The Aussie golfing legend reveals he is desperate for Cameron Smith to fend off a $150million offer from LIV Golf – and slammed rebel leader Greg Norman for being ‘defensive’
- 1991 Open champ Ian Baker-Finch says he urged Cam Smith to stay in PGA
- The 62-year-old holds no grudges against Smith, as he has openly moved for coin
- Baker-Finch believes the LIV is a combative tour, given Norman’s hatred of the PGA
Open champion Ian Baker-Finch has revealed he pleaded with LIV poster boy Cam Smith to pledge allegiance to the PGA – claiming the Saudi-backed league and leader Greg Norman are ‘antithetical’ to the game of golf.
When Smith called Baker-Finch about his future playing, he referred to the discussion as a father-son-like dynamic.
Ian Baker-Finch (L) talks on the course with fellow Aussie golfer Greg Norman (R) during a practice round before the Open Championship in 1999
Baker-Finch, a board member of the Australian PGA, said he tried to persuade Smith to stay with the PGA, to stake his claim as a perennial world no.1 with a belt of majors.
‘On the very last line of our conversation I said “look … if I were your father I would tell you to take the money,” the 62-year-old told News Corp.
‘I really hope Cam doesn’t go because I feel he has the ability to be No. 1 in the world and make a big name for himself just like Adam Scott has done over the years just like Greg Norman has done for himself.
‘Having said that I totally understand it. How can you turn down $150-$200 million? … I said I would love you to stay. I think you can create a really great legacy. Win more majors. Put your name at the top of the world rankings.’
Ian Baker-Finch poses with his wife Jennie (L) and daughter Hayley (C) after winning the 1991 British Open
Smith said it felt like talking to ‘his old man’ in a dull 45-minute conversation, during which he decided the money was too much to throw away.
The two-time PGA winner holds no grudge against the Aussie hero, whom he coached at the Olympics and has known since his youth at the Brisbane-based Wantima course.
However, Baker-Finch believe the LIV tour has rubbed their business the wrong way, sparking a feud with the PGA that can be attributed to Greg Norman’s undying disdain for the association.
‘He’s always had a bit of an issue on the PGA tour and he’s been given a platform to show why. It’s a shame to fight because I don’t think it needs to be that way,’ he said.
Aussie star Cam Smith lifts the LIV Chicago Invitational trophy – winning his first LIV tour event in September
Amassing just over US$2million in total while on tour, Baker-Finch respects LIV players who openly move for money.
He believes the problems lie with DP world tour players and non-PGA golfers who gain access to such a rich tour without going through the program the hard way.
The Queenslander has played 167 PGA events, made 92 cuts and is now gearing up for a massive Australian Summer filled with the likes of Smith, Leishman, Woo Lee and Ogilvy.
Greg Norman (L), Peter Thomson (C) and Ian Baker-Finch smile ahead of the 134th Open Championship – all three Aussies took the St. Andrews major
As for Smith’s major-winning future, Baker-Finch believes the PGA can’t ban him from playing in the biggest tournaments because of his impressive Open win.
The CBS sports commentator kissed the Claret Jug in 1991 after being in the final Sunday pairing in the major twice before.
He beat fellow Australian Mike Harwood and US legend Fred Couples to become the fourth man from the bottom to win the famous tournament.