Open champion Cameron Smith, the current world No 2, has been unveiled as one of the six latest recruits to the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Series.
As reported by Telegraph Sport earlier this month, Smith has agreed a huge nine-figure sum worth more than $100 million to join the rebel series, which will rule him out of future PGA Tour events as soon as he tees it up at this week’s third invitational in Boston.
Smith will be joined by the 23-year-old Chilean, Joaquin Niemann, stealing one of the game’s most exciting young players from under the noses of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
The capture of Niemann – the highest-ranked player in the world aged under 25 – will cause most raised eyebrows in the locker room because the Chilean was part of last week’s elite players meeting, featuring 23 players fronted by Woods and McIlroy, that forced the PGA Tour to put up an extra $100m in incentives a year and overhaul its schedule in favour of the top pros.
LIV Golf, whose eight events this year have a total payout of $255m, also said Australian Marc Leishman, India's Anirban Lahiri and Americans Harold Varner III and Cameron Tringale have agreed to join the series.
Which players have signed up?
Brooks Koepka, Duston Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson are perhaps the best-known names to have joined Greg Norman's breakaway league, but the capture of Open champion Smith is one of the biggest blows yet to the PGA Tour.
The 29-year-old Australian, who has been linked to LIV Golf for weeks, will make his debut on the controversial series at The International Golf Club outside Boston on Friday.
As our chief sports writer Oliver Brown writes:
[Smith's] signing is arguably the Saudis' most significant coup to date, and could represent a tipping point for the competition – a moment where a gilded freakshow turned into a sporting event which might demand the world's attention.
Where are the eight LIV Golf events?
The breakaway circuit began at the Centurion Club in Hertfordshire, with the second event won by Branden Grace in Portland, Oregon.
Henrik Stenson won the second US tournament, with one more event on the American swing before tournaments in Bangkok and Saudi Arabia, ending with the tour finale at Trump Doral in Miami at the end of October.
June 9-11: Centurion Golf Club, Hemel Hempstead – won by Charl Schwartzel
July 1-3: Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, Portland, US – won by Branden Grace
July 29-31: Trump National Golf Club, New Jersey, US – won by Henrik Stenson
Sept 2-4: The International, Boston, US
Sept 16-18: Rich Harvest Farms, Chicago, US
Oct 7-9: Stonehill Golf Club, Bangkok, Thailand
Oct 14-16: Royal Greens Golf Club, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Oct 28-30: Team Championship, Trump Doral, Florida, US
What is the format?
The 48-man field will play across 12 teams of four players, which was determined by a draft.
The first seven regular season events will consist of three 54-hole events, with no cut and shotgun starts, while the final event will be a four-day team matchplay knockout.
LIV then plans 10 events in 2023 followed by "a full season" of 14 tournaments in 2024 and 2025.
What is the prize money?
LIV Golf says the total prize purse for its eight events "will reach an unprecedented $255 million" (£204m).
The first seven regular season events will have a prize pool of $25m (£20m), with the individual winner receiving $4m (£3.2m), the last-placed finisher collecting $120,000 (£96,000) and a team event dishing out $5m (£4m).
At the season-ending eighth event, teams will compete for a share of $50m (£40m) in prize money.
How to watch
Coverage is being streamed on the organisation's website as well as on YouTube and Facebook, with Arlo White anchoring a three-person broadcast booth.
Why is it controversial?
The Saudi-backed circuit is on a collision course with the two main Tours - the DP World Tour and PGA Tour - who have refused to grant permission to players to appear in the rebel events.
briefly re cap legal battles
Ian Poulter has successfully challenged the DP Tour's ban, meaning he was controversially reinstated in the Scottish Open, but there are expectations of more legal proceedings ahead.
LIV chief executive Norman has also been criticised for heading up the breakaway circuit, with its Saudi investors accused of "sportswashing" the country’s poor human rights record.
However, Norman said LIV Golf was "independent" and the Saudis were "not my bosses". The Australian told Sky Sports: "We [LIV Golf] are independent. I do not answer to Saudi Arabia. I can categorically tell you, that’s not the case. I do not answer to MBS."
What are the plans for next year?
In July, LIV confirmed that the 2023 schedule would be expanded to 14 events but insisted these would not clash with golf's major championships.
While the exact dates and locations are yet to be announced, LIV say they want to increase their footprint across North and Latin Americas, Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe.
The 48 players competing in each event will still be split into 12 four-man teams, and there will be continue to be no cut, 54 holes and a shotgun start.
There will be a combined prize pot of $405million (£332million).