Aussie LIV golfer reveals 'insane' truth behind controversial series

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Aussie golfer Travis Smyth has revealed the extent of backlash he's faced on social media after joining the LIV Golf series. Pic: Getty
Aussie golfer Travis Smyth has revealed the extent of backlash he's faced on social media after joining the LIV Golf series. Pic: Getty

Australian golfer Travis Smyth has shed light on the ugly backlash he and other LIV Golf recruits have faced after agreeing to join the Saudi-backed breakaway competition.

Smyth may be one of the lower profile golfers to sign up for Greg Norman's controversial series, but the World No. 429 says he has been targeted with messages of hate by golfing fans all the same.

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Norman is the CEO of LIV Golf, which has has been bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Private Investment Fund, which has given the Aussie great a reported $3 billion war chest to try and lure some of the world's best golfers.

Major winners such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson are among the high-profile recruits to the controversial series, which has been accused of "sportswashing" by using golf to help Saudi Arabia to improve its tarnished reputation around human rights abuses.

During last week's third and final LIV event for 2022 at former US President Donald Trump's course in Bedminster, New Jersey, Mickelson and other players were heckled by spectators throughout the three-day invitational tournament.

One spectator could be heard yelling: “You work for the Saudi royal family” before Mickelson hit a tee shot.

Seen here, Former US President Donald Trump is seen here shakes hands with Phil Mickelson during the LIV Golf Invitational in New Jersey.
Former US President Donald Trump is seen here shaking hands with Phil Mickelson during the LIV Golf Invitational in Bedminster, New Jersey. Pic: Getty

The tournament was also overshadowed by protests by families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, pointing to the fact that 19 of the terrorists involved were Saudi nationals.

Trump himself came under fire for explosive comments to reporters before the tournament after claiming that “nobody’s gotten to the bottom” of the September 11 terrorist attacks during a controversial defence of the LIV Golf event.

Smyth - whose only professional victory came in a 2017 Northern Territory PGA tournament - says the anger against many of the LIV rebels has been "insane" on social media.

The 27-year-old has made close to one million dollars in just three events after making the switch to LIV, despite not finishing higher than 22nd in any of the 48-man competitions.

While he is by no means one of the more high-profile LIV stars, Smyth says he's still had to take measures in response to a wave of vitriol on social media.

“As much as I’d like to interact with everyone on Twitter, I’ll be switching off my comments to people I don’t follow,” he posted on Twitter.

“The amount of negative comments from strangers is insane. FYI to the people who don’t know who I am, I’ll be just fine doing what I love without you knowing me.”

Henrik Stenson wins in first LIV Golf start

One man who's likely to have few regrets about joining LIV is sacked European Ryder Cup captain Stenson, who marked his first tournament with victory at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey.

Stenson's high-profile switch paid immediate dividends as he pocketed more than $AUD6 million in his very first tournament.

Having just last month been stripped of his Ryder Cup captaincy after moving to Greg Norman's Saudi-backed series - Stenson won the LIV Golf Invitational and also placed second in the team's event.

The Swede carded a final round of 69 at Bedminster to claim victory by two shots over Dustin Johnson and Matthew Wolff, and pocket the individual first prize of $US4million ($AUD5.7m).

The 46-year-old also earned $US375,000 US dollars ($AUD537,570) as part of the Majesticks team - along with Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sam Horsfield - which finished second in the team competition.

"I guess we can agree I played like a captain," Stenson joked in a post-round interview on LIV Golf's YouTube stream.

"It's been a good first week obviously. Nice to be here with the guys getting a feel for it. It's been a busy 10 days and I'm extremely proud I managed to finish as well as I did.

"Got a little wobbly at the end but that (par) putt on 17 was massive."

Since turning pro in 1999, Stenson has eclipsed the US$4 million mark just twice in his PGA Tour career, highlighting the extraordinary sums of prize money that are on offer for golfers in the rebel competition.

Incredibly, that was all in just three days work for Stenson.

The big payoff — not including a signing bonus reported to be about US$50 million ($AUD72 million) — comes less than two weeks after he 46-year-old Swede decided to join the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series.

Stenson had pledged full support to the European tour when he became Ryder Cup captain in March, before being stripped of the job four months later when he changed his mind.

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