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Decisions, Decisions

Why did Cameron Smith jump to LIV Golf? It was more than money he says

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Cameron Smith reacts following a putt on the 16th green during the final round of The 150th Open at St Andrews.

Harry How

August 30, 2022

Cameron Smith says his decision to join LIV Golf, a move made official on Tuesday after weeks of speculation, was motivated by the desire to spend several months each year in his native Australia.

The World No. 2 and Open champion was the biggest of the six signings LIV Golf officials announced ahead of this week’s LIV Golf Invitational event outside of Boston. The others include fellow Aussie Marc Leishman, Chile's Joaquin Niemann, India’s Anirban Lahiri and Americans Cameron Tringale and Harold Varner III. The loss of Smith is the biggest blow to the PGA Tour given the 29-year-old is playing the best golf of his life. His three victories this year also included the Players Championship, the PGA Tour’s flagship tournament, and the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Reached on the phone by Golf Digest, Smith did not shy away from admitting LIV’s guaranteed-money offer was one of the reasons behind his choice to leave the PGA Tour, where he has won six times. He did not disclose the value of his LIV deal when asked, although reports have pegged it at more than $100 million. “[Money] was definitely a factor in making that decision, I won’t ignore that or say that wasn’t a reason,” Smith said. “It was obviously a business decision for one and an offer I couldn’t ignore.”

But the mullet-wearing Smith, who has earned $27 million during his eight years on tour, insists money was not the biggest lure—rather the opportunity to spend up to three months a year in Australia. It is believed LIV Golf’s offseason will run from late October, when its last 2022 event in Miami is scheduled, until mid-February 2023.

“The biggest thing for me joining is [LIV’s] schedule is really appealing,” Smith said. “I’ll be able to spend more time at home in Australia and maybe have an event down there, as well. I haven’t been able to do that, and to get that part of my life back was really appealing.”

Smith moved to the U.S. in 2015 while securing Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour. That was the second year of the tour’s wraparound schedule and since then Smith has only been able to travel home for a couple of weeks at the end of each year to play the Australian Open and PGA Championship, the latter of which he has won twice.

“I’ve lived over here seven years now, and I love living in the U.S., but just little things like missing friends’ weddings, birthday parties and seeing your mates having a great time at rugby league games has been tough,” he said.

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Cameron Smith enjoys his downtime off the course, and hopes to spend more of it in his native Australia after joining LIV Golf.

There is also a likelihood Australia will be given at least one LIV Golf event in 2023. Australian Golf Digest reported in June that a LIV event in Sydney is slated for late April. “I’m sure with Leish and I playing it’ll be appealing for LIV [to take an event there],” Smith said.

Smith and the new signings will make their debut for LIV Golf, which is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, this week at The International in Bolton, Mass., the 54-hole event being played Sept. 2-4. It is understood Smith and Leishman will slot into an all-Australian team alongside LIV players Matt Jones and Wade Ormsby.

“For me personally, I love teams golf, and it’s something I wish I could have more often,” Smith said. “I love the four-person teams aspect [of LIV]. Even when you’re out of the tournament, there’s something else to play for.”

That said, Smith’s decision to join LIV means he will have to forego playing for the International team in the upcoming Presidents Cup. Smith had made the 2022 team as the first automatic qualifier thanks to his exceptional play this season. But when he tees it up at The International on Friday, he will be suspended by the PGA Tour and become ineligible to compete at Quail Hollow later in September. The same will happen for Niemann, also an automatic qualifier, and Leishman and Lahiri, both potential captain’s pick.