HOYLAKE, England — A few moments after reigning Open champion Cameron Smith got emotional when returning the Claret Jug he has had for a year, the Australian delivered a message on the future of LIV Golf in the wake of the PGA Tour’s framework agreement with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF).
“There’s obviously a lot of things that are up in the air that no one really knows at the moment,” Smith said at a news conference Monday prior to the 151st Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. “There’s a lot of uncertainty but I’m optimistic LIV will be around in the future.”
It was this time last year that Smith put together a final-round 64 to surpass Rory McIlroy and outlast Cameron Young to win the 150th Open at St. Andrews only to, shortly after the tournament, become LIV Golf’s biggest signing since its inception.
Earlier this month at LIV’s London event, which Smith won, he said he thought his victory at the Old Course was slightly “overshadowed” by the questions about his future that he got at the post-championship news conference. On Monday, Smith looked back on the last 12 months and reiterated that the decision to go to LIV was “stressful” but one he does not regret.
“It does seem like a long time ago, last year,” Smith said. “I’ve said in the past the PGA Tour is a great place to play golf, and it will be for a very long time. I don’t think there was any part of me that made me think I made the wrong decision throughout any part of the last eight or nine months.”
While the golf world has been consumed with the power struggle between LIV and the PGA Tour and now the U.S. Senate’s investigation into their proposed partnership, Smith has instead chosen to focus more on the Claret Jug.
“I wasn’t a part of all the lawsuit stuff,” Smith said. “I tried to stay as far away from that as possible.”
The 29-year-old added that he believes no player knows exactly how the ongoing framework agreement will shake out but, beyond remaining confident in LIV’s future, Smith said he would like current LIV CEO Greg Norman to stay involved in the league.
Norman, who has been the fiery voice behind LIV’s push to upend golf, faded from the spotlight in recent months as PIF chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan became the face of the fund’s negotiations to partner with the PGA Tour. PGA Tour officials pushed to oust Norman as the CEO of LIV during the tour’s negotiations with the DP World Tour and the PIF, according to documents released by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
“I think I’ve kind of become a bit of a friend of Greg the last eight or nine months,” Smith said. “Personally, I think he’s doing a great job for our tour. He’s looking out for our best interests. That’s all you can ask of a guy that’s running the show. I’d love to see him keep on.”
Despite his opinions on the rivalry, Smith said it does not give him any extra motivation in trying to defend his title this week at Royal Liverpool. Instead, he said it would be “a cool story” to have a rematch of sorts with the PGA’s Rory McIlroy, who finished in the top three of the Open last year and is coming off a win Sunday in the Scottish Open.
Smith said that after winning LIV’s event in London and paying more attention to detail on the course recently, he has the right amount of confidence and momentum heading into this week’s Open Championship.
“It’s a little bit of a work in progress,” Smith said. “I think as a golfer, I think I’m actually a better golfer now than what I was last year.”