LIV Golf snaps up Joaquin Niemann from under the noses of Woods and McIlroy

Joaquin Niemann - SHUTTERSTOCK

Joaquin Niemann – SHUTTERSTOCK

LIV Golf is set to steal one of the game’s most exciting young players from under the noses of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, with Joaquin Niemann due to be unveiled by the Saudi rebel circuit on Monday.

Telegraph Sport exclusively revealed earlier this month that Cam Smith, the Open champion, has signed up and there is no doubt that the world No 2 will be the centrepiece of the big announcement in Boston, as Greg Norman names the 48-man field for the fourth £20 million event in this year’s series.

But 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, 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.

There were only 23 golfers at the emergency summit in Delaware, after which McIlroy claimed: “We’re trying to safeguard the Tour for the next 50 years and all of those players in the room bought into the vision that Tiger and I have come up with.” Apparently not.

Unless Niemann has a late change of heart, it is understood the 23-year-old will be another to receive a nine-figure signing-on fee, with insiders reporting a cheque topping $100m. The world No 18 has won twice on the PGA Tour, most recently at the Genesis Invitational in LA in February, and this creative ball-striker is regarded as a huge prospect. Niemann’s defection would be a massive setback for Trevor Immelman, the captain of the Internationals team which is facing the US in the Presidents Cup in four weeks’ time.

Indeed, this is set to be a deeply-unsettling day for the South African as not only is he about to lose Smith and Niemann from his ranks – with Louis Oosthuizen, Abraham Ancer and Carlos Ortiz already on the LIV roster – but seemingly also Mark Leishman and Anirban Lahiri.

Inevitably, there will be questions why LIV players are not permitted to appear for the rest of the world side for the Ryder Cup-light match in Charlotte, but the PGA Tour owns the Presidents Cup and the regulations rule out Immelman picking banned golfers in his selection on Sept 5.

In the red, white and blue corner, Davis Love should feel relieved that Cameron Tringale and Harold Varner III look like being the only Americans in this batch of new signees, although the US captain has, of course, seen Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed slip from his clutches in the two months since LIV staged its inaugural 54-hole tournament in Hertfordshire.

The impending announcement has upstaged the Tour Championship in Atlanta, despite the fact that someone was due to collect almost £15m as the FedEx champion on Sunday night.

Focus will turn to the 48 renegades lining up on Friday at the course in Greater Boston ironically called “The International” and the role of Sergio Garcia in helping to persuade his fellow Spanish-speaker to make the contentious switch.

Garcia has become something of a mentor to Niemann and is managed by the same GSE Worldwide agency that also has DeChambeau, Ancer, Oosthuizen, Ortiz, Paul Casey, Branden Grace, Jason Kokrak and Eugenio Chacarra on its books – all LIV recruits.