PGA Tour boss Jay Monahan has conceded the absence of defending champion Cameron Smith from this week’s Players Championship is “awkward”.
The Australian has been banned by the PGA Tour after signing with Greg Norman’s LIV Golf for a reported $140 million sign-on fee.
It means the world No.5 will be absent from the PGA Tour’s flagship event, along with other high-profile names such as recent major champions Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka.
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Their absence makes a mockery of the PGA Tour’s claims about the strength of this week’s field.
“Listen, Cam Smith had a great performance in 2022,” Monahan said.
“He was a deserved champion. I think as I look to this week and I look at the field that we have here and the strength from top to bottom, I think when we leave here on Sunday night we’re going to crown another deserving champion.
“To answer your question directly, yes, it’s awkward. But you know, ultimately that’s a decision he made, and we’ve got an unbelievable field here this week and a history and tradition that one of these 144 is going to go seek to get.”
World No.3 Rory McIlroy was another to admit that the Players Championship was diminished by Smith’s ban.
“Would it be better if the defending champion was here this week? Absolutely,” McIlroy confessed.
“He made a decision that he felt was the best thing for him, and he knew that decision was going to come with consequences. One of the consequences is right now not being able to play on the PGA Tour.”
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