Open triumph would be stained if Cameron Smith makes Saudi switch

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Open triumph would be stained if Cameron Smith makes Saudi switch

It is the way of these things.

There is good news and there is bad news, the heights of the former putting the depths of the latter into context.

Overnight, our own Cameron Smith – no, not him, the other one – won the British Open in stunning fashion! It wasn’t just that, on no less than the 150th staging of the famous event, he secured one of the most coveted trophies in sport at St Andrews itself. It was the way he did it. It was, friends, a triumph for the Australian Way, or at least the way we like to see ourselves at our best. If the Man from Snowy River was a golfer, he’d play like Smith does. With a dipping of the lid to Banjo . . .

When they reached St Andrews’ summit, even Rory took a pull,
It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
For the wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full,
Of sand traps, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let his instincts have their head,
He swung his driver round and gave a cheer,

And he thumped the ball down the fairway like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.

Yes, yes, yes, I know.

Australian golfer Cameron Smith holding the famous Claret Jug after winning the British Open.

Australian golfer Cameron Smith holding the famous Claret Jug after winning the British Open.Credit:Getty

Jingoistic claptrap, hairy-chested hyperbole and I should be better than that. But I’m not, and besides it’s you who doesn’t get it. That really is the way Smith plays, and it is so bloody refreshing. Up against a few highly skilled artisans like Rory McIlroy and a whole bunch of robotic and humourless automatons, who thrash about playing the percentage game, Smith only knows one way to play. He backs himself each and every time, and this victory for sport’s famed Ye Olde Claret Jug was also one for Have a Go Ya Mug!

On the first and second days, the Queenslander registered scores of 67 and 64 to sit atop the leaderboard. On the third day, it didn’t work and he blew out to a 73, including a double bogey as he dropped back to four behind the leaders. Did Smith blink? Did he falter? Did he pull his bloody head in? He did not.


He sent the flint stones flying, but the golfer kept his feet,
He cleared the fallen timbers in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat,
It was grand to see that mountain golfer drive.

He played the same way he always does, registering another 64, as he mowed down all his competitors including McIlroy – with eight birdies, of which five were successive – for a final total of a 20 under 268. This beat Tiger Woods’ old record for the British Open by a stroke!

Bravo, bravo, bravo.

But the bad news is troubling.

When asked afterwards about whether he had any intention of joining Greg Norman’s execrable Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournament, a classic exercise in “sportswashing” – using billions of dollars put towards sport, in an effort to change their appalling image – Smith prevaricated.

“I just won the British Open, and you’re asking about that,” he faltered. “I think that’s ... not that good.”

No, Cameron, it is a legitimate question, and no less than the question du jour for all leading golfers, and no one more than you, given your newly minted pre-eminence. So let the journalist persist. Might you join this appalling tournament, or not?

“I don’t know, mate,” Smith replied. “My team around me worries about all that stuff. I’m here to win golf tournaments.”

Your what? Your “team”?

Here’s what you should have said, mate, lickety-split.

LIV Golf boss Greg Norman was not invited to the 150th British Open celebrations.

LIV Golf boss Greg Norman was not invited to the 150th British Open celebrations.Credit:Getty

“Are you freaking serious? I have just won one of the most prestigious sporting trophies in the world. It is steeped in tradition, in history, in glory. Do you really think I would go from that to being a pariah by playing in Greg Norman’s tournament, soaked in the blood of dissidents and gays, 81 of whom - in the largest mass execution in the kingdom’s modern history - just a few months ago had their heads lopped off in the public square of the Saudi Arabian capital? You do know, yes, that Mohammed bin Salman’s – Norman’s boss and the one behind the tournament – is the same one who the US believes sent in 15 of his thugs to murder the uppity Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul back in 2018? That they cut him apart with an electric saw? You think Phil Mickelson was kidding when he called these people ‘scary mother-f---kers’? Do you think I’d go from the glory of what I have just achieved, to the ignominy of associating with Saudi murderers, no matter how much money they threw at me? The answer is, NO.”

How this will play out is not obvious.

Hopefully, if Smith has indeed talked to Norman about joining the tour, he will come to his senses, run screaming from the room and burn the clothes he was in at the time. He will remain the new Australian sporting hero, bar none, an everyman Australian bloke, who just happens to be one of the best and most thrilling golfers in the world, who nevertheless recognises that there are more important things than making money, starting with not associating with Saudi murderers. (And yes, I did see President Joe Biden bumping fists with Mohammed bin Salman overnight – what was he thinking?)


As to reports that Norman’s filthy tournament might make its way to Sydney later in the year, please, no. The whole thing is a disgrace, and any Sydney golf club that countenances hosting it will be permanently stained.

Expect protests, starting with decent members who will resign in exactly that.

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