in Boston.
One other name being reported by Sports Illustrated and ESPN as set to join LIV is India’s Anirban Lahiri.
The loss of Smith and Niemann, automatic qualifiers for the International Presidents Cup, and Leishman, a likely wildcard pick, would be a significant blow to the prospects of success for captain Trevor Immelman’s team next month. Immelman told Golf Digest he’s been bracing for the potential of late roster changes given the timing with the end of the season and the likelihood of players jumping to LIV.
“I don’t know if ‘nervous’ is the right word … maybe it is,” Immelman told Golf Digest on Wednesday. “I’m a bit anxious but also excited.”
Even Monahan acknowledged the potential for some shake-ups when he spoke with the press on Wednesday at the Tour Championship.
“There’s so much depth right now, [but] I think both captains and both teams recognize there’s a next-man-up philosophy,” Monahan said.