Cameron Smith’s move to LIV Golf will create a significant void at this year’s Players Championship

Mar, 2023

PONTE VEDRA BAY, Florida — Despite the chatter at 19th holes and bars along A1A to the contrary, Cameron Smith’s win in the 2022 Players Championship has not been forgotten.

The fact is that the Jacksonville resident and Australian native, who was the first man since Jack Nicklaus to win both The Players and The British Open in 1978, lost his playing privileges and practice privileges at The Players.

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The Tour acknowledged Smith’s victory over Anirban lahiri in the first Monday finish since 2005 with traditional gestures.

The flag of the previous champion flies between The Perch (the clubhouse) and Australia’s, where it has flown in the breeze since Smith’s 66 in round 6.

Unless an Australian winner, such as Jason Day or Adam Scott from the 2004 Players championship, wins this week at Stadium Course the flag will be changed to the country of the new champion sometime in the evening of March 12.

Two ways past Players champions can be honored in the clubhouse are: one, a recap of their win with a caricature depicting the player is framed and hung in one hallway, and another, a display of all the clubs each winner used during their triumphal weeks in another hallway.

Smith’s smile, with his long, wavy hair falling from underneath his flat-brimmed cap, can be seen in one hallway. The pitching wedge that he used last season is in the other.

He will be remembered as a Players champion. The Tour is the only thing that can take it away.

He is still an absentee champ, the fourth such instance in The Players’ 49-year history. This was also the first time since Tiger Woods left the 2014 tournament due to a back injury.

Other champions who did not defend the title were Jerry Pate (shoulder injury), and Steve Elkington (sinus infection) in 1983. Smith was the first Players champion to withdraw from the tournament in 1998 for reasons other than injury.

Jared Rice, Players executive director, stated that “he’s one our champions and history speaks as it is.” “All of our past champions’ play speaks for itself. The 2023 season is all about the players who will play. We are focused on the product, which will be the best golf field ever again.”

Cameron Smith from Australia plays his shot at the 14th Tee during Round 1 of The Players Championship at TPC sawgrass, March 11, 2021 in Ponte Vedra Beach. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images).

Final round highs/lows

Smith’s 2002 victory was notable for its highs as well as lows. Smith birdied the first four holes, five of the six, and then suffered three bogeys in succession in the middle. He birdied four more holes, five of six, and five of eight. Finally, he escaped with a par at the last, when he struck his second shot from the right trees to the water on the left side of the 18th fairway.

Smith dropped and pitched onto the green, making a putt for Bogey. He then had to wait for Lahiri’s finish before he realized he had won The Gold Man Trophy. Smith was at 13-under-par 257.

It was a week when Smith did magic with his putter and wedges. Smith was last in driving accuracy with only 24 fairways hit and tied for 52nd in regulation greens.

Smith came in first for strokes gained and fourth for total putts, which was more than any short grass issues.

As the day progressed, Smith was embraced by the Players galleries. Smith is a first-coast favorite because he is a great golfer and loves fishing (he was a participant in the Kingfish Tournament last year).

After the 2022 Players, he stated that he has never expected much from himself. “My expectations are that every morning I get up and go to the gym. Then, I’m going to have fun.

Smith’s victory at the Stadium Course was further evidence of his all-world goodness. Smith’s caddie shared the news with other caddies, as the party was held at Smith’s house along the Intracoastal Waterway.

Cam was at his best: pizza and beer with friends. It was a fitting way to end a wonderful week.

A poster with the scorecard and artwork depicting Cameron Smith’s 2022 Players championship hangs in the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse along with those from other past champions. (Photo by Garry Smits/Florida Times-Union)

Smith’s game is in great form

Smith’s Players win has been recalled by the Times-Union, which made many attempts to reach Smith.

Numerous emails and social media messages were sent to the LIV Golf League communications team. Two weeks later, LIV Golf sent a brief email to Smith’s agent Bud Martin directing inquiries about Smith’s interview “since the interview is connected to the Players Championship.”

Martin received an email asking for an interview. He replied with three words: “Pass for now.”

Smith was also approached by two PGA Tour players, who were friends of Smith. They were asked if they could help. One of them stated that Smith had a chance to interview him “one in 100.”

After a practice round at Mayokoba in Mexico last week, a reporter from Golfweek tried to interview Smith but was unsuccessful.

Smith’s win is still being honored at TPC Sawgrass in three places, but LIV Golf seems not to mention any PGA Tour titles in their players’ online biographies. Instead, it cites only major championships and college accomplishments as well as other international victories.

Smith’s bio includes 13 bullet-point career highlights. None of these highlight the 2022 Players.

Smith might not be playing at TPC Sawgrass, but he has been seen numerous times on the First Coast since his time at LIV Golf. His game is in great shape, as he’s been spotted at Glen Kernan or The Yards.

Smith finished fifth in the Mayakoba LIV event. He also won the Australian PGA in November for the third consecutive time. In Tucson, he will be playing next in the LIV tournament.

After winning the British Open, he was ranked second worldwide behind Scottie Scheffler. He is now ranked fifth and the highest-ranked LIV golf player, despite not receiving any rankings points for LIV Golf starts.

Smith won the British Open, and announced his move to LIV. He played five times, winning in Chicago, Doral, and tied for fourth in Boston. In 2023, he was ranked 10th on the League’s point list.

The Australian flag flies at the TPC Sawgrass in honor of Cameron Smith winning the 2022 Players Championship. Traditionally, the flag of the winner’s country is flown for one year after his victory.

Cam Flag

Again, no repeat champion

Smith’s absence means that there won’t be a repeat champion. This is a first in Players history.

Day stated that “that just goes to prove you how difficult it is to come back and play the golf course,” during Players week 2017. It tests every part of your game, both the physical and mental.

Scott stated the same week that while the course favors all types of players, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a defending champion will have an easier time.

He said, “There are so many styles of golf. So I believe the course is open for all kinds of guys to win.” “There are more men in the mix… it leaves it open for everyone.”

To give you an idea of how difficult it would have been for Smith or any defending Players champions to repeat, the Masters had two repeat winners (Nick Faldo and Woods in 1989-90, 2001-02), and the U.S. Open two-time winners (Curtis Strange and Brooks Koepka, 2017-18), and the PGA Championship three-time winners (Woods and 2006-07, and Woods in 2017-18), and the British Open three-time winner (Tom Watson, Woods in 2005-06, Woods in 2007-08 and Padraig Harrington in 2008 and Padraig Harrington in 2007, Woods in 2005-06, and Padraig in 2007-08).

The defending Players champions have never finished in a tie for fifth (Tom Kite 1990) or been within four shots of the winner (Mark McCumber 1989).

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