Peter Fitzsimons called out as Cameron Smith comment backfires

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
Christian Welch and Peter FitzSimons are pictured left and right, with a headshot of Cameron Smith inset.
Cameron Smith's LIV Golf move sparked a war of words online between Melbourne Storm star Christian Welch and prominent rugby writer Peter FitzSimons. Pictures: Getty Images

Golfer Cameron Smith's defection from the PGA Tour to the LIV Series has sparked heated debate in the Australian sporting world, with rugby writer Peter FitzSimons clashing with a prominent NRL star over the move.

Smith, the world No.2 and reigning British Open champion, left the golf world shocked but not neccesarily surprised when it was announced he had signed a deal with an eye-watering A$145 million sign-on bonus.

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Rumours had swirled for months that Smith was planning on eventually joining the breakaway Greg Norman-fronted series, which is backed by major investment from Saudi Arabia.

The staggering Saudi Arabian wealth behind the LIV series has lead to criticism the PGA Tour rival has been founded to help 'sportswash' over the Middle Eastern nation's poor human rights record.

FitzSimons has been a vocal critic of the LIV series, suggesting it was bringing 'blood money' into the sport and that the sport would ultimately be left worse off overall.

However unwittingly though, FitzSimons copped criticism from an unlikely source in Melbourne Storm star Christian Welch, with the Storm prop accusing the prominent writer of hypocrisy.

The former rugby great appeared in advertisements for UberEats back in 2018, with Welch suggesting on Twitter that the company had also benefited from Saudi investment - and so had FitzSimons, albeit indirectly.

Welch also suggested major companies such as airline manufacturer Boeing and coffee chain Starbucks had also profited from Saudi investment.

“Same money funding LIV invested in Uber, Boeing and Starbucks. Are you complicit when you get a ride home or a cappuccino?” he wrote.

“How far does it go? I don’t recall the same outrage at those companies, but dare a golfer accept the cash offer.”

In a second post, Welch posted an image of FitzSimons appearing in an UberEats ad, saying he was sharing it to 'illustrate my point' but acknowledging it was still an indirect flow of money.

Cameron Smith defends LIV Golf move after criticism

Smith said he couldn't ignore the massive money on offer - reportedly a $A145 million sign-on fee from the Saudi-backed organisation - while the prospect of playing a shortened schedule and the chance to spend more time living and competing in Australia were also lures.

Players jumping to LIV Golf risk being cut out of the four majors - the measure of golfing greatness - when their world rankings points drop off.

LIV is seeking to have Official World Golf Ranking sanction its small field, no-cut tournaments, but its chances of success remain unclear.

But Smith, who is just reaching his peak, won't have that problem unless the major championships change their qualifying rules.

He already had a three-year exemption for all four majors from his Players Championship triumph in March and pushed that out to five years when victorious at St Andrews in July.

Cameron Smith is pictured holding the British Open trophy.
Cameron Smith's British Open championship preceded his move to LIV Golf, which had been rumoured for months before it was announced. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Organisers of the majors have not changed their qualifying rules but the 29-year-old Queenslander could still one day find himself on the outside looking in as, for now, he can no longer earn world ranking points.

"It's really a shame that we are not getting world ranking points out here," Smith said ahead of his LIV Golf debut this week outside Boston.

"To have 48 of the best guys around the world playing, and not to get world ranking points, is perhaps a little bit unfair.

"It's still super competitive out here. I just really think it's a little bit unfair."

While LIV Golf has lured players away from the PGA Tour with staggering sums of money, the financial windfall could come at a cost for those still looking to compete in the Masters, PGA Championship, US Open and British Open.

LIV Golf's application to the Official World Golf Ranking board — which consists of representatives from the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, USGA, R&A, PGA of America and Augusta National — is under review.

With AAP

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