Open champion Cameron Smith declared himself “the first one to admit” LIV Golf fields are weaker than PGA Tour competitions.
Speaking ahead of the Masters, Smith also conceded he misses playing in certain tournaments and at certain golf courses since making the surprise switch to the Saudi-financed series.
The Australian was allegedly greeted with handshakes and smiles on the driving range at Augusta National on Monday, having been previously unsure what to expect.
LIV Golf arguably caught its biggest fish after Smith won the Claret Jug at St Andrews last summer, but he asserted the rebel tour has recruited a number of big names who are proven on the big stage.
18 LIV players will descend upon Augusta this week, with six former champions and Smith described himself as “tournament-ready” and confident of a second consecutive major triumph.
“It’s just important for LIV guys to be up there because I think we need to be up there,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of chatter about these guys don’t play real golf; these guys don’t play real golf courses.
“For sure, I’ll be the first one to say, the fields aren’t as strong. I’m the first one to say that.
“But we’ve still got a lot of guys up there that can play some really serious golf, and we compete against each other hard week-in and week-out and we’re trying to do the same things that we did six months ago.
“It’s nice. It’s a good feeling to have that competition, and it’s good to see Brooks win last week. He’s playing some really good golf again.
“The competition’s there. I just don’t think it’s as deep,” he added. “As I said before, we have lots of good guys that have won lots of really prestigious tournaments and majors.
“There’s definitely a lot of guys that keep you on your toes, and I don’t think that’s a problem. I think I’m just not playing really good golf at the moment, and I’m trying to fix that.”
Smith is the only LIV player scheduled on press conference duty this week at a venue he loves so much he “doesn’t know how to describe it.”
The 29-year-old told the media he has packed a spare change of blank clothes in case of any issues caused by wearing LIV logos during the event.
Prior to traveling to the first men’s major of the year, Smith described some criticism of the LIV Golf League as “BS” and emphasised the importance of a strong LIV presence at the top of the Masters leaderboard.
The captain of Ripper GC also alluded to the thoughts of Brooks Koepka and Bubba Watson who played down the tension between LIV Golf and PGA Tour players in Orlando last week.
Koepka revealed he’d recently chatted with Rory McIlroy, Watson intends to play the Masters par 3 contest with Cameron Young and Jason Day, and now Smith has described pleasantries exchanged with who he could now consider as cross-tour rivals on the range.
The 2023 Masters has been highly anticipated since the turn of the year for potential hostility, but Smith’s account of events suggests the week in Georgia could be less tame than we expect.
“I just think there’s too much rubbish going on,” he said. “For me – I spent an hour out there and seen lots of familiar faces, lots of smiles and hugs, and it’s been nice.
“I don’t think there’s any kind of hatred going on between the players. We are all happy where we are, and I’m just as happy for the guys winning out on the PGA Tour as I am for the LIV golfers, as well.
“I’m really happy with how it’s going at the moment. I don’t know how the rest of the week is going to unfold. I haven’t really seen much of the crowd. That’s another thing of thing for me.
“But Augusta National is first class, and that’s what we expected this week.”
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