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World No. 2 Cameron Smith joins LIV Golf and will debut at Boston event this week

Cameron Smith, shown at the Tour Championship, won the British Open and The Players Championship this year.Sam Greenwood/Photographer: Sam Greenwood/Gett

British Open champion Cameron Smith is among six more players who are leaving the PGA Tour for LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed series announced Tuesday, and they will play in this week’s event at The International in Bolton.

The signing of Smith, who had been deflecting questions about his departure since he won the claret jug in July, gives LIV CEO/commissioner Greg Norman his first player from the top 10 in the world.

Joaquin Niemann, who is ranked 19th, was also among the six new LIV players.

Smith, a 29-year-old from Australia, rose to No. 2 in the world after winning at St. Andrews. He could have reached No. 1 with a victory at the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Now, that opportunity is gone. LIV Golf does not get ranking points, though it filed an application with the Official World Golf Ranking board last month.

Smith is the latest big name to jump to LIV Golf.Alastair Grant/Associated Press

The PGA Tour is suspending members as soon as they put a ball in play at LIV Golf events.

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The moves by the players were widely expected but still bruised the PGA Tour, which has spent months trying to devise ways to keep players in its establishment fold. Last week, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced changes, including purses averaging $20 million at a dozen events next season, that executives hoped would better position the tour to compete with the allure of LIV, which has enticed players with more relaxed schedules and, in some instances, contracts reportedly worth at least $100 million.

Rory McIlroy won the Tour Championship Sunday, the finale of the FedEx Cup playoffs, and $18 million, the richest in PGA history. McIlroy has been the voice of the PGA Tour and its staunchest supporter in the face of the LIV threat. He is backed by Tiger Woods, both of whom have criticized Norman’s view of an alternative golf league.

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“Guys that are thinking one way or another, honestly, I don’t care if they leave or not,” McIlroy said last week in Atlanta. “It’s not going to make a difference to me. But I would at least like people to make a decision that is completely informed and basically know: ‘This is what’s coming down the pipeline. This is what you may be leaving behind.’ "

Norman remains undeterred.

“LIV Golf is showing the world that our truly global league is attracting the world’s best players and will grow the game into the future for the next generation,” said Norman.

“The best and the brightest continue to embrace the excitement and energy of LIV Golf and what we’re building: a tangible league for team golf that will connect with new audiences all over the globe.”

Others to sign were Marc Leishman, a six-time PGA Tour winner from Australia who at age 38 has dropped out of the top 50, and three others who leave without having won on the PGA Tour: Americans Harold Varner III and Cameron Tringale, and Anirban Lahiri of India.

Leishman was part of a group that included Cameron Smith and others to join LIV Golf.Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Former No. 2 player Bubba Watson will debut as a nonplaying captain and provide contributions to event coverage on the LIV website, YouTube, and Facebook.

Smith and Niemann, who is from Chile, were among the eight qualifiers for the International team in the Presidents Cup, which will be played Sept. 20-25 at Quail Hollow in North Carolina.

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Because the PGA Tour exclusively runs the Presidents Cup — unlike the Ryder Cup, which Europe operates on home soil — players who join LIV Golf are not eligible.

Niemann, 23, considered joining the rival league in February until Phil Mickelson’s disparaging comments about the Saudis and the PGA Tour stalled the launch of LIV Golf. Niemann then won the Genesis Invitational at Riviera and cited the competition and history as reasons he wanted to stay on the PGA Tour.

But several of his best friends in golf have joined the rival series — Carlos Ortiz and Abraham Ancer of Mexico, Sergio Garcia of Spain — and they often shared a house and brought in their own chef for the week.

Along with winning the British Open for his first major, Smith won The Players Championship in March by one shot over Lahiri. Paul Casey was two shots behind, and now all three players have joined LIV Golf.

Along with big signing bonuses — The Daily Telegraph reported $150 million for Smith — players compete for $25 million in prize money at each of the LIV events.

Tickets for the event in Bolton are available at https://tickets.livgolf.com/2022-boston.

LIV Golf will take next week off because of the European Tour flagship event at Wentworth in England, and then return Sept. 16-18 to the Chicago suburbs.

The LIV Golf Invitational Boston field

Abraham Ancer, Richard Bland, Laurie Canter, Paul Casey, Eugenio Chacarra, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia, Talor Gooch, Branden Grace, Sam Horsfield, Charles Howell III, Dustin Johnson, Matt Jones, Sadom Kaewkanjana, Martin Kaymer, Phachara Khongwatmai, Sihwan Kim, Brooks Koepka, Chase Koepka, Jason Kokrak, Anirban Lahiri, Marc Leishman, Graeme McDowell, Phil Mickelson, Jediah Morgan, Kevin Na, Joaquin Niemann, Shaun Norris, Louis Oosthuizen, Wade Ormsby, Carlos Ortiz, Adrian Otaegui, Pat Perez, Turk Pettit, James Piot, Ian Poulter, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel, Cameron Smith, Henrik Stenson, Hudson Swafford, Cameron Tringale, Peter Uihlein, Harold Varner III, Scott Vincent, Lee Westwood, Bernd Wiesberger, Matthew Wolff

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