Australian golf sensation Cam Smith's rumoured decision to accept a $140 million offer to join the LIV golf series has lead to the British Open champion being heckled by PGA fans.
Golf has been rocked by the establishment of the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV series, which has positioned itself as a rival to the PGA Tour and lured a number of high-profile players to their competition with a series of lucrative contracts.
The arrival of the breakaway series has caused significant debate in the golf world, amid concerns LIV's principle goal is to improve the image of Saudi Arabia and the 'sportswash' over the nation's questionable human rights record.
Smith has repeatedly knocked back rumours that he is planning on joining the LIV series, giving some frosty responses to questions about it during a press conference ahead of the Fedex Cup playoffs.
As speculation continues to swirl about whether he'll jump to the rebel LIV Golf circuit, Australian world No.2 Smith birdied two of the last three holes to shoot a three-under 67 at the FedEx St Jude Championship in Memphis on Saturday.
Already the winner of the Tournament of Champions, Players Championship and British Open this year, 28-year-old Smith trails only American leader J.J. Spaun (68) and second-placed Austrian Sepp Straka (68).
He is in a three-way tie for third with Americans Will Zalatoris (65) and Trey Mullinax (66).
However Smith didn't always find the going easy in Memphis, with several spectators sledging the 28-year-old as he made his way around the course.
Several of the barbs thrown his way directly addressed the LIV saga, with one fan yelling out 'sellout' as Smith made his way past.
Cam Smith just made birdie on 9 to move to -8 for the weekend.
Heard from the spectator area right behind me right after it went in:
— Matt Infield (@Matt_Infield) August 13, 2022
The reality of PGA Tour golf right now. Cam Smith, hitting his tee shot on 14, has a pretty large gallery following him. One man says “Let’s go Cam.” Another calls his mullet “pretty.” A third shouts “$100 million man.” Then yet another yells “sellout” loudest of all.
— Mark Giannotto (@mgiannotto) August 13, 2022
While the Aussie still boasted plenty of support from fans, Smith still copped calls of '$100 million man' and 'LIVing large'.
In his first start since being introduced at St. Andrews as the "champion golfer of the year,", Smith's campaign has been overshadowed by reports he is planning to join LIV after the PGA Tour playoffs.
Cam Smith fends off LIV Golf rumours at FedEx Cup playoffs
Smith has steadfastly refused to talk about it, only to say he's only thinking of the FedEx Cup.
"I'm a man of my word and whenever you guys need to know anything, it'll be said by me," Smith said Tuesday. That was shortly before a California federal judge denied a request by three LIV golfers to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Distractions don't seem to be an issue, and there is no shortage of them.
"There's definitely been a few more, but for me, I'm just trying to hit the best shot I can," Smith said. That's what I'm here to do is to hit good golf shots and make birdies."
Smith is in a three-way tie for third with Americans Will Zalatoris (65) and Trey Mullinax (66).
He is keenly aware that a victory would take him to the world No.1 ranking for the first time after current No.1 Scottie Scheffler missed the cut on Friday.
"That's been one of my goals probably since the start of the year is to try to get to that top spot," Smith said. "Try and chase it down."
Fellow Australian Adam Scott fell to tied 25th, six shots from the lead, after a round of 70, while countryman Cam Davis (67) is tied 36th at five under.
Spaun had a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th and holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the next hole to claim the 54-hole lead a 13-under 197.
Straka was right there with him until he failed to save par from the bunker on the 18th.
Both are first-time winners on the PGA Tour this year, and a victory in a FedEx Cup playoffs even carries even more weight - $A3.78 million to the winner and a guaranteed spot at East Lake for the FedEx Cup finale.
But there are a host of players in contention, with 16 within four shots of the lead, including stars Sam Burns and Tony Finau.
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