Cameron Smith in golf: The defending champion is only a neighbor – sport

Cameron Smith in golf: The defending champion is only a neighbor – sport

One thing was certain this year in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, even before the Players Championship started: The best unofficial party didn’t take place. The Australian Cameron Smith had invited to beer and pizza last year. 30 caddies and some players came to his house. Smith has made his adopted homeland just a few minutes’ drive from the famous golf course at TPC Sawgrass, where he In 2022 he won what was then his most important career win: Becoming Players Champion marked the start of a remarkable year for Smith, which he continued in July – and ended in controversy – as the Open Champion at St Andrews.

At the end of August, the 29-year-old pro announced that he would switch to the Saudi Arabian LIV tour. According to reports, she paid him a fee of around 140 million US dollars. The current winner of the British Open, one of the figureheads of the PGA Tour, thus left the established golf world, which now no longer wants to see him: Smith will not be able to defend his title as Players winner this year because the Tour does not make exceptions for LIV -Player granted. And that’s why the Australian is one of the main topics of conversation this week, even though he’s just sitting in the neighborhood.

“The honest answer: Of course it’s a little weird,” said Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner. But a worthy winner will also be found this year in the outstanding field of participants, he added. Only: Anyone who has observed Monahan in the past few months, in which he, outwardly unimpressed, has announced one measure after the other to strengthen his tour against the money-powerful competition from Saudi Arabia, has noticed that someone like Smith is now missing don’t just hide yourself.

In any case, the majority of PGA Tour players support the suspension of the defending champion: “He made a decision that he thought would be the best for him, and he knew that this decision would have consequences,” said Rory McIlroy. The respondents recently rejected special privileges. 2022 US Open winner Matthew Fitzpatrick added: “I wouldn’t let the players who went to LIV come back, that would be unfair. And if you talk to Tiger Woods, he would probably say the same thing. “

PGA Tour golfers also benefit from the LIV Tour

Golf’s split at the top – Smith is still fifth in the world – has become a new normal in the space of a year. Defenders and mediators like Aussie Jason Day, one of Smith’s close friends, stand out less often: fights are now being fought openly. TV expert Brandal Chamblee, for example, a rigorous critic of the Saudis and their obvious sports washing projects, accused the LIV tour and its general director, the Australian Greg Norman, of having sabotaged Smith’s career with all their money. “He would have had the chance to shape an era,” said Chamblee – now that’s no longer possible because as a young man he couldn’t resist the offer. An offer that Chamblee felt should not have been made in the interests of sport.

Controversy in golf: Cameron Smith won't be gilding his game anytime soon on the PGA Tour - here he poses with his trophy for winning the 2022 Players Championship.

Cameron Smith won’t be gilding his skills again anytime soon on the PGA Tour – here he poses with his trophy for winning the 2022 Players Championship.

(Photo: Joe Marino/UPI/Imago)

At the very least, Smith would have had enough to earn on the PGA Tour. A year ago he received a record prize money of 3.6 million US dollars for his win, this year the winning sum has risen to 4.5 million. There is no end in sight to this growth; the caring Commissioner is currently taking care of that. Very few profiteers deny that the emergence of the LIV tour had something good in that respect. “It’s all because of LIV,” said world number one Jon Rahm candidly: “Of course it would have been good if the PGA Tour had developed on its own, but it seems like it needed outside competition.”

The fact that the best players on the tour are now getting together week after week because of the prospect of more money is a tactic that seems to be working. The Players Championship is always a good opportunity for an interim conclusion, and that will clearly not be the case in 2023: So far the PGA Tour season has been spectacular even without players like Smith and his LIV colleagues, such as Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, while the Saudi tour so far has flopped. The audience figures at the first LIV tournament of the year were alarming on the US special interest channel CN ​​Network, promised other world-class players will not change – and in court, where the Saudis are suing the American tour, the chances of success are extremely slim.

One could question whether Smith made the right decision with his move last fall. As of now, he will never step on the big stage of the TPC Sawgrass again, although it is a great tournament, he said recently.

Smith has remained true to himself in at least one respect: he avoids aggressive words. “I’m definitely going to tune into the TV like I used to when I was a kid,” he said. Maybe he even leaves his sofa, it would be typical for the proud mullet wearer: “Of course I don’t know how I would be received there, but driving over and just walking among the spectators could also be quite funny.”

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