After his victory in the British Open last July – his first in a major – Cameron Smith climbed to second place in the world ranking and, while still occupying that privileged position, decided to join LIV Golf at the end of August. He took the step together with five other players, including his Australian compatriot Mark Leishman and Chilean Joaquin Niemann. Stars such as Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Sergio García had already embarked on the new adventure.
It did not take Smith long, just a few days, to make his change of direction hugely profitable – that is, his move from the US PGA Tour to LIV Golf. In Chicago in mid-September, the Queensland-born 29-year-old won one of the tournaments on this lucrative tour financed by a Saudi Arabian investment fund. He beat Dustin Johnson and Peter Uihlein by three strokes and pocketed no less than $4 million for his individual triumph, plus a $62,500 bonus for his team's third place.
For the Australian star, 2022 was unquestionably the best season of his career as a professional, which began in 2013 on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
Right at the beginning of the year, in January in Hawaii, Smith won the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which brought together the 38 best players from the 2021 PGA Tour season. And he did it in style, with a PGA Tour record of 34-under-par, winning by one stroke (thanks to a birdie on the 18th) from then world number one Jon Rahm. He surpassed the previous record of 31-under set by Ernie Els in the same tournament in 2003.
In March, Smith won The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, becoming the fifth Australian to triumph in the tournament known as the “fifth major”. Here, he also won by a solitary stroke, and he did so after sending his second shot into the water on the final hole and closing the tournament with a bogey during a round that otherwise included 10 birdies.
In July he would taste the glory of being crowned champion of the grandest of the majors, the British Open, which was celebrating its 150th edition. Carding a total of 20-under-par, he finished one stroke ahead of Cameron Young and two clear of Rory McIlroy.
A final round of eight-under meant he surpassed Tiger's record as the British Open champion with the lowest score at St Andrews (Woods won with a 19-under total in 2000), and he equalled the best score under-par in the history of the majors. Others who had won majors on 20-under were Jason Day at the 2015 PGA Championship, Henrik Stenson at the 2016 British Open and Dustin Johnson at the 2020 US Masters.
Smith became the first player to card an 64 in the final round and win a major since Collin Morikawa at the 2020 US PGA Championship.
Throughout his career on the PGA Tour, which began in 2015, Smith has pocketed more than $27 million, $10 million of which he won in 2022. During these eight years on the US Tour, he has played in 171 tournaments, earned six victories (apart from the three in 2022, his others were in 2017, 2020 and 2021) and tallied a total of 33 top-10s.
On the European Tour he has four victories, including the British Open, and on the PGA Tour of Australasia he has won three times.
Of his other performances in the majors, his second and third places in the 2020 and 2022 Masters, respectively, stand out – a tournament where he has achieved three consecutive top-10s (he was 10th in 2021). In the other three majors, apart from his victory in the British Open, Smith's best result has been fourth place in the US Open.
In the first season of LIV Golf, Smith played in five of the eight tournaments on the schedule and pocketed $7.3 million, which placed him in the top-10 of earnings for the inaugural Saudi circuit. Dustin Johnson won $35.6 million in prizemoney – and for signing with LIV Golf he reportedly received another $100 million.
Now, looking forward to the new season, even though the full 2023 LIV schedule has not yet been announced, Smith does already have some additional incentive in addition to the lavish prizemoney and the majors: one of the LIV Golf tournaments will be played for the first time in his home country, specifically at The Grange club in Adelaide.