Graeme McDowell is a great golfer but I fear he has diminished his career by being wooed by Saudi money
The highly anticipated field for the first LIV event – a rival golf tour funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – was recently announced.
One name will have marked Irish golf fans more than all the others, that of Graeme McDowell.
His involvement is very disappointing to many who have rightly put him on a pedestal for his accomplishments.
Yes, it’s been years since McDowell can’t be credibly called a ‘force’ in the upper echelons of the game and he’s not getting any younger, but his involvement will no doubt tarnish what has been a glittering career.
McDowell is one of the four pillars of modern Irish golf alongside Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and of course Rory McIlroy.
His victory at the US Open in 2010 was the first by a golfer from Northern Ireland since Fred Daly in 1947.
In fact, between the Open in 2007 and the PGA Championship in 2014, these four golfers have won nine of the 28 majors played, an astounding stat given the relatively tiny talent pool they came from.
The current crop of Irish hits, led by McIlroy but also featuring Seamus Power, Shane Lowry and Leona Maguire, has undoubtedly benefited from the achievements of this quartet.
Along with his crowning glory at Pebble Beach, McDowell has played a vital role on several European Ryder Cup teams and has won 16 professional titles, including three on the PGA Tour and 10 on the European Tour.
These numbers place McDowell in esteemed company in golfing history and have made him a household name in Northern Ireland.
By joining the LIV Tour, McDowell was accused of complicity in “sportswashing” (using sports to improve a country’s reputation in the world).
He’s also been accused of greed, considering LIV’s huge earnings will come on top of his $18,954,870 in career earnings to date and a slew of endorsement deals.
The main lens through which many will see Graeme McDowell’s involvement is that of an Irish golf legend.
For so many Northern Irish fans, McDowell played a vital role in the growth of the game in the early 2010s, being part of a vanguard of golfers showcasing all that is great in an area previously known only as a study case studies on conflict and dysfunctional politics.
Tourism and the economy benefited as Northern Ireland embraced its profile as a golfing paradise, finally finding an effective way to market its world-class golf courses. This resulted in the 2019 Open being awarded to Royal Portrush, which saw record crowds and once again helped boost the perception of Northern Ireland.
McDowell’s inclusion on this list represents his most significant contribution to golf in years, and it’s not a positive.
He joins a host of other has-beens and almost men, on a list that would have embarrassed LIV commissioner Greg Norman and co without their marquee signing – Dustin Johnson, the man who infamously shot 82 on Sunday to give McDowell its United States Open Title.
Watching McDowell win that US Open, few of his fans would have worried about how much money it was making for him.
Watching golfers play for money is no fun. No, the pride people felt watching McDowell win the US Open was that they could feel like he did it for them.
To join a tour that is so overtly marketed in terms of gigantic financial support is to remove that element altogether.
I believe McDowell’s decision to play at the Centurion Club – the location of the first LIV event – is financially motivated.
It diminishes a glittering career and sadly means one of our legends pioneered the score of elite level golf.
Peter Lockhart, Belfast BT9
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