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Day 1 of Tour Championship, Cam Smith, just 'as usual' in Rory McIlroy's ropes

Atlanta – This entire PGA Tour season has been one long soap opera, but two of the main protagonists didn’t offer a juicy subplot at Thursday’s Tour Championship.

Golf fans circled the 1:45pm tee times after the pairing sheets were changed due to the departure of Will Zaratris. It was as if ardent tour supporter Rory McIlroy and rumored LIV defector Cameron Smith were suddenly about to battle it out on Eastlake. For the soul of the game.

When Scotty Scheffler walked in front of Smith as he read putts and gave him a look of disbelief, it was with the same divisive energy that fueled the non-controversy early in the FedEx Cup playoffs. However, it was not a blatant display of unsporting behavior by Schaeffler. It was a temporary brain spasm. Surprised at how exaggerated the non-problem was, they even discussed silly rebuttals.

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I didn’t feel bad that day, and here in the opening round there was no cold sweat. The player may have complained privately about Smith’s position here, but McIlroy didn’t give him the cool. In fact, it’s far from that. He walked the fairway with Smith, praising him for his many good shots and chatting friendly during the long wait.

“Cam and I get along very well,” McIlroy said. “I always have it.”

Smith deflected some reports that he signed with LIV Golf and moved to rival leagues shortly after the tour season ended, but did not deny it. Smith said any definitive statement about his playing future will come directly from him, reiterating in a brief interview Wednesday that he’s just here to “hit good shots and make putts.”

Smith’s possible departure would be a major blow to the Tour and a surprise coup for LIV boss Greg Norman. Smith, of course, is neither. all Best players – Compete together more often.

McIlroy revealed Wednesday that he spoke with Smith two days after the Open Championship. At the winner’s press conference in St Andrews, Smith succinctly responded to a reporter’s question about LIV’s interest by saying the question was rudely timed and that his team handles all off-course matters. By that time, I had already had an awkward encounter. In that call, McIlroy said he wanted to provide a framework for what the next decade on Smith’s tour could look like: a showcase of stars, enhanced legacy events and wealth. Did: This is something you might be giving up on.

“I just don’t want people to hear information from one side instead of the other,” explained McIlroy.

His pitch doesn’t seem to have changed Smith’s mind, but that’s fine with McIlroy.

In recent months, he has been very clear about how he views exiles.

At the memorial service, McIlroy said he was trying to put himself in the other player’s shoes, admitting it was a personal choice.

Speaking at the Canadian Open, he said he understood from experience why some people chose to leave, even though he believed that making decisions based solely on money often didn’t work. I got

Rory fights back after ‘bad start’

During the playoff opener, he said he held no “grudges” against anyone, but some of the remaining grudges stemmed from people who wanted to return to the tour and enjoy the perks of membership. rice field.

And at Thursday’s Tour Championship, McIlroy repeated his stance once more when asked if he felt different when paired with Smith.

“It was business as usual,” he said. “I keep saying that no matter what decision someone makes or what choice they make, it doesn’t make them a bad person. It makes me disagree with them.” Of course it is, but I disagree with a lot of people I like and love.”

Still, Smith’s presence here means he could win both the Tour’s top prize this season, the Players Championship and the FedEx Cup, and step into the main rivalry the Tour is currently sparring on the court. This leaves us with a very embarrassing scenario where

Smith is still not out of controversy. Tour Staggered his start in the championship saw Smith and McIlroy enter the event six shots behind him of Schaeffler, shooting a matching 67.

BY Golf Channel Digital

It was a dismal start to the Tour Championship for Rory McIlroy, who hit his opening tee shot out of bounds.

McIlroy didn’t commit to his opening tee shot, trying to guide a cut driver in a downpour but double crossed left over the out-of-bounds fence. He made a triple bogey and added a bogey on the next hole, but somehow never managed to get out of the mix. , remained tied for sixth, but beat Schaeffler by eight strokes with 54 holes to go.

Smith’s round was more slog. Problems with Smith, who skipped last week’s event to treat a lingering hip injury, flared up again Thursday on the rain-softened spongy fairways. Smith was unable to drive to the lead hip and pushed several shots weakly right, sometimes 50 yards out wide by McIlroy.

“It’s probably been a long time since I felt like I had an impact on golf,” said Smith.

Sometimes he was dragged behind other groups and walked with the driver to ask for support. He had a Hyperice treatment gun strapped to his golf bag, like a rangefinder. But the field is short, so you have plenty of time to meet with your trainer for post-round therapy.

“I don’t feel bad,” Smith said. “Honestly, it’s probably just annoying. It’s not so bad that I can’t take my legs off. It’s not like I’ve had a severe headache. .”

For the first round at least, he hobbles around Eastlake, mostly annoyed by fans who didn’t know or care that he would be playing regular season golf elsewhere soon. It never happened. “Almost 100 million steps!” shouted one fan behind the 18-year-old to Smith, but the comments didn’t reach him.It’s a pain to push through and a tournament to win for his top players to chase. I have. The soap opera can resume in a few days.