Smith says McIlroy called him ahead of LIV decision
Cameron Smith shook the golf world when it was announced that the recent Open Champion had signed with LIV Golf back in late August, with many wondering when and why the star had decided to leave the TOUR.
On Saturday, The Sydney Morning Herald's Adam Pengilly released an interview with the Australian golfer, giving insight into his past few months and what went into his decision to join the controversial Saudi-backed league, including a phone call with one of the sport's biggest names: Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy had long been outspoken against LIV Golf heading into the week at St. Andrews, where he finished two strokes back of Smith.
"He said, 'Congrats.' There were maybe a couple of little jabs in there. He was happy I played well, and it was a good tournament," said Smith. "Then we talked about the PGA TOUR and LIV. There was a bunch of stuff he wanted me to know before I made my decision. I wouldn't say he tried to directly talk me out of it, but he definitely wanted me to stay."
While the Northern Irishman's phone call ultimately would not change Smith's path, the latter says his decision did not come easy.
"It felt like I didn't sleep for a few months," Smith said. "I was constantly thinking, 'What will other people think?' That was a really big factor for me. I feel like I do most things by the book, and to be one to step away ... was really tough for me."
The 29-year-old added that his choice was not set in stone when a reporter infamously asked if he was headed to LIV moments after he lifted the Claret Jug at St. Andrews.
"I was definitely leaning one way, but it wasn't signed on paper," Smith said. "There was still so much stuff to do and so much to think about."
Smith spoke to both LIV CEO Norman and TOUR commissioner Jay Monahan before deciding. Norman said LIV would hold a tournament in Australia, while Monahan said the TOUR was looking into having an event on the Korn Ferry Tour - the feeder circuit to the PGA TOUR - according to Pengilly.
In the end, Smith chose to go to LIV Golf and made his debut at the series' Boston event. He'd go on to claim just his second win in the league at the following tournament in Chicago.
The TOUR suspended Smith as a direct result of joining LIV Golf, but he can still participate in tournaments on the European-based DP World Tour.
Smith, playing in this week's season-opening Australian PGA Championship as one of many top Australian players in the field, sat tied for 14th after the first round Thursday.