Ian Baker-Finch, a former world number one, says he can “understand where Rory McIlroy is coming from” in the growing verbal exchange between Greg Norman, the head of LIV Golf, and the Irishman.
This week, McIlroy claimed that Norman’s departure from LIV would be the only way to bring about peace between the two rival tours. McIlroy has emerged as a leader among players for the PGA Tour in its conflict with the breakaway LIV Golf tour.
Despite Norman’s “combative” leadership, Baker-Finch, who won The Open in 1991 and serves on the board of the Australian PGA, believes two tours can coexist.
With Norman in control, I believe it will be challenging to reach a consensus, Baker-Finch said to Summer Grandstand.
It has been disruptive and aggressive. That doesn’t have to be the case.
“I believe there is a way for us to all coexist together, without resorting to such hostility. To make it a possibility, perhaps the leader needs to be changed.
“Greg will always have a fantastic, legendary heritage here in Australia. He played golf in Australia for ten years, and he will always hold a special position in Australian golf history. I’m not sure if this is helping his legacy, though.
“I can kind of see Rory’s point of view.”
The new tour may have a future based on the “Formula 1 model,” which has the limited fields travel the world for events to “create some fun and excitement in the regions,” according to Baker-Finch, a longtime mentor of the now LIV-aligned Cameron Smith.
He does, however, have little doubt that the PGA Tour is still the ideal venue for the game’s top players to compete.
“I can’t claim that [Norman] is improving the game of golf, but perhaps in his mind he is by giving a different product. It’s not golf as we know it, and it’s not golf being given back, in my opinion.
“It’s hardly a tour of distinction. With four rounds and a cut, it’s not golf as we know it.
“How do I rate against Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus or Greg Norman or Rodger Davis? The PGA Tour and every other tour provide their participants with that.
“Many of the players who made the opposite choice are still active competitors, but they prioritized financial gain over legacy.
“All I see is a group of wealthy men competing for enormous sums of money. I don’t think that necessarily benefits golf.”
In looking back on his own career, Baker-Finch emphasized the connections between the American PGA Tour and the Australian PGA Tour, which he claims LIV cannot provide.
“We have always been a route. I’ve wanted to play on the PGA Tour for the past 40 years, and the only way I could have gotten there was by performing well in Australia.
“Here in Australia, we have more than 250 tour players, and we take care of all of them while providing them with opportunity to join the major tours throughout the globe.
“I’m not knocking those guys who went and played at LIV; however, if we’re taking care of everyone here in Australia, we need to have access to the major international tours.”