'Is he going to really enjoy it?' – Smith warned against LIV Golf defection by former Ryder Cup captain

·4-min read

Cameron Smith may be swayed by the lucrative financial offer from the LIV Golf International Series, but must consider whether he will enjoy competing on the breakaway tour.

That is the message from former Ryder Cup captain Mark James, who acknowledged the financial benefits of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf but was unsure of the merits of a competition still in its infancy.

Smith secured his first major title at the historic 150th Open Championship last weekend, triumphing ahead of Cameron Young and Rory McIlroy on the picturesque Old Course at St Andrews.

While lauded for the blemish-free final round that ensured Open glory, speculation grew that Smith may become the next high-profile defector to LIV Golf, the tournament headed by Greg Norman.

Smith refused to comment on the matter as he celebrated at St Andrews, remaining non-committal on his future as he expressed his disappointment with the line of questioning following his Open victory.

Though James, a 32-time professional winner, appreciated the lucrative offers LIV Golf are making to secure the PGA Tour's prized assets, he warned Smith to think carefully about his future.

"I would imagine right now they're weighing up his contracts, weighing up what you'll get for playing the LIV Golf Tour and what you'll get for playing around the world and having all these contracts," James told Stats Perform.

"And I mean, yeah, they might pay him. They would have to pay him I would think 100 million to play LIV Golf Tour compared to winning the Open and having all those contracts, maybe more.

"I don't know, I'm a bit out of touch with the big money game these days. But that means you don't have to work the rest of your life, even at his age 100 million will go a long way.

"But he's going to be playing, is he going to be playing with his mind on the golf? Is he going to really enjoy it? I don't know.

"I think there's a lot of question marks over this tour. And it will be interesting to see what the outcome is."

Henrik Stenson relinquished his Ryder Cup captaincy after becoming the next big-name signing for LIV Golf, announced on Wednesday alongside Jason Kokrak and Charles Howell III.

The breakaway league already has the likes of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, with every defector banned from playing on the PGA Tour as retaliation to their move away.

And James, who had a long career on the European Tour and has played on the US-based Champions Tour in senior golf, does not envisage LIV Golf succeeding, likening the tournaments to "exhibition events".

"They've gone in extremely heavy-handedly LIV Golf," he added. "But then I suppose if they're trying to take players away from the two major tours, they have to because the two majors are so protective of their product.

"But I agree with the two main tours, I think they have to be and I think the two main tours are brilliant for golf, because they have a pyramid system on both tours where anyone who's any good will make it to the top. It is that simple.

"Whereas, if LIV Golf were in charge, then that would not be the case. We'll see if they're still talking at the end of the year. Maybe something can be thrashed out and both tours can end a little sooner and have some big jamboree at the end of the year for six, eight weeks for anyone who wants to play.

"Certain events might be better suited but LIV Golf seems to want to take over the whole thing. And I think those tournaments are not good for golf right now. They're basically exhibition events.

"People are getting paid crazy amounts of money and there's a lot of animosity between current tour players and the LIV Golf players. So it's not a great situation. And I don't think LIV Golf have handled it well.

"I'm not sure Norman is a particularly good spokesman because they've taken him out in the press to a large extent, because he wasn't really voicing what Saudi wants someone to say.

"But, equally, I think that the pros from the tours who signed up with LIV Golf have not exactly been eloquent in defence of LIV Golf. So the whole thing, I think, is a little shambolic.

"But as I say, if you want to take golf by the scruff of the neck and make an impression on the main tour players, then maybe this is the only way to try and do it."

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