McDowell opens up on controversial decision to join Saudi-backed golf series which sparked death threats
Graeme McDowell has revealed how he has received death threats after signing up with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series.
Speaking in a series of explosive media interviews at the JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor, the 2010 US Open champion from Co Antrim opened up about his regrets about speaking publicly in support of the breakaway LIV Golf tour, bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
He also admitted the move had tainted his legacy – at least until the “narrative” changes”.
Last month, McDowell justified his move, saying: “If Saudi Arabia wanted to use the game of golf as a way for them to get to where they want to be, and they have the resources to accelerate that experience, I think we are proud to help them on that journey.”
Around the same time, the LIV series was criticised by fellow Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy, who said it was "sad" that last month’s US Open was being overshadowed by discussions about the Saudi tour. He described it as “the cloud that's hanging over golf at the minute”.
Portrush man McDowell (42) now admits he’s been through a tough time mentally since the LIV Golf Series started up near London on June 9 and regrets defending the tour.
"Of course it hurts my feelings. Like I said, I wish I had kept my mouth shut in London. But I'm just up there trying to do my job for an organisation, the LIV Golf organisation, that are trying to sell a story,” he said.
McDowell also told BBC NI that “I don’t wake up and feel proud of myself every day”.
“I can’t wake up and turn on my Instagram or Twitter account without someone telling me to go die. It’s been really tough couple of months but again, I expected it,” he said.
“I knew what the consequences were going to be but I didn’t realise just how heavily this was going to be hammered, trying to answer questions which are unanswerable.
"That’s the problem, the only mistake I made in London when I was at my press conference. I just wish I had said nothing.”
However, he responded with a succinct ‘no’ when asked if he was sorry he signed up.
Asked whether it had damaged his legacy, McDowell said: “In the short term it's tainted because the narrative is so negative.
"Eventually that narrative will have to change. How many top players are going to have to play in this thing and create a product to where you guys will start talking about golf?
“I get it. The amount of s*** that's been written about me the last six weeks, it's something I have never had to deal with in my golfing career before.”
The former Ryder Cup star, who fears his dream of captaining Europe in the Ryder Cup at Adare Manor in 2027 has likely been shattered, was asked about a front page headline in the Belfast Telegraph that read: “I’m proud to help the Saudis”.
In the story, Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty International had criticised golfers on the LIV tour for trying to “sportswash” the Saudi regime’s reputation clean at a time when it was guilty of the most horrific human rights abuses, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
McDowell said yesterday: “How am I supposed to respond to Amnesty International? That's called fighting a losing battle.
"Of course I'm not going to respond. It's ridiculous. It's just golf. I'm not trying to solve the world's issues. So yeah, not real happy with the Belfast Telegraph. For my family to read that shit. It's unfair. It's unfair.”
McDowell had no problems admitting he’s gone to LIV Golf for the money.
“At the end of the day I’m a pro golfer who has made a business decision based on money,” he told RTE Radio.
“I’ve never thought about where money comes from in 20 years out here, I played in all parts of the world from China to the Middle East to South Africa.”
Later, he added: “It's financially a great opportunity for me and my family.
“I hate kind of where it puts me from a headline point of view and kind of what it makes -- what it makes it all look like, but you know, within the circle of LIV, I think the players, there's a great camaraderie...”
While he said he recognised things that have happened in Saudi Arabia are unacceptable, he criticised the DP World Tour after they sanctioned the Saudi International in 2020 and 2021.
Commenting on his win in the inaugural Saudi International in 2020, he said: “When that million dollars landed in my bank account, no-one told me on my Twitter account to go die.”