Even a ban by the PGA Tour may not be enough to dissuade LIV Golf defector Cameron Smith from attending its premier event this week: the Players Championship.
Smith, like all golfers who defected from the PGA Tour to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf, is banned indefinitely from participating in any of the established tour’s events. But Smith, who lives near TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., floated another option to attend the tournament after winning it last year:
“I grew up my whole childhood watching the event,” Smith told Golf.com (via Yahoo Sports). “I would love to get out there. I don’t know how it would be received, me getting out there and watching, walking around in the crowd. Might be pretty funny, I would love to do that.”
Added Smith: “I am a little bit unsure. That is where I live now. I don’t know, I will definitely be watching it on TV. I think it is a great event.”
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A Smith appearance at the Players Championship could certainly be seen as antagonistic by the PGA and the golfers who elected to remain on the tour. It also is made possible by an off week on the 2023 LIV Golf schedule; the tour’s next scheduled event isn’t until March 17, in Tucson, Ariz.
Regardless of whether Smith is among the crowd at the Players Championship this week, he will not be allowed to defend his 2022 title. The No. 5 golfer in the world, per World Golf Ranking, Smith will become the first player to miss a title defense at TPC Sawgrass for anything other than injury. And it won’t just be Smith missing from those who topped the leaderboard last year; the second- and third-place finishers at the 2022 Players, Anirban Lahiri and Paul Casey, also won’t participate this year after jumping to LIV.
Smith is coming off a season in which he won one event on the fledgling tour: LIV Golf Chicago on Sept. 18. He currently ranks sixth in the LIV standings after the opening event of the 2023 tour in Mayakoba, Mexico.