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LIV Golf: Graeme McDowell pleads with European Tour chief not to ban rebels amid ‘fantastic opportunity’

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Players (l-r) Louis Oosthuizen, Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell and Ratchanon Chantananuwat ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational Series at the Centurion Club. Photo: PA

Players (l-r) Louis Oosthuizen, Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell and Ratchanon Chantananuwat ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational Series at the Centurion Club. Photo: PA

PA

Players (l-r) Louis Oosthuizen, Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell and Ratchanon Chantananuwat ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational Series at the Centurion Club. Photo: PA

Graeme McDowell has pleaded with European Tour CEO Keith Pelley not to follow the lead of PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and ban the LIV Golf rebels from the DP World Tour and as a consequence, involvement in the Ryder Cup.

Monahan and the PGA Tour moved yesterday, suspending 17 players including McDowell, Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood for competing in the LIV Golf London Invitational "without the proper conflicting event and media rights release."

What the DP World Tour regulations allow Pelley to do remains unclear and McDowell (42) is bracing himself for the worst, considering the DP World Tour's Strategic Alliance with the PGA Tour.

"Not got really much of a hunch there, I've got to be honest," said McDowell, who was one of 10 of the 17 suspended players to inform the PGA Tour they have resigned their membership, in McDowell's case "out of an abundance of caution" to avoid getting dragged into legal proceedings.

"I felt like the PGA Tour was going to take the hard stance. We have a strategic alignment -- we have a strategic alliance, excuse me, and will Keith follow suit? I hope he doesn't.

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"I think he has a fantastic opportunity here with a lot of European players and European Tour players that would like to subsidise their schedule with other events, especially if we are not allowed to play on the PGA Tour.

"I really hope The European Tour makes a good decision. They may have to follow suit with what Jay and the PGA Tour are doing, so watch this space."

LIV Golf reacted quickly to the PGA decision "Today's announcement by the PGA Tour is vindictive and it deepens the divide between the Tour and its members," said the Saudi-funded organisation fronted by former world number one Greg Norman.

"It's troubling that the Tour, an organisation dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play the game, is the entity blocking golfers from playing. This certainly is not the last word on this topic. The era of free agency is beginning as we are proud to have a full field of players joining us in London and beyond."

McDowell was unsurprised by the PGA's decision and expressed the view that the PGA "has to do what they feel is necessary."

However, he insisted players should be allowed to play where they please as "independent contractors", ignoring the existential threat to the PGA presented by LIV Golf staging events opposite US tournaments, diminishing fields and putting existing TV contracts in peril.

"Obviously, I mentioned earlier in the week, I don't think it's healthy for the sport," McDowell said after opening with a four-over 74 that left him tied 34th in the 48-man field, nine shots behind leader Charl Schwartzel at Centurion Golf Club near London, where players are seeking a $4 million first prize.

"We're here because we believe we're independent contractors - we should be allowed to compete and play where we want to all over the world. You know, a guy like Sergio García has been doing that for the last five years of his life. I've been doing it for the last 20 years of my life with no hesitation and no arguments from anybody.

"But we're in the midst of a competitive threat. We have a compelling option, which is not agreeable to the big tours in the world. We have a situation. So it's disappointing. Not a whole lot we can do about it, obviously.

"As players, we're here understanding the consequences of what may lay ahead of us, and we're trying to operate as best we can. The team at LIV have done a great job helping us navigate those potential consequences, and have said they will stand by us as we go through this process."

As for his resignation, McDowell said: "Yeah, I actually resigned about 30 minutes before I teed it up today. It was a tough decision. I wanted to keep the moral high ground and kind of remain a member of the tour because I really didn't feel like I needed to resign nor that I should have to resign.

"It was a very difficult decision. I kind of resigned out of an abundance of caution, honestly, because I feel like it puts me in a less litigious situation regards getting drawn into anything unnecessarily.

"But like I say, I didn't want to resign. I love the PGA Tour. It's been great to me. This is not about the PGA is a bad tour. This is about being able to add on additional opportunities to my golf career. Really hard.

"Unfortunately, this is going to be short-term pain, but I think all the players that are here this week have only been strengthened in their confidence that we are making the right decisions because we feel like the execution level that we're seeing here, the passion, the love of the game of golf that these guys have at LIV, that's why we're here. I feel like confidence has been strengthened. Even in the face of consequences which we knew were kind of on the horizon."

Norman has said LIV Golf will back the players in any legal challenge and pay their costs, but McDowell was not taking any chances.

"Obviously, we have spoken to the lawyers," McDowell said. "We have the LIV legal team, which is fantastic. We have our own legal team. Some players have decided that, like I said, out of an abundance of caution that they were going to resign and try to stay away from any litigation.

"Some kind of guys are exactly like I said earlier, they believe that they shouldn't be in the situation where they have to resign. They don't feel like they are doing anything wrong.

"Okay. We haven't been issued releases. We feel like we should have been issued releases. We've done it for the last 20 years, operated all over the world. We're in the UK. You've players like myself and Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood. We are in our home markets here. We should be allowed to operate here as professional golfers.

"But we all know the situation is about something bigger. It's competition and it's not liked. They are having to play the game the way they feel they have to play it, which is playing hardball.

"Like I say, we feel confident that we are well-protected and we are going to just try and do our best."

Sergio Garcia insisted he was not bothered by the PGA Tour ban but would not be resigning from the DP World Tour.

"It doesn't bother me," said Garcia, who wants to spend more time with his two young children, aged four and two. "I am excited for this tour and I thought today was a great day. I resigned a week and a half ago and whatever the PGA Tour says doesn't go with me because I am not a member."

Garcia added: "I resigned because I don't want to get into any legal battles with anyone. But I haven't resigned from the European Tour because I would like to still be a member. I'm European; I love the European Tour. I played it for 23 years.

"Obviously, we're going to have to wait and see what the European Tour does. But I definitely would like to keep my membership and get my chance to make the Ryder Cup Team because I love that event. But we'll wait and see what happens over there.”


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