If a tree falls in the forest without anyone hearing it, does it make a sound? By similar logic, if Cameron Smith putts to win on the LIV Tour, does anyone beyond his orbit really care?
You’ve done well this year, Smith. The best golfer in the world? It’s hard to argue against a guy who won the Tournament of Champions, the Players’ Championship and the Open, before this weekend’s rebel alliance meeting in Chicago.
The biggest prize Smith won in those tough times was £3m at the Players, considered to be the fifth biggest in golf, and he picked up just over £2m at the Open nine weeks ago.
The Tournament of Champions was worth £1.3 million. That putt he holed in Chicago added £3.5 million to his fishing boat and some more to his frame of mind, because what he shared afterwards was eye-opening. A little sad, too.
World No. 3 Cameron Smith (pictured) claimed victory in Chicago at the LIV Golf Invitational
Australian Smith secured a three-shot victory in the second LIV Series event in Chicago
“I feel like I needed to prove to myself, and probably more to other people, just because I’ve switched tours doesn’t mean I’m a worse player,” he said.
Here’s the thing: no one thought he was a worse golfer, just a less relevant one. And now he is less relevant, indisputably and tragically.
Going by a basic set of weekend numbers, we can gauge an interesting finding about the current attractiveness of the top three tours: the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and LIV.
Each had what might be called their best scenario for a quiet week on the golf calendar. For the PGA Tour, it was a mind-boggling capitulation at the Fortinet Championship, where Danny Willett hit a three-pointer from inside four feet to gift Max Homa a win.
It was only their second Saudi-backed series event, but they still have far fewer viewers.
What the field lacked in stellar depth it made up for in drama, and social media figures from the PGA Tour back up that view: A video of Willett’s collapse had been viewed more than 600,000 times at the time of this writing.
A few hours earlier, we saw the conclusion of the DP World Tour Italian Open. It had little context of being played out on the Ryder Cup course, and it had a good ending, with Robert MacIntyre beating Matt Fitzpatrick in a tiebreaker.
The Tour video of the winning putt has been viewed some 100,000 times. It didn’t break the internet, as they say, but it did have its place.
And then there’s LIV. His new boy, Smith, won a tournament where Dustin Johnson played exceptional golf.
To beat him, Smith was immense, shown by his fall over a bunker in the 11th in his final round that required a soft landing in an area the size of a beer coaster. He pulled it off: Again, talent isn’t the issue there and neither is top-class competition.
LIV’s post of Smith’s winning putt had been viewed by 30,000 people by Monday afternoon.
The invisibility is. Even before getting into politics and his origin story, sports fans seem to care very little about actual golf: LIV’s post of Smith’s winning putt had been viewed by 30,000 people as of Monday afternoon.
Again, these are little slivers of the world of metrics. And we know that LIV will grow considerably, especially once its presence normalizes over time.
But perhaps what we are currently seeing is disregard for an entity where money is nakedly presented as the greatest commodity of all.
As fans, we can sympathize with Willett and we can be happy for Homa, who once missed 15 cuts in 17 tournaments.
We can also root for MacIntyre, who came so close to Ryder Cup selection last year and has now planted a flag in Rome for next year. But Smith and his growing wealth? Whatever floats your superyacht, I guess.
Smith celebrates with girlfriend Shanel Naoum on the final day of the LIV Golf Invitational – Chicago
Credit to Danny Willett. Players who suffered much less irritating losses slipped off the fields long before the microphones appeared, but the 2016 Masters champion stayed on after his three-putt horror show in Napa and did interviews. “It’s a shame how I ended up, but that’s golf,” he said. ‘Let’s do it again another day.’
Dare we say it, but Pat Perez has a thing going for LIV. He has yet to finish better than 15th on his own ball in any of his tournaments, but by virtue of being Dustin Johnson’s Four Aces partner in the team event, he has put £2.6m down his pants.