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Hole gets bigger as G-Mac tries to legitimise LIV golf

Brian Keogh


Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

It started with a question about newspaper headlines in his native Northern Ireland slamming his backing of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series as pure sportswashing. Then there were even emotional revelations about death threats.

Who’d have thought Tiger Woods opening with a 77 in the incredible charitable event that is the JP McManus Pro-Am could be utterly overshadowed by the bitter civil war between LIV Golf and the game’s major tours?

But the golf is only a minor concern as Graeme McDowell laid his soul bare, admitting he sometimes finds it hard to look in the mirror now that his legacy is, at least temporarily, “tainted”.

The Portrush native appeared on the verge of tears at times in the tranquility of Adare’s beautiful walled garden.

McDowell was taken aback by the vitriolic reaction to his decision to defend Saudi Arabia’s attempts at normalising their regime through sport but doubled down on his views expressed before the first LIV event last month.

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“All the tenuous links to the things that these guys have allegedly done when we know that the links are, like I say, tenuous at best. It doesn’t mean everyone is Saudi Arabia is a bad person,” McDowell said.

For now, he’s resigned to a life in golfing exile — “I’ve made my peace with it.” — and admits he understands why he wouldn’t be allowed back as a LIV player.

As for his legacy, he admits it’s been damaged but he hopes not irrevocably, insisting he’s not sorry he took the money.

Asked if he’d sold his soul to the devil, he pointed to many other aspects of our daily lives that are morally dubious.

“I’ve played golf all over the world for, you know, countries that if you dug deep enough, you might think, what am I doing playing golf here,” he said.

As for his reasons for taking the money, he admitted that struggling to compete and battling injuries he “lost my spark a little bit.”

He doesn’t know where it will all end by as he looked around at the world’s top players and a field of amateurs that included PGA Tour boss Jay Monahan and his European counterpart Pelley, who wondered if JP McManus might be the only man capable of reaching a compromise.

“Maybe JP will sit them all down tonight and sort them out,” he said.

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