British Open champion Smith and Ryder Cup captain Stenson to join LIV Golf, reports say

July 17 (Reuters) - Newly-crowned British Open champion Cameron Smith reacted angrily when asked if he was on the verge of joining the highly-lucrative LIV Golf Invitational Series but reports suggest the Australian is among many players who are about to jump ship.

"I just won the British Open and you are asking about that?" Smith told reporters. "That is not that good. My team around me worry about that stuff. I am here to win golf tournaments."

Sky Sports also reported that Henrik Stenson will be axed as Ryder Cup captain as he too is expected to join the highly controversial breakaway series that is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF).

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Critics say the new series amounts to blatant 'sportswashing' by a nation trying to improve its reputation in light of its history of human rights abuses.

LIV players were barred from conducting news conferences at St Andrews in the days leading up to this week's British Open, while LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman was asked not to attend the ceremonial festivities. The rebel series' most prominent player, Phil Mickelson, was also requested not to attend the champions' dinner.

British media reported that others expected to join the LIV roster include Hideki Matsuyama, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman.

The new defectors join a list of top players who have already signed to the big-money tour, including six-times major champion Mickelson, former world number ones Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka and former U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau.

Stenson triumphed at the British Open in 2016, and has won another five times on the PGA Tour and 10 times on the European Tour.

When approached by Reuters, LIV declined to comment.

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Reporting by Peter Hall, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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