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JR Smith Wants To Elevate Golf and His Game

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
J.R. Smith discusses his own golf game, how the PGA Tour can improve, and its competition with LIV Golf as we head into The Masters.

As we hit Masters weekend, fans, amateur players, and weekend warriors alike dream of competing at Augusta National. And maybe, if they dream hard enough, donning the iconic green jacket.

North Carolina A&T student-athlete J.R. Smith is certainly no exception in the golf world. In an extended conversation with Boardroom as he promoted his four-part Amazon docuseries Redefined, the 37-year-old former two-time NBA champion and Sixth Man of the year discussed adapting to making golf his primary athletic focus and how it changed the way he views the game.

“It’s hard because everybody has their own swing and their own game,” Smith told Boardroom. “You can mimic your game after somebody, but if you don’t hit it as far as that person or you don’t have the touch around the green as that person, it can work to an extent, but it just won’t fully work.”

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Smith said Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, and Brooks Koepka are some of his favorite players, and while he admires all those players’ swings, there’s something different about McIlroy.

“It’s funny because though Rory’s the smallest one out all of them, he probably hits the furthest,” he said. “But with DJ and Brooks, when I see people like 6’4, 6’5, my size, hitting balls and having that touch around the greens, that’s what I really like. JT probably has the best short game, but Rory probably has the best looking swing.”

The former Cavs, Lakers, Knicks, and Nuggets star hopes to play at Augusta this summer. He also aims to cross Oakmont, Marion, Pebble Beach, and Whistling Straits off his bucket list soon. But he said that it’s the WM Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, with its raucous, fun, loose atmosphere, that the PGA Tour should emulate in order to be more successful moving forward.

“If they have two or three more events like that a year, it would bring more people in,” Smith said. “You know how old and stuffy golf is. It’s at a time where if it’s really trying to peak, you got to really bring those loud and rowdy fans, and guys are going to have to play through their swings. If you really want to change the game, that’s the main thing.”

Meanwhile it seems like the PGA Tour and LIV Golf won’t wage too much of a war of words as their players compete this weekend at Augusta. Smith thinks there’s room for both as any competition in golf is healthy for the game.

“It made the PGA pivot and now there’s so many different things that have come from it in a great situation for the players,” Smith said. “For the older guys like Phil and those, it’s a great situation. You still get to see your heroes golfing, playing competitively. They let you wear shorts and stuff like that. So it definitely gives a different, fun element. And that’s what the game is all about at the end of the day. Obviously you want to win and compete, and take it seriously to an extent, but you also want to have fun. That’s the first thing I teach my kids when they play in any sport. If you don’t have fun playing it, then we’re not playing it.”

Here’s to hoping a tradition unlike any other this weekend also manages to blend in a little bit of fun.

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About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.