PONTE VEDRA Seaside, Fla. — Tiger Woods isn’t the only acquainted name lacking at the Gamers Championship this 7 days.
Defending champion Cameron Smith, who experienced 8 one particular-putts in the closing 9 holes to get by a stroke above India’s Anirban Lahiri very last yr, also just isn’t at TPC Sawgrass to defend what was at the time the most important victory of his career.
About 4 months just after successful the so-known as “fifth significant,” Smith claimed an precise important championship when he was victorious at the 150th Open up Championship at St. Andrews in July. Subsequent the PGA Tour’s time-ending Tour Championship about a month later, Smith signed a multiyear agreement with the LIV Golf circuit, which is financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Expenditure Fund.
“Would it be superior if the defending champion was below this 7 days? Absolutely,” reported Rory McIlroy, who received the Players in 2019. “But he made a selection that he felt was the greatest point for him, and he realized that determination was heading to appear with effects, and a person of the penalties is proper now not staying able to perform on the PGA Tour.”
Smith just isn’t the only major finisher from a calendar year back who is just not in this week’s discipline. Lahiri and England’s Paul Casey, who completed third in 2022, are now actively playing in the LIV Golfing League, as are Harold Varner III and Dustin Johnson, who finished in the prime 10.
Even without having the LIV Golfing players, 44 of the best 50 players in the Official World Golfing Rating and 29 of the leading 30 in the FedEx Cup Playoff factors record are in the area.
Earth No. 1 golfer Jon Rahm reported he has constantly believed that a defending champion need to have a spot in a event the subsequent year. But Rahm believes Smith’s situation is distinctive.
“We are talking about distinctive circumstances correct now,” Rahm reported. “Some gamers built a alternative of heading to a diverse golfing league realizing that they weren’t going to be authorized to enjoy right here. And sure, this is a enormous function. It is really near to a important, but it can be continue to a PGA Tour celebration. So with that regard, no, I really don’t feel just him ought to be authorized to be below.”
Making matters a lot more awkward is that Smith, from Australia, had moved to Ponte Vedra Seashore, where the PGA Tour is headquartered. He practiced at TPC Sawgrass.
“Pay attention, Cam Smith had a terrific efficiency in 2022,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan reported. “He was a deserved champion. I assume as I glance to this week and I seem at the industry that we have here and the strength from top rated to bottom, I think when we go away below on Sunday night we are going to crown yet another deserving winner.
“To reply your question instantly, of course, it is awkward. But you know, in the end which is a choice he designed, and we have received an unbelievable area below this week and a background and tradition that one particular of these 144 is heading to go look for to get.”