McDowell: Would banning Saudi breakaways be good for the sport of golf?

John Craven
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McDowell: Would banning Saudi breakaways be good for the sport of golf?

Graeme McDowell (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Graeme McDowell believes he has made the right decision in choosing to sign up for the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational.

McDowell’s name appeared amongst a list of 48 with the likes of Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter also confirmed for the first event of the series next week in London.

It prompted long-time sponsor RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) to immediately drop McDowell as a brand ambassador, unsurprising given the London event clashes with next week’s Canadian Open, while his decision was also met with disappointment in many circles given McDowell has benefitted from a number of sponsor’s exemptions as he’s struggled for form in recent years, seemingly now not showing much loyalty in return.

However, McDowell would evidently dispute that and insists as an independent contractor and “business”, he’s simply exercising his right to play where he wants.

“It was a very difficult decision,” he told Steve Carroll of National Club Golfer.

“It’s a difficult decision as a player when there’s so many unknowns. We don’t know what the reaction is going to be. It just boils down to the fact that I am a business and I’ve operated all over the world for 20 years. This is a compelling opportunity. It’s a fun format and there are some guarantees there.

“It wasn’t a decision I took very lightly. I realised the consequences could be far ranging. But I felt like it was the right decision for me and my family – to be able to take an opportunity like this and play on something new.

“At the end of the day, it’s another golf tour, which we’ve operated on all over the world for the last 20 years. I feel like I have the right to do that.”

The PGA Tour has since released a statement in response to its members signing up for the Saudi series, confirming, “As communicated to our membership on May 10, PGA Tour members have not been authorised to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event, under PGA Tour regulations.

“Members who violate the tournament regulations are subject to disciplinary action.”

However, McDowell has questioned whether a decision to ban the players defecting would benefit the game of golf in the long run.

“The perceived consequences are definitely concerning,” he said.

“But as players, we just ask ourselves the question, if we do get banned from the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, for example, is that good for the sport of golf?

“I believe it’s not good for the game and I really feel what the guys at LIV have done is they’ve tried to create a schedule, which especially fits around the PGA Tour.

“It’s designed to co-exist with the other tours in the world and let’s just hope that it all works out. The unknowns are a little scary but I’m sure it’s weighed into the decision of every player that’s decided to take the leap. And we just hope that the right decision will be made.”

From now on, McDowell would prefer to avoid the scrutiny and the noise around his LIV decision and focus on the golf, something in this case that he believes should be celebrated.

“Let’s celebrate golf and let’s celebrate a new format. It’s exciting,” he said.

“Team golf is always something that I love. The best experiences of my golfing career have been in Ryder Cups. I think, for the viewer, fan, spectator, this will be something new and unique and gives the players an opportunity to really show their emotions and really get into something.

“Like I say, we’re going to be relieved when we start talking about golf again – because it’s been a very polarising subject for the last 12 months or so.”

An optimistic use of the past tense to finish!

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