Cameron Smith is one of the most successful and popular golfers in the world. He has won 10 professional events, including the 2022 Open Championship at St Andrews, the 150th playing of golf’s oldest major.
He is also the highest-ranked player to join LIV Golf, the controversial league backed by the Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund and led by Australian legend Greg Norman.
LIV Golf, which stands for League of International Visionaries, is a new format of golf that features 48 players competing in 18 events around the world, with a mix of individual and team championships.
The league offers lucrative contracts to its players, as well as a shorter and more flexible schedule that allows them to spend more time at home and play in different markets.
However, LIV Golf has also faced criticism from some traditionalists who claim that it is undermining the established tours and majors, and that its players are motivated by money rather than passion.
Some have even suggested that LIV golfers are not playing “real golf” anymore, and that they are risking their legacy and reputation by joining the breakaway tour.
Smith, who reportedly signed a deal worth more than $100 million to join LIV Golf, has dismissed these claims as “BS” and defended his decision to switch tours. In an exclusive interview with this blog, he said:
“I think it’s BS to say that we don’t play real golf anymore. We still play 72 holes of stroke play, we still have to hit fairways and greens and make putts, we still have to deal with pressure and nerves.
The only difference is that we have more variety and excitement in our events, and we get to play with different teammates and against different opponents every week. I think that’s more fun and challenging than playing the same courses and fields over and over again.”
Smith also said that he joined LIV Golf not only for the financial benefits, but also for the lifestyle and the opportunity to grow the game globally.
“The biggest thing for me joining is [LIV’s] schedule is really appealing,” he said. “I’ll be able to spend more time at home in Australia and maybe have an event down there, as well.
I also think LIV Golf is good for the game because it exposes it to new markets and audiences, especially in Asia and the Middle East. I think we can attract more fans and sponsors and make golf more popular and accessible for everyone.”
Smith added that he has no regrets about leaving the PGA Tour and the European Tour, where he won five times across multiple tours in 2022, and that he still respects his former peers and rivals.
“I have nothing but gratitude and respect for the PGA Tour and the European Tour. They gave me a lot of opportunities and memories, and I still have a lot of friends there.
I don’t see them as enemies or competitors, I see them as fellow golfers who are trying to do their best. I hope they respect my decision as well, and I hope we can still play together in some events like the majors or the Olympics.”
Smith is currently ranked 12th in the LIV Golf individual championship points standings, with one win (Chicago) and two top-10 finishes (Boston and Mayakoba) in four events. He is also the captain of Ripper GC, one of the 12 teams in the league, which is ranked fifth in the team championship points standings.
Smith will be one of the favorites to win the next LIV Golf event, which will be held at Orange County National in Orlando from March 31 to April 2. He will also be one of the only LIV Golf players who will have a pre-Masters news conference at Augusta National next week, where he will likely face more questions about his controversial move.
Smith said he is looking forward to playing in his first major as a LIV Golf member, and that he hopes to prove himself on the biggest stage.
“I’m very excited to play in the Masters. It’s one of my favorite tournaments, and I’ve had some good results there in the past. I’m not worried about what people will say or think about me being a LIV Golf player. I’m just focused on playing my best golf and trying to win another major. That’s what matters most to me.”
Personal freedom and the evolution of the sport
Understandably, Cameron Smith has received criticism for his decision to join the LIV Golf league, but ultimately it is his choice and he has the right to pursue his career in whichever way he sees fit.
It is also commendable that Smith recognizes the benefits of the LIV Golf schedule, both for his personal life and for the growth of the sport globally.
As long as he continues to perform well on the course and respects his fellow golfers, there should be no reason why he cannot succeed in this new venture.