When Cameron Smith returns home for the Australian Open and PGA in November the prestige of the titles, and the offer of rare world rankings points, loom as his greatest motivators given how swelled the Australian’s bank account has become in 2023.
Smith played arguably two of his poorest events for the year with a $28m payday on the line as LIV’s season-long individual points race came down to the wire.
Leading until the final round of the latest LIV event in Jeddah, Smith was consumed by the fast-finishing Talor Gooch, who lost a playoff to Brooks Koepka but still did enough to collect the ludicrous cash bonus.
Gooch’s Australian caddie, Mal Baker, earnt a solid shout-out from the American who has won three LIV events this year alone and nearly $50m in total, ensuring it’s been a lucrative year for his bag carrier as well.
Smith had to console himself with winning $15m for coming second, which, when added to his two individual title wins in 2023 and his “Ripper GC” team win, took his season earnings to just short of $30m.
It makes the six-figure prizes on offer for winning the Open, a title Smith is chasing hard, and the PGA, seem like pocket change.
But amid the head-spinning prize purses and the champagne showers from the winner’s podium, clouds remain over the tour’s future with a decision looming from PGA Tour boss Jay Monahan.
As part of the deal brokered with the Saudi Public Investment Fund, Monahan is set to have the final say on whether LIV survives in golf’s bold new world.
It’s hard to fathom how the PIF could continue to throw the sort of money it has at LIV, with nine-figure sign-on bonuses for players and the massive prize purses handed out over the past two years amounting to billions of dollars.
So far LIV has, apart from ticket sales and a few sponsors, created few revenue streams and not nearly enough to cover the outlay.
The PGA Tour is expecting billions to be invested in its tour, and given the quality of players LIV lured, players who remain among the world’s best despite what the official rankings say, it’s hard to fathom the one investor funding rival tours.
At least for their part, the LIV players are not hoarding their cash, with Smith reinvesting in junior academies and Gooch revealing he was going to do the same with his enormous windfall.
“My wife and I have a foundation that we started, and first and foremost it’s going to do a lot of good back home for a lot of kids. That’s going to be the focus,” he said when asked where the money would go.
“I’ve always felt that I was good enough to be a professional golfer and play against the best in the world. Now to be here to, I think, consider myself one of the best in the world, it’s what I’ve been dreaming about since I was nine years old.
“To get to this point in my career and to have this validating of a season, words can’t describe how much it means and just how satisfying it is.”