Cameron Smith's sad admission after $3 billion LIV Golf drama: 'It hurts'
The Aussie superstar admits one particular aspect of his controversial defection to LIV Golf 'hurts'.
Cameron Smith has made a painful revelation about his controversial move to LIV Golf, after admitting it cost him a shot at becoming the World No.1 in golf. The Aussie superstar joined the Saudi-backed competition at the end of last year while ranked No.2 in the world.
Smith's stunning rise up the rankings came off the back of his maiden major title at the British Open, with the 29-year-old also winning the Players Championship, the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and the Australian PGA Championship. However, with LIV Golf events not earning players rankings points, Smith has dropped down to fourth in the world standings.
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The Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) Board received an application from LIV Golf in July last year, but is yet to make any announcement. While LIV waits on that decision, the list of its top stars - including Smith - have seen their rankings fall.
Former World No.1 Dustin Johnson has dropped to 46, Bryson DeChambeau has slipped from 24 to 96, while Phil Mickelson is 254th compared to 38th at this time last year. Smith says he has tried to take the unfortunate situation in his stride but concedes missing out on his dream to become World No.1 is painful.
"I've tried not to take it that badly, to be honest," said Smith on Wednesday as he prepared to play the Asian Tour's $5 million season-opener, the Saudi International which features a host of LIV players. "I think when you rock up at a tournament, you know who you have to beat, whether there is a world ranking or not. There are generally seven-eight guys that are in that field that you know are going to put up a pretty good fight.
"For sure, it hurts. I feel as though I was really close to getting to number one, and that was definitely something I wanted to tick off. However, the longer this stuff goes on, I think the more obsolete those rankings become."
Smith admits that emulating his incredible success in 2022 will be difficult this year, but is hopeful that a positive start to the season can propel him to further success in 2023. The Queenslander is hoping he can make a similar start like last year when he won the Tournament of Champions with a record score of 34-under par.
While the Saudi International represents another opportunity for the World No.4 and other participating LIV golfers to pick up precious rankings points, Smith is using the tournament to help fine-tune his game heading into the first major of the year - the US Masters starting in April.
Most significantly for Smith in his five-win season in 2023 was the fact his victory at the British Open gave the 29-year-old exemption to all four of golfs majors until at least 2028. He says being sharp for the four majors, starting at Augusta where he's had three top-5 finishes in the past five years - is the priority.
'Really tough' for Cam Smith to follow up 2022 success
"Probably 2022 would be a really tough one to back up," he said. "For sure I'm just keeping the same processes going. Really digging deep, working hard on my game at home, I think, is really what I need to do.
"It's really easy when you're playing good golf to be quite complacent. So I'm just keeping on top of that, keeping on top of the body and just keep working on it."
There is a question mark over the participation of Smith's rival Johnson in Saudi Arabia this week, with the American pulling out of the recent ProAm for unspecified reasons. His scheduled press conference was also cancelled.
Former Masters champion Sergio Garcia is also in the field, returning following a right-knee operation in November. "It went well. It feels probably about 95 percent. It doesn't bother me to swing anymore. Now it is just a matter of getting used to walking holes over and over again," said 43-year-old Garcia, who is also playing the Asian Tour International Series Oman in Muscat next week.
"After three months off, I want to get some rounds in me. We are going to play these two tournaments and then we have the LIV opener in Mexico before we head to Orlando. "I will have those four tournaments heading into Augusta, and it is just a matter of getting in a good rhythm and get to the Masters in as good shape as I can."
LIV Golf - bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIV) - reportedly provided CEO Greg Norman with a $3 billion war chest to entice some of the best players from around the world to the breakaway competition. In trying to establish itself as a legitimate rival to the PGA Tour, it has been locked in an increasingly bitter feud with the PGA Tour - which has banned LIV players from competing in its events.
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