Cameron Smith probably expected doomsday predictions concerning his future in the majors following his £100 million switch to the Saudi rebel circuit, but he would surely not have anticipated the pessimism coming from a fellow golfer on the LIV Golf Series.
But Bubba Watson on Wednesday warned the Australian that he will “fall off the map”.
Smith, the world No 2, is making his LIV debut in Boston this week – the £20m, 54-hole event starts on Friday – and knows that he will be hit with an indefinite PGA Tour ban and that his ranking will tumble without access to the big US tour events.
With LIV waiting to see if its tournaments are granted world-ranking status – next July will be the earliest date this could happen, although prospects look bleak for Greg Norman’s league and the issue could well end up in court – Smith can seemingly only earn points from Australian events, as well as those on the Asian Tour.
Watson, the two-time Masters champion who also makes his LIV bow at The International, believes this to be a “sad” scenario for the 29-year-old who won the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews in July.
“The No 2 player in the world is going to fall off the map at some point,” Watson said. “That’s sad. So that’s not the best player in the world [playing in the majors] if you are going to count out a player like this.”
As the rules stand, Smith’s Claret Jug allows him to appear in the Open until he turns 60 and gives him a five-year exemption to appear at the Masters, US Open and US PGA. He is clearly counting on the issue being resolved in this timeframe.
“I hope that these world ranking points will sort themselves out before my exemption is up,” Smith said in his introductory LIV press conference. “I think it may be a little bit unfair on the fans because the majors is about having the best guys in the best field on the best golf courses.”
Smith’s capture, along with that of world No 19 Joaquin Niemann, means there are 13 of the world’s top 50 in Boston. “To have 48 of the best guys around the world playing here and not to get ranking points is a bit unfair,” Smith said. “Hopefully we can sort that out. It’s still super-competitive out here.”
Smith’s impending suspension will also make him ineligible for the Presidents Cup in three weeks’ time, although the Queenslander is bizarrely under the impression that this could change and he could still represent the Internationals against the US in the Ryder Cup-type match in Charlotte. .
“I have spoken to Trevor [Immelman, the Internationals captain] and am still willing to compete in that. I hope I can,” he said. “Trevor has become a really good friend of mine over the last couple years, him being on the broadcast team out there. But I hope we can get to Charlotte and represent Trevor and the Internationals.”
The likelihood of that scenario coming to pass seems somewhere around nil, with the PGA Tour in charge of the biennial encounter. Jay Monahan, the tour commissioner, would have stressed this to Smith when they sat down for a chat last month in the wake of Telegraph Sport’s exclusive revelations that he had committed to join LIV in a nine-figure deal.
Rory Mcilroy was another to seek out Smith to try to engineer a U-Turn. However, his choice had already been made.
“This for me was the right decision.” Hey explained. “You know, I think this is the future of golf. I think it’s been the same for a very, very long time and it needs to be stirred up a little bit. 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 love how it is out here. It’s a little bit more laid back on the range, the music playing. I love that stuff and just can’t wait to be a part of this. Not having those top guys is a little bit of a shame, but hopefully I can see them four times a year and be able to compete against themQ and show them I’ve still got it.”