Cameron Smith, the newly crowned Open champion, is in talks over a switch to the LIV Golf Invitational Series, according to his fellow Australian and former Open winner Ian Baker-Finch.
In the 48 hours since hoisting the Claret Jug at St Andrews, Smith has been linked with the multimillion-dollar Saudi-backed tour. The 28-year-old Queenslander was defensive on Sunday when asked about his future during his post-win press conference, telling the enquiring journalist: “I just won the British Open and you’re asking about that. I think that’s pretty … not that good.”
But reports persist he may be poised to join the Greg Norman-led venture, which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and has been heavily criticised by human rights groups, but has already recruited a list of high-profile name with exorbitant contracts.
“I know that they are talking to him and many others,” Baker-Finch, who won the Claret Jug in 1991, told SEN radio. “I hope he doesn’t because I think he can leave a great legacy by winning major championships and becoming the best player in the world. “I don’t think he needs the money. I don’t think it is going to be something that he should do.
“He will be a $100m guy or more now. Does he want to win more majors or does he want the money? I am hoping he stays and leaves a great legacy like a Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy … which he could do. I think Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy and a lot of those guys that still compete and play well in majors, and want to leave a legacy, they’re the guys I would be following.”
Former PGA Tour player turned on-course commentator, Colt Knost, has claimed Smith has been offered $90m to defect. That would be almost four times his current career earnings, which stand at just short of $25m.
Smith would be arguably the most significant signing yet given his major win has propelled him to a No 2 world ranking behind American Scottie Scheffler. But Baker-Finch said such a move would be detrimental to his overall career.
“I think the young guys are missing out,” he said. “The guys who go join LIV are going to miss out on the grind, what it takes to be a champion, to play in the great tournaments against the great players. It is hard work. You’re not going to become a better player by going and playing 54-hole exhibition matches and getting paid $150,000 to finish last.
“I understand the over-40s, the guys who can’t beat the young guys any more. I get it, I totally understand it. Go play, have a good time, make good money for your family. I understand it all. I just hate the way they are saying that the other tours haven’t done well by them or aren’t doing a good job.
“I just wish it wasn’t so combative, I wish it wasn’t ruining the ecosystem as we know it. Smithy has won $8m [this year] already. I think that is pretty good. The guy that leads the tour over there this year will win $30m. How can you complain about that? If you want to go play LIV, go play on that tour. Say goodbye. But don’t ruin the system or speak ill of the system that has made so many millionaires.”