FedEx Cup Playoffs: Justin Thomas, Cameron Smith battle amid LIV-PGA controversy

·4 min read

PGA vs. LIV Golf debate lingers at 2022 FedEx Cup Playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The 2022 FedEx Cup Playoffs began Thursday morning as the St. Jude Championship teed off at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn.

The PGA Tour playoffs look a little different this year thanks to the absence of several familiar names: Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, and Brooks Koepka -- all of whom have left the tour since the 2021 postseason to join the new, Saudi-funded LIV Golf series.

Turbulence has been a common theme throughout the 2022 PGA season, and the week leading up to the first playoff event was no different.

Less than 48 hours before the competition teed off in Memphis, a federal judge in California ruled that LIV golfers Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford would not be able to compete in the PGA Tour's postseason.

The three suspended golfers were seeking a temporary restraining order, which U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman denied.

A small win for the PGA? Perhaps, but a much larger defeat is waiting in the wings.

Cameron Smith, the No. 2-ranked golfer in the world and the winner of the 2022 Open Championship at St Andrews, reportedly is joining LIV after the FedEx Cup. The Australian golfer tried to quell the rumors that countryman Cameron Percy started earlier in the week.

"My goal here is to win the FedEx Cup playoffs. That’s all I’m here for," Smith told reporters Wednesday when asked about his reported $100-million deal with LIV.

"If there’s something I need to say regarding the PGA Tour or LIV, it will come from Cameron Smith, not Cameron Percy. I’m a man of my word and whenever you guys need to know anything, it will be said by me."

Smith, who sat one-under through eight holes on Thursday morning after a hole-out eagle on the 13th, acknowledged he was looking forward to next month's PGA's Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte. He technically would be ineligible for that event if he signed with LIV and played at the LIV Golf Invitational in Boston on Labor Day weekend (Sept. 2-4).

When pressed again by the media to answer questions about his connection to LIV, Smith repeated the FedEx playoffs were the only thing he was willing to discuss ahead of the St. Jude Championship.

"I’m here to play the FedEx Cup playoffs, mate. That’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to win the FedEx Cup playoffs, that’s my priority," he said.

Marc Leishman, who Percy also alleged was leaving the PGA for LIV, was tied for first-round leader as of 11:45 a.m. ET Thursday. Leishman was five-under through 11 holes, tied with American J.T. Poston who was five-under through 10 holes.

Justin Thomas, the No. 7-ranked golfer in the world, sat four strokes off the leaderboard on Thursday after battling through the front nine at TPC Southwind. A day prior, he didn't hold back when asked what his thoughts were on LIV golfers playing in PGA events.

"You can have your cake, but you don't need to eat it, too," Thomas said. "And they got their fair share of a large, large amount of cake and go eat it on your own means. You don't need to bring it onto our tour."

Here's an up-to-the-minute look at the St. Jude leaderboard.

How to watch the 2022 St. Jude Championship

Golf Channel will have complete coverage of the event on Thursday and Friday, along with early coverage on the weekend. NBC will have the bulk of the action on Saturday and Sunday.

Here are the dates and times for TV coverage:

  • Thursday, Aug. 11: 3-7 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

  • Friday, Aug. 12: 3-7 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

  • Saturday, Aug. 13: 1-3 p.m. ET on Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m. ET on NBC

  • Sunday, Aug. 14: 12-2 p.m. ET on Golf Channel, 2-6 p.m. ET on NBC

The tournament can also be streamed on Peacock, and the NBC Sports app.