When the Players Championship takes place this week, it will do so without its defending champion Cameron Smith.
That’s because, within six months of lifting the trophy at TPC Sawgrass in 2022, the Australian had opted to sign for LIV Golf – a decision that led his suspension from the PGA Tour.
Speaking ahead of this week’s tournament, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan admitted the situation is awkward, particularly given that the 29-year-old lives close to the venue. However, he began by acknowledging that Smith was a worthy champion.
He said: “Listen, Cam Smith had a great performance in 2022. He was a deserved champion. I think as I look to this week and I look at the field that we have here and the strength from top to bottom, I think when we leave here on Sunday night we’re going to crown another deserving champion.”
Despite the World No.5’s enforced absence from the tournament, the field is packed with some of the world’s best players. Indeed, Smith is the only member of the world’s top 10 not involved, and Monahan admitted the situation, combined with the fact Smith lives in the area, is hardly ideal.
He said: “To answer your question directly, yes, it’s awkward. But you know, ultimately that’s a decision he made, and we’ve got an unbelievable field here this week and a history and tradition that one of these 144 is going to go seek to get.”
There is the potential for the situation to become even more uncomfortable. In an interview shared on Twitter by Golf.com, Smith admitted that he could attend the Players Championship as a spectator, something that would surely turn much of the attention on him rather than events on the course.
Perhaps more likely is that Monahan need not worry, as Smith appears to be keeping his options open. In another interview, this time with Golf Digest (opens in new tab), Smith said he could also spend his time fishing. He said: “I think it’ll be a pretty quiet week on the water. I think all the residents will be out watching the golf tournament. So I’ll be able to strap out and have the water to myself.”
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