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Will LIV steal our next Aussie golfing champion, and would it matter?

Australian golfing continues to provide generational talents, with Cameron Smith crowned the 2022 British Open champion on Monday morning.

Smith is the first male Australian to win historic open since Greg Norman in 1993.

The mighty Queenslander was on top of the world after conquering his first major, but his excitement was put to a halt after a reporter asked if he is considering joining the brand-new Saudi-backed LIV tournament.

The new champion answered curtly: “I just won the British Open and you’re asking about that. I think that’s pretty … not that good”.

The question simply shouldn’t be asked to a guy who is on top of the world and who couldn’t care less about a competing tour at the moment.

LIV is a new golfing tournament comprising events played over 52 holes – LIV is 52 in Roman numerals – unlike the regular 72 holes in a PGA or European tour event. It’s quickly emerged as a major rival to the PGA tour, capturing the attention of the golfing world.

The first LIV event was played as an invitational at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Oregon, USA. Thouh highly anticipated, it drew few viewers, with an average of 94,000 people turning in for Round 1 and only 54,000 following up for Round 2 before Saturday’s final saw a restoration back to the first day’s figures.

That said, the tournament was streamed via the LIV website, Facebook and YouTube only, so while the number may not look massive, they shouldn’t be described as extremely low either.

The LIV league will kick off in earnest in 2023 with a 48-player tour. Big names are already on board, such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, and Patrick Reed. There are many other high-level golf individuals who have already signed a deal with LIV, and you can expect many more to jump ship in the future.

The new competition is attracting many players, and the obvious reason is the big bucks involved. It’s backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is worth around $900 billion and also owns English football club Newcastle United in the EPL, and it’s paying its golfers considerably more than the PGA.

Phil Mickelson was reportedly offered US$200 million (A$290 million) to jump the pond, having made less than half that throughout his entire career on the PGA tour. Dustin Johnson has earnt US$74 million (A$107 million) throughout his career and is reportedly signing a four-year US$125 million (A$181 million) deal with LIV.

The PGA was quick to make it clear that if players were to take part in the LIV tournament, they would not be welcomed back to play in any PGA events.

Coincidently, Greg Norman was the last Australian male to win the British Open before Cameron Smith. Norman is the CEO of the Saudi-backed tournament and has reportedly been in talks with Smith regarding his future and to persuade him to make a move from PGA to LIV.

There’s no more popular golfer on the planet at the moment, having won one of the most important events on the golfing calendar. Signing Smith would be LIV’s most important action yet.

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