controversy | 

Graeme McDowell defends his decision to play in breakaway golf event

Graeme McDowell is set to play in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series. Image credit: PA.

Brian Keogh

Graeme McDowell is prepared to risk losing the chance to captain Europe in the 2027 Ryder Cup at Adare Manor but says taking part in the LIV Golf Invitational Series is worth the risk.

The new breakaway league has a team format which 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley reckons “could turn golf upside-down and on its head.”

But McDowell told National Club Golfer that by joining the LIV Golf Invitational Series he did what was best for his family, even if he’s banned by the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour.

“No doubt it could,” McDowell said of his decision jeopardising his Ryder Cup captaincy ambitions. “That was a big factor in my decision. I had to face the reality that I could be walking away from that opportunity.

“A lot of things weighed into my decision, but I decided that following the LIV opportunity was best for me and my family. I can't really bet on things that might never happen.

“There are no guarantees on the PGA Tour or DP World Tour and I've got a compelling opportunity here with LIV.

“The unknown consequences are hard to weigh up, but I've made my peace with the worst-case scenario. Anything else will be a bonus.”

Hoping the Tours do not ban players, he defended himself against accusations of sportswashing.

“I'm not here to cure the world's geo-political situation,” McDowell said. “I am here to play golf.

“What went on with Jamal Khashoggi was reprehensible. We all agree that was wrong, but we are focused here on golf.

"If I tried to get involved in curing the geo-political situations in all the countries that I've visited around the world, I wouldn't play much golf.”

Paul McGinley is surprised by Dustin Johnson’s defection for a reported $117m but believes the new tour could change professional golf.

He told Sky Sports News: "This will go down as a historic moment in the game. If this Saudi league does gather a head of speed and does challenge the two established tours in the world, considering the background and the whole idea of team events, it could turn golf upside-down and on its head.

"We'll have to see how it plays out. At this stage [Johnson's] only one player, all the remaining top players in the world have stayed completely loyal to the PGA Tour.

“They feel they've got it good over there, and they have. Every week they're playing for a $10-12m prize fund with a first prize of over $2m. They're flying around in private jets every week and going home to their families every Sunday night.

"The idea of this Saudi line in time is to take it around the world more often in a Formula 1 style. It's a big change from what they've been doing.”

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