Greg Norman is being accused of robbing Cameron Smith of the chance to forge one of golf’s great careers after luring the British Open champion to his Saudi-backed rebel league.
Polarising analyst Brandel Chamblee compared Smith’s short-game wizardry to that of legends Seve Ballesteros and Tom Watson, and says the Australian looked on a path towards multiple major championship victories after reigning at St Andrews last July.
Instead, Smith is unable to even defend his title at this week’s prestigious Players Championship in Florida after being suspended from the PGA Tour.
Smith lives at Jacksonville Beach, 10 minutes from Players Stadium, and is fishing buddies with course superintendent Jeff Plotts, yet is persona non grata at TPC Sawgrass after, Chamblee says, being misguided by his idol Norman.
“It’s ironic to me that it might possibly be an Aussie that will keep another Aussie in Cameron Smith possibly from ascending to a spot where he’s considered the greatest player of all time (from Australia),” Chamblee told the Golf Channel.
“Supplanting Peter Thomson, he had that kind of talent.
“Norman didn’t get there but (Smith) could have easily supplanted Greg Norman as the second-best player of all time from Australia. That’s at least in my view where Cameron Smith was headed.
“That’s what he’s turned his back on and a lot of it has to do with Greg Norman, and Cam Smith got a lot of bad advice from his agents and other people in the game around him trying to suck him into LIV.”
Chamblee misses watching Smith play on the PGA Tour.
“He had the potential to be an absolute great player,” he said.
“If you look at the qualities that he had, the age that he was, he was a great scrambler – and is likely (still) – a great scrambler, great putter, a great shot maker.
“Players like Tom Watson come to mind. At the age of 25 until (Watson) was 35, he had 35 wins, won eight major championships, really hit his stride at 27, which is what Cam Smith was last year.
“Twenty-seven, 28, 29, five wins, five wins, five wins in each of those years. Seven wins when he was 30 years of age, these prime years.
“And when you think of Seve Ballesteros, from the time he was 22 until he was 31 he won five majors.
“He set the world on fire and was fairly much the same type of player that we saw in Cameron Smith last year at St Andrews.
“These are exciting players – scramblers, they’re unpredictable, they break your heart and then they do monumentally unbelievable things.”
Smith, still world No.5 despite not receiving rankings points playing LIV Golf, remains eligible to contest the four annual majors for at least five years.
But Chamblee fears the Queenslander – and other LIV stars like former Masters champion Dustin Johnson – will lack a competitive edge at Augusta National next month for the season’s first major.
“You cannot convince me that week in and week out playing against the very best players in the very best competitions doesn’t make you sharper,” he said.
“Think where they are going to be a week before the Masters, typically the best players in the world in the week before the Masters go in, get a sense of how the golf course is playing and then maybe go home and practice on like conditions with like grasses.
“(The LIV players are) going to be in Orlando at Crooked Cat, putting on grainy Bermuda (grass).
“It’s no way to prepare for a major championship.”