No, Cam Smith’s deal with LIV Golf wasn’t set in stone when he won the Open Championship in July.
The world number 3 shed some light on his decision to Sydney Morning Herald as he prepares to return to his native Australia for the first time in three years this week at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship.
“I was definitely leaning one way, but it wasn’t signed on paper,” Smith told the Sydney Morning Herald. “There was still so much to do and so much to think about.”
Following his win at St. Andrews, Smith has now infamously berated a reporter who asked to join the Saudi-backed PGA Tour league rival.
“I just won the British Open, and you’re asking me about it? I think it’s not that good,” Smith said during his winner’s press conference.
Smith said the decision was not one he made lightly and he knows there will be a backlash if and when he decides to take the plunge.
“I felt like I hadn’t slept for several months,” he said. “I was constantly thinking, ‘what are other people going to think?’ That was really a big factor for me, I feel like I do most things right and I’m kind of walking away…it was really hard for me.
Smith eventually left the PGA Tour at the end of the FedEx Cup playoffs in August for a $140 million signing bonus with LIV Golf, along with fellow Australian Marc Leishman and four other pros. He is one of the pros to have taken the leap to publicly cite guaranteed money as one of the reasons for the defection.
All players who left for LIV Golf are suspended from playing on the PGA Tour.
Smith also told the morning herald he spoke to many people close to him about his decision and even got a call from Rory McIlroy, just days after the Open, when Smith shot a back-nine 30 to come from behind to maintain the drought streak major of McIlroy.
“I’ve always had respect for Rory and liked what he says on the golf course,” Smith said. “He said ‘congratulations’. There were maybe a few little knocks in there. He was happy that I played well and that it was a good tournament. Then we talked about the PGA Tour and the LIV. There were a lot of things he wanted me to know before I made my decision, I wouldn’t say he tried to talk me out of it directly, but he really wanted me to stay.
He also confided in fellow Australian Ian Baker-Finch, who detailed some of their conversations in a joint interview with Smith at the The telegraph of the day earlier this month.
“In the very last night line of our conversation, I said, ‘Listen…if I was your dad, I’d tell you to take the money,’ Baker-Finch told The Daily Telegraph. “I was hoping really that Cam wouldn’t go because I felt he had the ability to be No. 1 in the world and create a huge name for himself like Adam Scott did over the years like Greg Norman did himself.
Smith also told the morning herald he spoke with Norman, CEO of LIV Golf, and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. He wanted to know what each tour had planned to help grow the game in his home country.
Norman promised Smith LIV would head down. That promise came true last week with LIV announcing that she would be hosting an event at The Grange Club next spring.
Monahan said the PGA Tour is considering holding a Korn Ferry Tour event in Australia.
“For me, the PGA Tour is a great place,” Smith said. “It’s a great tour doing some really good things. But if you look back, Adam [Scott] was one of the best golfers in the world for 20 years and I just think it’s really weird for them [PGA Tour] have no event [in Australia] just because of him,” Smith says. “So you have Jason [Day]Mark [Leishman], there are a bunch of guys they could have done so much for. The Aussie crowd bypasses it so much… But I just don’t think it’s that profitable for them and that’s kind of the reason behind it all.