When Adam Scott drained that putt in the Augusta rain, bellowed ‘c’mon Aussie’, and went on to claim the green jacket, the present was glorious but the future also looked bright.
The same could be said when Jason Day outlasted Jordan Spieth at Whistling Straits two years later — his triumph reducing him to a bubbling mess on the 18th green.
Scott’s breakthrough hadn’t opened the floodgates to more majors as hoped, but it mattered not for Australia, because now Day stood on top of the world.
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Seven years removed from that glorious moment in Australian golf and the nation only celebrated another men’s major victory last month.
Cameron Smith was the player to break the drought.
And just like Scott’s and Day’s maiden major wins before him, Smith’s shapes as yet another false dawn.
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Smith appears all but certain to abandon the pursuit of multiple major victories in favour of linking up with fellow Australian Greg Norman at his Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
His departure, should it be confirmed as widely expected, represents the biggest coup yet for LIV Golf, whose threat to the establishment grows in legitimacy by the week.
There is still a long way to go — tournaments don’t carry world ranking points, only last for three days, and every player is financially rewarded — handsomely, too — regardless of how they play.
But in capturing the world No.2 and freshly crowned Champion Golfer of the Year, LIV Golf has proven it’s a force to be reckoned with, and not just a landing area for over-the-hill stars and their fringe player supplements.
Even so, the feeling of sadness will be hard to avoid for those who have spent their lives worshipping the game, and therefore the four majors that have underpinned it for nearly a century.
The most successful male golfer Australia has had at the majors is Peter Thomson, who claimed five, albeit all Open Championships in the 1950s and 1960s.
Since then, Norman’s major tally of two — also both Claret Jugs — was desperately below his potential. The same could be said for Scott’s one win given few have ever had more talent, or swung the club as well, as Scott. Day also has the ability to win several majors, but his body seemingly does not.
Which eventually brought us to Smith, whose perfect combination of skill and temperament was always destined to deliver him to greatness.
He arrived last month, having shot down Rory McIlroy at golf’s oldest major with an eight-under final round for the ages.
Smith’s freakish short-game made him look like the player that was going to finally stamp an Australian’s authority on the men’s majors. Now we might never know.
Instead, Smith will reportedly join a tour that is streamed online, will likely compete in a team called ‘Punch GC’, and may never play in a major tournament again.
Smith will be acutely aware of the disappointment his defection will deliver to many.
Among his first comments after hoisting the Claret Jug were the four words: “This one’s for Aus.”
He then celebrated at the Old Course Hotel with a number of his countrymen, including Scott, and even members of the Australian media.
He gets it. After all, he grew up watching those from abroad dominating the majors, too.
In his defection, however, is sobering proof that the system is not infallible.
Smith earnt $1.5 million (AUD $2.1m) less for winning the coveted Open Championship than what Henrik Stenson did in a three-day LIV Golf event weeks later.
Is this really a situation that should be accepted?
Golfers can make fortunes in quicktime, but it’s only a select few who can be guaranteed of generational wealth on the PGA Tour — namely through endorsement deals and not prize money.
Smith is not Rory McIlroy. He’s certainly not Tiger Woods. He’s a softly-spoken Queenslander from a blue collar background who’s always preferred to let his golf do the talking.
Admirable as that may be, it won’t make him the pin-up boy for Nike, or have him plastered on the cover of the next 2K Sports video game, any time soon.
His PGA Tour career earnings of $26,892,964 (AUD $38.5m) is large, but it’s taken him seven years to earn and there’s no guarantee of long-lasting form.
And what’s to say Smith intends on playing for decades yet anyway? For all we know, Smith is trying to plot his path to an early retirement.
In joining LIV Golf, Smith can quadruple his playing earnings with one signature and secure his future in a way he never could on the PGA Tour.
Norman has known of these shortcomings for more than 30 years. Now he’s exploiting them, having secured a seemingly bottomless well of money — as controversial as the source may be — to do so.
It should be said that a LIV Golf membership is yet to disqualify players from any of the four majors. However, all four are closely aligned with either the US PGA Tour, or Europe’s DP World Tour, which have both taken hardline stances against their defectors.
As such, it’s not unrealistic to expect all four majors to place a caveat on its exemptions list barring dual members of LIV Golf from playing.
Such a determination would surely lead to yet another messy legal battle. Although, it was suggested last month by R&A chief Martin Slumbers, that an easier way to get such a ruling across the line would be to exclude any players that have been suspended from one of the traditional tours on any grounds.
That list currently includes every PGA Tour or DP World Tour member to have teed it up at a LIV Golf event since June, including former major winners Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson.
In time, many LIV Golf members won’t qualify for the majors anyway by virtue of their tumbling world ranking, given they don’t earn any points on the breakaway tour.
The situation becomes murkier for former major winners, however, whose previous victories give them exemptions at each major.
For example, under 2022’s criteria, an Open Championship win gives Smith a five-year exemption at the Masters, PGA Championship and the US Open, and a 10-year exemption at The Open.
Smith has done the calculations, however, and is prepared to lose those privileges in a seismic career change that offers no guarantees, other than a reported $100 million (AUD$141m) sign-on fee.
What comes next is anyone’s guess. LIV Golf understands the importance of the majors to its members, hence why even its expanded 2023 schedule will still tip-toe around them.
Even so, the power is in the hands of the four majors, while Norman is certain there’s a bigger and better way than the majors-obsessed model anyway.
Whether his LIV Golf model is the better way we cannot definitively say yet. The lack of prestige and world ranking points still loom as significant roadblocks to elevating LIV Golf from the perception of being a glorified exhibition.
Nonetheless, even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, according to a Chinese proverb. Norman has finally got to take his.
Now we wait to see where this journey takes him and, in turn, Smith.
Either way, it’ll be down a route that Australian fans never dreamt of — and that includes Smith.