Cameron Smith’s first press conference as a LIV Golfer had some comic relief mixed among some tougher questions for the world No.2 and reigning Open Championship winner.
Hosts of the comedic golf podcast, Country Club Adjacent, stumped the 29-year-old with a hilarious question on Wednesday at The International course outside Boston.
“A lot has been made of your hair but I’m going to talk about your facial hair for a moment. When LIV does get Official World Ranking points and you do reach world No. 1, do you think your body will finally allow you to grow a full beard?”
Smith, famous for his mullet and a moustache even he admits is feeble, responded: “I don’t know. Perhaps. I think the beauty about the moustache is when I shave it, it only takes about eight or nine months to grow back (laughter). I haven’t been asked that one before.”
But Smith also faced the music. He was asked about the backlash on social media in the 48 hours since confirming the worst kept in secret in golf – that he was the PGA Tour and joining a rival circuit which has drawn criticism for being funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Firm. Reports have pegged his LIV deal at more than $A140 million.
“I don’t spend a lot of time on social media,” Smith said. Many online have criticised Smith for leaving the tradition and established competition of the PGA Tour in the prime of his career. Having won six PGA Tour events including the Open at St Andrews and the Players Championship, many predicted Smith could surpass Greg Norman (LIV’s chief executive) for most PGA Tour wins (20) by an Australian.
“Perhaps [not competing against stars such as Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy did weigh on my mind] a little bit,” Smith said. “But I think this is the future of golf. I think it needs to change. Particularly as our golf fans become younger, I think we need to do something to make it exciting for them. I think not having those top guys is a little bit of a shame, but hopefully I can see them four times a year [at the Majors] and be able to compete against them and show them I’ve still got it.”
The Queenslander was also asked about the uncertainty around LIV golfers playing the Majors. He has five years’ worth of security having just won the 150th Open at St. Andrews, but said he hoped LIV events received Official World Golf Ranking points soon.
“I hope that these world ranking points will sort themselves out before my exemption is up,” Smith said Wednesday at his introductory press conference. “I think to the fans of major championship golf, it may be a little bit unfair on them. Majors are about having the best guys in the best field on the best golf courses.”
LIV has an application before the board of OWGR for ranking points, but has not yet received a response. Many predict it will be denied based on several shortfalls in the criteria such as field sizes needing to be 75 on average, a 36-hole cut (even for 54-hole events) and an open qualifying school.
Smith’s fellow Australian and LIV recruit, Marc Leishman, was also taking questions during the press conference. He was asked by Channel 7, whose American correspondents were in the room, whether they worried about blowback from Australian fans when they return at the end of the year for the Australian PGA and Open.
“I think any big decision you make in life there’s a potential to get criticism, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, like we are entitled to make a decision that’s in our best interests. So you deal with that criticism the best you can and try and block it out to be honest.”
But Australia is set to benefit out of LIV Golf in the form of one its star-studded 48-man events in Sydney in April next year. This publication reported that in June, as well as sources informing us that LIV, which has partnered with the Asian Tour, is eyeing Australia for two events on the International Series portion of the Asia circuit.
“We are working on it. I think it would be awesome for Australian golf,” Smith said. “I think Australia needs another event. A few years back, we lost the Aussie Masters, and to bring this new, exciting format to Australia I think will be embraced. I can’t wait to get back down there for another few weeks.”
Smith and Leishman played a practice round on Tuesday afternoon with new teammates Matt Jones and Wade Ormsby on the all-Australian side, Punch GC.