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Graeme McDowell eyeing rich prizes at controversial Saudi event after addressing ‘sportswashing’ accusations

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Stepping back: Graeme McDowell says he is a golfer, not a politician. Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Stepping back: Graeme McDowell says he is a golfer, not a politician. Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Getty Images

Stepping back: Graeme McDowell says he is a golfer, not a politician. Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

European stars Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood will be hoping to rake in major world ranking points as well as cash in next month’s controversial Saudi International.

But American star Jordan Spieth, who returned to action in the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii last night, reckons Saudi Arabia’s massive investment in the game is still a serious “threat” to the PGA Tour where World No.327 McDowell, 40th-ranked Fleetwood and 44th-ranked Lowry play most of their golf.

“I think certainly it’s a threat to the PGA Tour,” Spieth said of Saudi Arabia’s plans to back a series of rival events on the Asian Tour, with the Saudi International just the first of many. “I think, as a player, overall it will benefit, in that I think that the changes that have come from the PGA Tour have been modernised in a way that may or may not have come about if it weren’t there.

“I can only say from my point of view I think that it’s been beneficial to the players to have competition, and I think the Tour would say that they probably feel that they’re in a better position going forward by having to sit back and kind of take a look at things and make some changes.”

Like Lowry, Fleetwood and a host of world stars such as Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson, Ulsterman McDowell has been granted releases by the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour to play the Saudi event from February 3-6. But while he agrees with Spieth that competition is good, he can’t let accusations of “sportswashing” cloud his decision-making when it comes to his schedule.

“I’m a golfer, not a politician,” McDowell said last month. “I understand the arguments on both sides. I’m trying to make a living for my family, but there’s the politics around it — it’s difficult, what’s right and what’s wrong, where should your morals kick in.”

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