Aussie golfing legend reveals he was desperate for Cameron Smith to shun the $150million offer from LIV Golf – and slams rebel leader Greg Norman for being so ‘combative’
- 1991 Open champ Ian Baker-Finch said he urged Cam Smith to stay PGA bound
- The 62-year-old holds no grudge against Smith, as he openly shifted for the coin
- Baker-Finch believes the LIV is a combative tour, due to Norman’s hate for PGA
Open champion Ian Baker-Finch has revealed he pleaded with LIV poster boy Cam Smith to pledge allegiance to the PGA – saying the Saudi-backed league and leader Greg Norman are ‘combative’ to the game of golf.
When Smith called Baker-Finch about his playing future, he referred to the discussion as a father and son like dynamic.
Ian Baker-Finch (L) talks 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 lure Smith into staying with the PGA, to stake his claim as a long-term world no.1 with a belt of majors.
‘In the very last night line of our conversation I said “look … if I was your dad I would be telling you to take the money,’ the 62-year-old told News Corp.
‘I really hoped Cam wouldn’t go because I felt he had the ability to be No. 1 in the world and create a huge name for himself like Adam Scott has done over the years like Greg Norman did himself.
‘In saying 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 on top of those world rankings.’
Ian Baker-Finch poses with his wife Jennie (L) and daughter Hayley (C) after taking out the 1991 British Open
Smith said it felt like talking to ‘his old man’ in what was a blunt 45-minute conversation, where he decided the money was just too much to put aside.
The two-time PGA winner has no grudge against the Aussie hero, who he coached at the Olympics and knew since his younger days at the Brisbane-based Wantima course.
Yet, Baker-Finch believes the LIV tour has gone about their business the wrong way, sparking a feud with the PGA that could be attributed to Greg Norman’s perpetual despise of the association.
‘He has always had a bit of an issue with the PGA tour and he has been given a platform to show why. It’s just a shame it’s so combative because I don’t think it needs to be that way,’ he said.
Aussie star Cam Smith hoists the LIV Chicago Invitational trophy – where he won his first LIV tour event in September
Amassing just over a total of US$2million while on tour, Baker-Finch respects the LIV players who have openly switched for the money.
He believes the problems lies in DP world tour players and non-PGA golfers getting access to such a rich tour without going through the program the hard way.
The Queenslander played 167 PGA events, making 92 cuts and is now preparing 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 out the St. Andrews major
For Smith’s major winning future, Baker-Finch believes the PGA can’t ban him from the games biggest tournaments due to his phenomenal Open win.
The CBS sports commentator kissed the Claret Jug in 1991 after being in the final Sunday pairing at the major twice before.
He edged out fellow Australian Mike Harwood and US legend Fred Couples to become the fourth man from down under to win the famous tournament.