Three tours collided and Brisbane embraced it.
The fairways were lined with thousands of fans to watch star LIV Golf recruit Cameron Smith, European tour ace Ryan Fox and PGA Tour veteran Adam Scott in the Australian PGA Championship’s marquee group on Thursday.
WATCH IN THE VIDEO ABOVE: Golf superstar returns home to Australia after three years.
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The DP World Tour and PGA Tour have banned players who defected to the Saudi-backed alternative, the four majors among the few other places where that co-existence remains possible.
While the Championship is co-sanctioned with the European tour, Smith and fellow LIV Tour members Marc Leishman and Wade Ormsby have been allowed to play in Brisbane and at next week’s Australian Open.
It was a move welcomed by hundreds of golf-starved fans who were there to watch Smith tee off at 6am in his home town for the first time in three years.
“It was pretty unreal; I was more expecting (people to show up) after nine holes, or around the turn,” Smith said of the scene that greeted him on the 10th tee.
“It was cool and I think the course is going to get better and better.
“It’ll be a good weekend to watch golf.”
Smith and Leishman will play a LIV Golf event in Adelaide next year and hope to bring one to Queensland, where their insistence that the controversial rebel tour has been received well was backed up by Thursday’s buoyant crowds.
Smith’s new responsibilities as a spokesperson for LIV Golf come in a year he reached as high as No.2 in the world.
“I’ve definitely enjoyed it, but it for sure has been long,” Smith said of the build-up to Thursday’s first-round that included a Greg Norman Medal win, the keys to the city reception and constant obligations.
Scott, who has resisted temptation to join the lucrative tour and instead chase another major title in the United States, remembers when he returned for the Australian swing with the green jacket in 2013.
“(Because of) his rise to stardom this year he’s being pulled in all kinds of directions, I’m sure,” Scott said.
“But it’s something you learn pretty quickly to manage and I observe from fairly nearby; he does a really good job of focusing when he needs to and has a good support team.
“I really don’t have too many worries about Cam.
“Hopefully he can enjoy the experience as well, because that month of golf when I came home (in 2013) is one of the great memories of my career.”
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