Cameron Smith has been lauded as a true champion in Australia, but his Open win was marred by concerns that he could be about to jump ship to Greg Norman’s LIV tour.
The 28-year-old produced a stunning last-round 64 to lift the Claret Jug on Sunday, holding off playing partner Cameron Young and third-placed Rory McIlroy.
The Sydney Morning Herald called it “a staggering performance”, while The Australian broadsheet said he was “the best putter in the sport”.
“The champion golfer of the year. Our champion. Congratulations Cameron Smith,” said the PGA of Australia.
But the plaudits were short-lived as speculation mounted in the Australian media that Smith could defect from the traditional PGA and DP World tours to the Saudi-backed LIV Series.
It stemmed from him failing to quash talk in his post-win media conference that he could be the next big name tempted to take the huge signing-on fees being offered.
“I don’t know, mate,” Smith said when asked. “My team around me worries about all that stuff. I’m here to win golf tournaments.”
News Corp newspapers in Australia reported that a number of high-profile Australians were poised to move to LIV now that the last Major of 2022 was over.
“Let’s get down to brass tacks. Cameron Smith is likely to abandon traditional golf,” The Australian said. “The consensus is that he’ll join the rebel LIV brigade while his fingerprints are still fresh on the Claret Jug.”
By winning the Open, Smith became only the fifth Australian to claim the title alongside Peter Thomson, Kel Nagle, Ian Baker-Finch and Norman.
Norman led the applause for his countryman, tweeting: “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi! A spectacular final round mate.
“A triumph for you and for Australia as the first Australian to win in 29 years. You’re in good company. Enjoy every moment of your @TheOpen victory.”
Sydney Morning Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons said Smith’s triumph would be “stained” if he opted to switch to the LIV tour.
“Hopefully, if Smith has indeed talked to Norman about joining the tour, he will come to his senses, run screaming from the room and burn the clothes he was in at the time,” he said.
“He will remain the new Australian sporting hero, bar none, an everyman Australian bloke, who just happens to be one of the best and most thrilling golfers in the world, who nevertheless recognises that there are more important things than making money.”
© Agence France-Presse