One of the biggest storylines heading into next week’s Masters at Augusta National Golf Club is whether any of the 18 players from the LIV Golf League participating in the tournament will compete for a green jacket.
Because the LIV Golf League will stage just 14 tournaments in its second season — and only 54 holes in each event — some wonder whether its members have played enough golf to get them ready for the first major championship of the season. This week’s event in Orlando, Florida, is the third this year.
Australia’s Cameron Smith, the reigning Open Championship winner who jumped to LIV Golf after the Tour Championship last season, said doubts about his readiness will motivate him to play well.
“Obviously first and foremost for me, I’m trying to go there and play the best golf I can,” Smith told reporters after Thursday’s pro-am at Orange County National. “I think it is important for us to go there, really show a high standard of golf which we know we’re all capable of.
“Most of us will get four cracks at it this year [in the majors], and hopefully we get maybe a win out of it. Maybe we just show a really hearty effort. I think for us, internally, there’s a lot of chatter going around about ‘these guys don’t play real golf anymore.’ And I think it’s B.S. to be honest. And we just want to show people that.”
The LIV Golf League contingent headed to Augusta National next week includes past Masters champions Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel and Bubba Watson.
Smith, the fifth-ranked player in the world, finished in the top 10 in four of his past five starts at the Masters, including a tie for third last year. He started the final round 3 shots behind champion Scottie Scheffler and carded a 1-over 73 to finish 5 shots back. Smith tied for second at the 2020 Masters, 5 shots behind Johnson.
“I feel like I’ve played my best golf I’ve ever played around there,” Smith said. “I feel like I’ve got a pretty good record around there.”
This week’s LIV Golf League tournament will be Smith’s fourth start of the year. He missed the cut at the Saudi International in February and finished sixth and 26th in the first two LIV Golf events in Mexico and Tucson, Arizona, respectively. He won a LIV Golf tournament outside Chicago in September and the Australian PGA Championship in November.
Smith said he wasn’t sure what kind of reception he’ll receive from PGA Tour members in Augusta.
“I’m really not sure, to be honest I hope that it’s fine,” Smith said. “I’ve had a great career around Augusta, and I hope I haven’t pissed anyone off. I guess we’ll wait and see, there are a few guys who have a stronger stance [on LIV].”