Smith is the reigning Players champion and also the newly minted winner of the Open Championship, where he bested Rory McIlroy at St. Andrews last month. He’s ranked No. 2 in the World Golf Ranking, making him easily the highest-ranked player that LIV has signed to date.
Niemann, who the AP reported was having second thoughts about joining LIV Golf, had not signed a contract with the upstart tour as of last weekend. He traveled to Boston Monday and planned to discuss his future with his father, per the report. On Monday, Niemann made his decision to join the new league.
Smith and Niemann, who are both in their 20s, break from the mold of the classic LIV golfer, most of whom are in their late 30s or 40s. The two new signees are not only young but they also both have won big-time titles on the PGA Tour this season. Niemann won the Genesis Invitational in dominant fashion in February, the same week in which LIV Golf took a massive hit due to published incendiary comments from Phil Mickelson.
Just over six months later, Niemann will now tee it up on a different tour and is expected to be suspended by the PGA Tour, as has been the case with previous LIV signees. Same goes for Smith and the four other pros who this week made their LIV commitment official: Harold Varner III, Marc Leishman and Anirban Lahiri. Cameron Tringale said on social media over the weekend that he, too, would be joining LIV. The six players are expected to be the final LIV signings for this week.
Smith’s inclusion was first reported in the immediate aftermath of his Open Championship victory and had been rumored long before that. He even received a question about it in the championship press conference from St. Andrews. When asked that evening, Smith responded tersely: “I just won the British Open and you’re going to ask about that. I think that’s pretty not that good.”
When pressed again, Smith said, “I don’t know mate. My team around me worries about all that stuff. I am here to win golf tournaments.”
Tuesday’s announcement comes on the heels of the PGA Tour’s 2022 season, which ended Sunday night with McIlroy’s victory at East Lake, and on the verge of the next LIV event, which kicks off Friday just outside of Boston.
After not hosting an event for a month, LIV will host multiple tournaments in September while the PGA Tour looks forward to the Presidents Cup at the end of the month. Keen golf observers know that sentence on its own, considering the recent defections, is chaotic.
Smith would be an essential piece of the International Team roster, as would Niemann. But given the Presidents Cup is owned and operated by the PGA Tour, it is expected that neither Smith nor Niemann or even the lower-ranked Leishman and Lahiri will be allowed to compete in Charlotte.