James, who captained the European team during the most contentious Ryder Cup ever in 1999, will make his Champions Tour debut Friday at the Royal Caribbean Classic.
'To have the chance to (compete) over here is tremendous,' James said. 'It's something I've thought about for a few years.'
James, 50, played in just 27 PGA Tour events, but followers of the European Tour are well aware of his ability. He won 18 titles on that tour and finished in the top five at the British Open four times.
Champions Tour galleries are more likely to remember the fallout of the raucous U.S. Ryder Cup team celebration at Brookline, Mass., in 1999. James was infuriated when U.S. players and wives streamed across the 17th green after Justin Leonard made a 45-foot putt to ensure the Americans' victory.
'They were the most disgraceful scenes ever seen at a golfing event,' James later wrote. He also criticized actions by U.S. players leading up to the finale.
U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw has acknowledged the impropriety. But he said it was an emotional reaction that went too far and should not be judged so harshly.
Is James concerned about a lingering backlash from U.S. fans?
'No, not at all,' he said. 'That was a long time ago now. After that, lessons were learned.'
Crenshaw is also in the 78-player Royal Caribbean field, which will have a Ryder Cup theme. Former U.S. captains Tom Kite and Dave Stockton are among 20 former Ryder Cuppers in the event, and Sam Torrance, who captained the Europeans to victory in 2002, is making his Champions Tour debut this week.
'We're looking forward to having both Mark and Sam with us this year,' Crenshaw said. 'It's going to be fun to see them both. Being a Ryder Cup captain, there's a kinship. It's a small fraternity, but one that stands the ages.'
James plans to play about 18 events a year, jetting home about once a month. He has come back from a battle with testicular cancer that took him off the European Tour during 2000-01.
Following surgery and chemotherapy, it was the latter part of last season before he felt strong enough to compete for 72 holes.
'It seems everything's great now,' Torrance said. 'It's fantastic that (the cancer's) gone.'
James now feels so good that he has decided to forgo one of the advantages of the Champions Tour. This week fellow pro Henry Baiocchi pulled up next to him during a practice round and said, 'You've got to join the cart culture.'
'Oh no,' James said. 'I wouldn't do that. I was the only guy at qualifying not to use one.'
James has played against many Champions Tour pros in their younger days but harbors no expectations.
'I really have no idea how high the standards are on this tour,' he said.