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What players who defected from PGA say about major


Worlds collide when LIV golfers and PGA Tour professionals clash at the 2023 Masters next week.

Australia’s Cameron Smith, the fifth-ranked player in the world who defected to LIV Golf after winning last year’s Open Championship, said his contingent is looking to show people “a high standard of golf” at August National.

“Obviously first and foremost for me, I’m trying to go there and play the best golf I can,” Smith told reporters Thursday at Orange County National in Orlando, via ESPN. “I think it is important for us to go there, really show a high standard of golf — which we know we’re all capable of.”

Eighteen LIV golfers have been invited to compete at Augusta National starting Thursday. Among them are former Masters champions Phil Mickelson (2004, 2006, 2010), Charl Schwartzel (2011), Bubba Watson (2012, 2014), Sergio Garcia (2017), Patrick Reed (2018), Dustin Johnson (2020) and other big names such as Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Smith.

RELATED: Which golfers from LIV could be at Augusta for this year’s Masters? Here is who has qualified.

Since the PGA Tour and LIV Golf play completely separate schedules and at different venues, the 2023 Masters — the first of four major championships this year — will mark the first time LIV Golf players have been eligible to play alongside PGA cardholders this season. 

“Most of us will get four cracks at it this year and hopefully we get maybe a win out of it,” Smith said of his LIV Golf comrades, who are prohibited from competing in any non-major PGA Tour events. “Maybe we just show a really hearty effort. I think for us, internally, there’s a lot of chatter going around about ‘these guys don’t play real golf anymore.’

“And I think it’s B.S. to be honest. And we just want to show people that.”

LIV Golf, which is backed by the Saudi Arabia wealth fund, has been the subject of controversy since its inception. Saudi Arabia has been accused of wide-ranging human rights abuses, including politically motivated killings, torture, forced disappearances and inhumane treatment of prisoners. And members of the royal family and Saudi government were accused of involvement in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist.

And depending on who you ask, the comingling might be a bit uncomfortable at Augusta National.

‘SLAP IN THE FACE’: 9/11 family members plan event for Masters week to share ‘outrage’ over LIV golfers at Augusta

Joaquin Niemann said PGA Tour players “hate” LIV golfers, according to DeChambeau insinuated earlier this week that Tiger Woods has cut off contact with him since the former joined the LIV Golf ranks.

But not everyone feels quite as strongly. Reed said things should be “business as usual” when asked about LIV golfers heading to Augusta, per SkySports. Watson said things are “only awkward in the media” and downplayed any hard feelings between the two sides.

Regardless, it could be interesting to see how any emotions play out with players from both tours squaring off for a green jacket.

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