OPEN champion Cameron Smith’s move to LIV Golf will be the spark that finally persuades the golfing establishment to start talking to the rebel leaders.
Smith, who climbed to second in the world rankings after seeing off Cameron Young and Rory McIlroy at St Andrews, is not expected to take up the £125million LIV offer until September.
Cameron Smith is expected to make a sensational move to LIV Golf
Rory McIlroy – an outspoken critic of LIV – blew the chance to win a fifth major at The Open last weekend
But once he signs on the dotted line, the argument that LIV can only attract has-beens and players from the lower reaches of the world rankings will be blown out of the water.
Smith is only 28, and clearly has his best years ahead of him.
And if last year’s Masters winner, Hideki Matsuyama, defects as well, the rebel tour will boast two of the top 14 players in the game – and the two men who will give them a huge leg up in the lucrative Australasian market.
PGA Tour boss Jay Monahan and European counterpart Keith Pelley have so far refused to sit down with LIV front man Greg Norman and his paymasters to discuss a compromise deal.
But the player drain – which also includes Major winners Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, and Bryson DeChambeau – is reaching alarming levels.
Double Masters champion Bubba Watson and 2019 Ryder Cup hero Tommy Fleetwood have also been targeted.
The main Tours cannot afford to keep on distancing themselves, and LIV insist there is room on on the golf calendar for their 14-tournament schedule – without the need for costly legal battles.
Top players such as McIlroy seem to be reluctantly coming around to that view.
But first, DP World Tour chief executive Pelley and his No 2 Guy Kinnings face crucial talks with Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson at Wentworth on Tuesday, over his plans to join the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway circuit.
Stenson, 46, will be reminded that he signed an agreement not to get involved with LIV before he leads Europe into action against the Yanks in Rome next September.
If he tears up that agreement and accepts the £25million LIV offer he will be stripped of the captaincy.
Thomas Bjorn, who led Europe to a resounding victory in Paris in 2018, has already been lined up as a replacement.
Dustin Johnson has led top pros in joining LIV golf
LIV CEO Greg Norman was banned from The Open
Henrik Stenson could be stripped of Europe’s Ryder Cup captaincy if he joins the Saudi-backed tour
Stenson named him as a vice-captain shortly after being handed the captaincy in February.
The document signed by Stenson states: “The successful candidate will be expected during his tenure to commit to supporting the Ryder Cup and the DP World Tour exclusively, and therefore, by extension, not supporting or promoting other properties [including, without limitation, other Tours, Leagues, Series or Competitions].”