World No.2 Cameron Smith kept his cool amid a growing storm about his potential defection to Saudi-backed LIV Golf and declared he was ready to “cop some heat” for pre-tournament denials.
The Telegraph this week reported Smith had inked $140 million (AUD) to join the Greg Norman-run league with fellow Aussie Marc Leishman.
Smith was pressed on the report ahead of the start of the FedEex Cup Playoffs and refused to be drawn on it.
“You know, my goal here is to win the FedExCup Playoffs,” Smith said.
“That’s all I’m here for. I’m a man of my word and whenever you guys need to know anything, it’ll be said by me.”
But after carding an opening round three-under at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the world No.2 said he understood the line of questioning.
“I’m ready to cop some heat. I understand that’s what I’ve said,” Smith told Sky Sports having declared any news on a move would come from him.
“I’m here to win the FedEx Cup playoffs, that’s my number one goal. Whatever happens after that will come from me.”
The comments will likely be interpreted by some as strengthening of the case that he has flawed to the rebel tour which has already signed up the likes of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia.
But while Smith remains in focus Jason Day, who withdrew from last week’s PGA Tour event with illness, carded a bogey-free round of 65 to sit just off the pace in a share of fifth late in the opening round at the $21m St Jude Classic, three shots behind the leaders.
Only the top 70 finishers will progress to the next event and remain in the hunt for the biggest payday in golf, outside of signing a LIV deal.
Day, who hasn’t won since 2018 and has slipped to 147th on the world rankings, said he wasn’t getting lost in thinking too far ahead.
“You’re always just trying like to just blend everything together and hopefully it will click,” Day said.
“I’m not getting too excited about anything right now, just got to stay patient as much as I can because the more and more I start thinking about outcomes and being able to get into next week, it just does nothing for me, or at least anything positive for me.
“It actually gives you more anxiety and a lot of other stuff that comes along with it.
“I feel pretty good about the opening round and looking forward to the rest of the week.”
Adam Scott was the next best Aussie at four-under, a score that could have been better if not for a double-bogey five on the par three 14th hole when his tee shot found the water.
Smith, who could assume the world No.1 ranking with a victory in Memphis, depending on where current world No.1 Scottie Scheffler finishes, carded an up-and-down opening round 67, which included an eagle and two bogeys, to be five off the lead.
Scheffler opening with a one-over par 71.