The emergence of LIV Golf has made for some uncomfortable situations over the past 12 months, but few have matched the feeling of unease about defending champion Cameron Smith’s absence from The Players Championship this week.
It was a fact acknowledged by PGA Tour boss Jay Monahan, who conceded it was “awkward” that Smith, banned from playing after his defection to the start-up tour last year, wasn’t in the field.
But it’s not just Smith who isn’t playing.
Five of last year’s top-10 finishers at TPC Sawgrass have since move to LIV Golf, a group that also includes runner-up Anirban Lahiri, Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey and Harold Varner III.
While Rory McIlroy said it would “absolutely” be better for the defending champion to play in the showpiece $37m event considered by many to be the “fifth major”, he basically said Smith in particular had made his bed and had to…