The defense rests.
The Players Championship is known for having an illustrious field, but there will be one especially notable omission come Thursday: 2022 champion Cameron Smith.
Smith took home the Players Championship title by a stroke last year, outlasting Anirban Lahiri, and cashing a hefty check in the process. Smith’s success in 2022 led him to cashing even bigger checks, but not on the PGA Tour. Instead, he did it with LIV Golf.
MORE: LIV Golf throws shade, takes a bow over major PGA Tour changes
Why are Cameron Smith banned from the Players Championship?
There’s a simple reason why Smith won’t compete at this year’s Players Championship, or any TPCs in the foreseeable future: because the Players Championship is a PGA Tour event, LIV Golf players are forbidden from taking part. That’s it, that’s that and that’s all.
MORE: Players Championship 2023 tee times, TV coverage, live streams & more
While the Players Championship is one of the most prestigious golf events of the year, it doesn’t have standing as a golf major. LIV Golf players can play in the four major tournaments — the Masters Tournament, the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship and the Open Championship.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan made it clear last year that LIV Golf players were not welcomed back on the Tour any time soon. He issued indefinite suspensions to players who defected to the new golf league.
MORE: Who is playing LIV Golf? Smith leads burgeoning roster
That hasn’t prevented Smith from having fun with the idea of showing up to TPC Sawgrass.
“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.”
Smith will become the first player to miss out on a title defense that wasn’t due to injury in the event’s history, dating to 1974.
MORE: Players Championship 2023: PGA expert betting predictions
So, Smith may have to watch the event from his couch — but he doesn’t seem to have a problem with that.