Smith's glaring absence from The Players Championship
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan concedes it's "awkward" not having Cameron Smith defending his Players Championship title as golf's civil war hits home at the tour's richest tournament.
Smith is the first player to miss a title defence at TPC Sawgrass for non-injury reasons, after joining the LIV Golf League.
His absence leaves fellow former winners Jason Day and Adam Scott to head up the Australian challenge at Ponte Vedra Beach.
As is custom, the national flag of the reigning champion continues to fly at TPC Sawgrass, where Smith often practises on the range while living 10 minutes away at Jacksonville Beach.
The world No.5 is also fishing mates with course superintendent Jeff Plotts, while Smith's name is on the wall of champions in the locker room, he still has a locker and the clubs the Queenslander used last year remain on display in the clubhouse.
But the suspended star's other privileges are gone, including his designated parking spot as defending champion, with Smith banned from entering the property.
It is a far cry from last year, when Monahan feted Smith for his 10-birdie final round to claim the biggest cheque in golf.
"Cam doesn't live far from here and every time he pulls his car up the main road, he's going to receive a hero's welcome," Monahan said at the time.
Fast forward 12 months and Smith is among five players from last year's top 10 to have moved to LIV Golf.
"To answer your question directly, yes, it's awkward," Monahan told reporters on Tuesday when asked about Smith not being part of the 144-player field.
"But, you know, ultimately that's a decision he made, and we've got an unbelievable field here this week, and a history and tradition that one of these 144 is going to go seek to get."
While world No.1 Jon Rahm feels the winner of any event deserves the right to defend their title he was not about to lobby for Smith to be in this week's field.
"We're talking about different circumstances right now," Rahm said.
"Some players made a choice of going to a different golf league knowing that they weren't going to be allowed to play here. And yes, this is a massive event. It is very close to a major quality event, but it's still a PGA Tour event.
"So with that regard, no, I don't think just him should be allowed to be here."
World No.35 Scott is instead Australia's highest-ranked player in the field.
As ever, Scott has arrived back at the scene of his 2004 Players victory inspired by the memories of his second-ever PGA Tour win.
"Winning The Players in '04 was a little unexpected but I found myself playing well that week," the former world No.1 said.
"I got off to a great start, I was in the mix early on and I managed to hang on late on Sunday, and really at that time put me on the springboard to be one of the best players in the world.
"It was a really big deal. The Players was a tournament that in Australia I grew up watching.
"Steve Elkington won it a couple of times, Greg Norman won it, it was known as the strongest field in the game on one of the most severe golf courses in the game.
"To come up on top, it was really such an amazing feeling. It proved to myself that I could beat the best."
Along with Scott and Day, Min Woo Lee, Lucas Herbert and Cam Davis round out Australia's five-strong contingent teeing up at the $US25 million ($A37m) event.