Cameron Smith was at a loose end on Thursday, so he decided to go for a round at Sawgrass.
Of course, he couldn’t play at TPC Sawgrass. There appears to be a tournament on this week with thousands of fans attending.
According to Golfweek, the Australian, who lives near the famous Players Championship venue at Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida, instead played at The Yards – a nine-hole track about a mile from the Stadium Course.
The course’s website describes it as “the most fun and unique golf course offered in Ponte Vedra Beach”, with membership costing $3,500.
But we doubt Smith had trouble paying the $25 green fee and the staff at The Yards described him as “extremely cordial and personable.”
That’s as close as the LIV Golf player will get to the hallowed turf of The Yards’ older brother in 2023, despite winning The Players 12 months ago.
The 29-year-old’s one-shot win over Anirban Lahiri was his biggest victory before he hoisted the Claret Jug at the Home of Golf four months later.
Smith joined the Saudi-financed LIV tour shortly after winning the Open Championship at St Andrews. He is part of an all-Aussie team which was one of CEO Greg Norman’s aims when devising the rebel league.
Before the first tee shots were struck on Thursday, and before Smith started his game at the course down the road, his name was batted around the media centre as some players, along with Tour boss Jay Monahan, were asked about his absence.
“We’re talking about different circumstances right now,” World No 1 Jon Rahm said. “Some players made a choice of going to a different golf league, knowing that they weren’t going to be allowed to play here.
“Yes, this is a massive event that is very, very close to major quality, but it is still a PGA Tour event. So with that regard. No. I don’t think just he should be allowed to be here.
“Would it be better if the defending champion was here this week? Absolutely,” former Players Championship winner Rory McIlroy said.
“But he made a decision that he felt was the best thing for him, and he knew that decision was going to come with consequences, and one of the consequences is right now not being able to play on the PGA Tour.”
“Yes, it’s awkward,” Monahan added. “But ultimately, that’s the decision he made and we’ve got an unbelievable field here this weekend and a history and tradition that one of these 144 is going to go seek to get.”
It is just the fourth time the champion has not been able to defend his crown at the Players Championship, with the last being Tiger Woods in 2014.
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