If a tree falls in the forest with nobody to hear it, does it make a sound? By similar logic, if Cameron Smith rolls in a putt to win on the LIV Tour, does anyone beyond his orbit really care?
He’s done well out of this year, Smith. The best golfer in the world? It is hard to argue against a chap who won the Tournament of Champions, the Players Championship and the Open, prior to this weekend’s gathering of the rebel alliance in Chicago.
The hugest of the prizes Smith won in those harder times was £3m at the Players, styled as golf’s fifth major, and he got a little over £2m at the Open nine week ago. The Tournament of Champions was worth £1.3m. That putt he holed in Chicago added £3.5m to his fishing kitty and something more to his state of mind, because what he shared afterwards was revealing. A little sad, too.
World No 3 Cameron Smith was victorious in Chicago at LIV Golf Invitational
‘I feel I needed to prove to myself, and probably more so to other people, just because I’ve changed tours doesn’t mean I’m a worse player,’ he said.
Here’s the thing — no one thought he was a worse golfer, just a less relevant one. And he is less relevant now, indisputably and tragically.
If we go by one basic set of numbers from the weekend, we can gauge an interesting finding about the current appeal of the three prime tours: the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and LIV.
They each had what might be termed their best-case scenario for a quiet week on golf’s calendar. For the PGA Tour, it meant a head-scrambling capitulation at the Fortinet Championship, where Danny Willett three-putted from inside four feet to gift a win to Max Homa. What the field lacked in star depth was compensated for by drama, and the PGA Tour’s social media figures support that view: a video of Willett’s collapse had been watched more than 600,000 times when this was written.
A few hours earlier, we saw the conclusion to the DP World Tour’s Italian Open. It had a little context of being played at the Ryder Cup course, and it had a good finale, with Robert MacIntyre beating Matt Fitzpatrick in a play-off. The Tour’s video of the winning putt has been watched around 100,000 times. It didn’t break the internet, as they say, but it had its place.
It was only his second event of Saudi-backed series and secured three-shot win
And then there’s LIV. Their new lad, Smith, won at a tournament where Dustin Johnson played some exceptional golf. To beat him, Smith was immense, demonstrated by his flop over a bunker at 11 in his final round that required a soft landing on an area the size of a beer matt. He nailed it — again, talent is not the problem there and nor is first-class competition.
Invisibility is. Even before you go into the politics and their origin tale, sports fans seem to care very little about the actual golf — LIV’s post of Smith’s winning putt had been viewed by 30,000 people as of Monday afternoon.
Once more, these are tiny slivers of the metrics world. And we know LIV will grow considerably, especially once their presence is normalised with time.
But maybe what we are presently seeing is indifference to an entity where money is nakedly presented as the greatest commodity of all.
As fans, we can sympathise with Willett and we can be happy for Homa, who once missed 15 cuts in 17 tournaments. We can also root for MacIntyre, who was so close to Ryder Cup selection last year and has now planted a flag in Rome for the next one. But Smith and his expanding wealth? Whatever floats your super-yacht, I suppose.
Smith celebrates with girlfriend Shanel Naoum on final day of LIV Golf Invitational – Chicago
Credit to Danny Willett. Players who have suffered far less galling defeats have scarpered from courses long before the microphones come into view, but the 2016 Masters champion stuck around after his three-putt horror show in Napa and did interviews. ‘It’s a shame how I finished but that’s golf,’ he said. ‘We’re going to do it again another day.’
Dare we say it, but Pat Perez is on to a good thing with LIV. He is yet to finish better than 15th with his own ball in any of their tournaments, but by virtue of being Dustin Johnson’s Four Aces colleague in the team event, he has stuffed £2.6m into his trousers.