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AUGUSTA, Ga: Cameron Smith returned to the Masters on Monday with a little evaluate of trepidation, an unusual feeling for somebody who has contended two of the final three decades and who refers to Augusta Nationwide as his “happy put.”

Smith is with LIV Golfing, the last significant identify to defect to the Saudi-backed tour. And possessing read so significantly sound and sensed so much acrimony, he did not know what form of reception he would get when he walked onto the variety.

To his aid, it was the regular dose of hugs and handshakes.

“And it was nice,” Smith explained to the most significant collecting of the working day in the job interview space.

The British Open up champion was the only LIV golfer on the interview plan, a courtesy Augusta Countrywide affords all the reigning significant champions irrespective of in which they engage in.

What was he expecting?

“I was not truly guaranteed, to be straightforward,” Smith explained. “I was just form of allowing it all come about in a natural way — went out to the range and did my things and yeah, it was just a truly wonderful working experience. … I think there’s a great deal of stuff heading on at the moment that does not want to be going on, particularly in the media. I imagine it’s undoubtedly wound up a small little bit way too significantly.”

This Masters has a complete plate of exercise, and LIV Golf would appear to be the primary course.

Smith has not competed from the best of the PGA Tour considering that the Tour Championship last August. For the likes of Dustin Johnson, it’s been a little more time.

It didn’t take lengthy for the combine of gamers from two tours to result in a stir. The exercise round tee sheet outlined a most tantalizing foursome of Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Tom Kim and Bryson DeChambeau, who complained only final week that Woods experienced cut him off ever considering that the former US Open up winner went to LIV.

Turns out it was a Masters blend-up. The fourth was Rory McIlroy, the loudest PGA Tour supporter more than the last yr.

Couples has produced his ideas very clear, a short while ago stating at a PGA Tour Champions breakfast that Phil Mickelson was a “nut bag” and Sergio Garcia a “clown.”

Couples, the 1992 Masters winner and continue to immensely common, suggests he has no private beef with either and would have no trouble sitting down with them at the Masters Club dinner on Tuesday night or playing in the same team.

“I have no trouble with any of them,” Couples claimed. “Just be sure to do not bash a tour that I have 43 decades invested in. It bothers the hell out of me. They never hassle me. They definitely don’t. They are golfers. I’m a golfer. I respect them all.”

The Masters typically releases tee moments on Tuesday afternoon, and that has turn into an occasion to see which LIV players — 18 of them are at the Masters — will be in the very same team as PGA Tour loyalists.

Shane Lowry performed with two LIV golfers — Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen — at the US Open past summer time. Adam Scott played with Johnson and Marc Leishman at St. Andrews.

“Look, certainly there is likely to be some pairings that are going to be appealing this 7 days,” Lowry said. “I generally say this about qualified golfers. We all operate in the similar workplace. If you perform in the similar office, you are not going to like absolutely everyone in there. Similar way as this. I met Dustin on the range — I constantly get on perfectly with Dustin. It was excellent to see him.”

“There’s a whole lot to buzz,” Lowry explained. “But if you are paired with whoever, you really don’t actually care about what they are accomplishing. You are just seeking to win the tournament.”

One question about LIV golfers is how a lot they are playing, as the new circuit has experienced only a few events in 2023. Smith played five situations likely into the Masters final calendar year, and he briefly challenged Scottie Scheffler until the Texan pulled absent to earn his initially key.

This 12 months he has performed 4 instances — the only 72-hole party was the Saudi Global on the Asian Tour, the place he skipped the slash. That was adopted by a few 54-gap LIV events, the previous two ending out of the leading 20.

Smith is not in peak form, which he attributes to a extended crack at dwelling in Australia through the offseason. But Augusta Countrywide tends to bring out the most effective in him, and he’s hoping the superior vibes will direct to a terrific overall performance.

If not him, then Smith would like to see an additional LIV player with a shot at the environmentally friendly jacket.

“I assume it is just important for LIV men to be up there because I imagine we have to have to be up there,” Smith mentioned. “I think there’s a whole lot of chatter about these fellas never enjoy real golf, these guys never play real golfing courses. For sure, I’ll be the to start with just one to say, the fields are not as strong. I’m the 1st 1 to say that.

“But we’ve still got a large amount of men up there that can engage in some truly serious golfing, and we contend from each individual other tough 7 days-in and week-out and we’re striving to do the exact items that we did six months ago.”

Brooks Koepka is coming off a a single-shot victory past 7 days in LIV Golfing-Orlando, exactly where the greens ended up crusty and brown and speedy. It was played on the Crooked Cat class at Orange County National, in which the PGA Tour applied to stage Q-university.

Johnson was requested about any similarities concerning Crooked Cat and Augusta Nationwide.

“I really do not think you could have individuals in the similar sentence, other than I played there previous week and I’m participating in here this 7 days,” Johnson claimed.