Australian golfers who sign up with the Saudi-backed LIV Series will still be welcome to play in home events, the country’s Tour boss said, amid reports British Open winner Cameron Smith has already agreed to join the breakaway circuit.
The Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship, two of the biggest tournaments on the PGA Tour of Australasia calendar, are co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour, which moved to block some players from its tournaments in June after they played a LIV event. Australia, however, hopes its biggest names can return home to give the local tour a boost after two difficult years disrupted by COVID-19.
“The players coming home to play, as long as there is no conflicting event will be welcome to play,” PGA of Australia CEO Gavin Kirkman told reporters.”The Australian players that come home from wherever they’re playing at the moment, if they’re members of our organization they’ll be eligible to play and that’s been discussed with the other tours.”
A number of low-profile Australian golfers have signed with LIV, including world number 82 Matt Jones. Australian Travis Smyth, ranked outside the top 400, shared in a $1.5 million prize with three players for finishing second in the team element at the LIV opener outside London in June.
Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported Australia’s top player Smith, the world number two, has signed a $100 million-plus deal to join LIV in a major coup for the breakaway series.
LIV and Smith, who is competing at the FedExCup playoffs starting later on Thursday in Memphis, have declined to comment on the report. Smith said after winning the British Open he was keen to return home to Australia for a couple of events.LIV has said it will expand to Australia next year and local golf media reported the series, spearheaded by CEO Greg Norman, could have three events in the country in 2023.
That could bring plenty of big-name players to Australia, which has often struggled to lure them to events due to the distance and relatively modest prize money on offer.
Kirkman said his tour could not control how LIV operated in the country and that it needed to look after its own business.”Some people are going to love it and some people aren’t, but if it comes to Australia we’ve got to be in a position where we stay focused on our strategy,” he said.”Is it going to be good for the game? What I don’t want and what I don’t like to hear about and read about at the moment is people arguing what is good for the game and what is not.
“If (fans) get out and see some golf under a different format, that’s up to them.”