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Editor's Viewpoint

McDowell’s pay day is a sad day for sport



Golfer Graeme McDowell

Golfer Graeme McDowell

Golfer Graeme McDowell

It’s hard for us to put into perspective the multi-millions offered to some of the world’s top golfers, golden carrots dangling before their eyes to sign up for the new Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series.

Many are struggling to heat their homes, can’t afford the fuel for their cars and are scraping the pennies together to put food on the table. It’s not hard to imagine anyone in that position jumping at the prospect of a million dollar pay day if the option lands in their lap.

But the world of the professional golfer is one occupied by the elite few. Bank accounts already run into the millions.

It’s sad for sport that the only way to get them to join up is to offer them even more and it smacks so blatantly of self-interest all around — from those behind it to those taking part.

Last week former Open champion Darren Clarke revealed he turned down a “very generous” offer for a commentator role, honest enough to admit it was “very tempting”.

But another of Northern Ireland’s golfing Major winners, 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell, will be in the field when the tour hosts its opening event.

And after a first bite of that golden carrot, the taste is already turning a little sour.

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The tour, a rival to the PGA tour which has dominated golf in the last few decades, claimed former world number ones Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson as star names earlier this week — Johnson believed to be earning $150m for his acceptance.

Proof that in sport virtually anything can be bought if the price is right and it will be difficult to watch knowing those taking part in the eight tournament series have arguably sold their souls for a pound of flesh.

But integrity is the question. Is it right to sign up for a new sporting event which is seen across the world as another attempt by Saudi Arabia to charm the world, whitewash decades of human rights abuses and throw money around to make the problems go away?

McDowell said he was “proud” to help the country (Saudi Arabia) on its “journey” while taking part in a press conference ahead of the start of the tour.

It didn’t go down too well.

“This has been incredibly polarising,” he added. Perhaps “isolating” would be a better description.

And perhaps the truest words he spoke under the spotlight were: “We are not politicians, we are professional golfers.”

That he, and others, were left silenced when quizzed on the human rights record of the country throwing cash in their direction spoke more than any words.

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