BOLTON, Mass—The question was whether Cameron Smith would add legitimacy to LIV Golf after leaving the PGA Tour and signing on as the World No. 2 and reigning Open Championship winner. While that may take time, one thing was immediately clear in the Smith’s first round on the lucrative rival tour—the mullet-wearing Australian adds considerable entertainment.
Smith fired a 64 to open the 54-hole event at six under par, one shot behind co-leaders Matthew Wolff and Talor Gooch. Smith wowed the Massachusetts gallery early with three birdies and an eagle in his first eight holes, before falling down the leaderboard courtesy of a bogey, a birdie and a double bogey in his next six.
At the par-4 16th, Smith hooked his drive into the trees, then faced a left-handed shot against a tree. Because of the cart path in his adopted lefty stance, he took relief and then played his next shot as a right-hander. A roped hook wedge helped Smith save a rollercoaster par. “My gap wedge was a little bit worse for wear after that one,” he said. Smith then drained a long-range eagle at the par-5 18th.
Smith and LIV’s five other new recruits, including Joaquin Niemann and Harold Varner III, have faced criticism from major winners Gary Player and Fred Couples this week for defecting to a tour that features 48-man fields playing no-cut, 54-hole tournaments. Player said LIV was “never going to compare to the regular [PGA] tour”.
But six-time PGA Tour winner Smith said he didn’t feel any added expectations in his first 18 holes with LIV. “I don’t think it was any added pressure; I just wanted to go out there and do my thing,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re all competitors and we’re trying to do what we can.”
The fourth LIV tournament of its eight-event debut series began Friday with chief executive Greg Norman parachuting onto the first hole and music blaring—efforts by LIV to create its own identity.
“That was something that I haven’t experienced before on the first hole, but it was cool,” Smith said. “It was just a good way to start a tournament. [Today] kind of had a bit of everything; it was very up-and-down. It probably wasn’t one of my best driving performances.
“I feel like the crowd out there is almost on top of you, with the music. It feels like the course has a bit of a heartbeat. It was very different, I would say, but something that I really enjoyed, and I can’t wait for this to keep going onwards and upwards.”