The golfers have come under fire for joining the breakaway tour, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, by the “money appropriation”. nature of the exodus from traditional golf courses and for accepting money from a country with a dismal human rights record.
Bin Salman was named in a US intelligence report as responsible for approving the operation that led to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, although he has denied involvement. Human rights groups have also criticized the country for carrying out mass executions and treating homosexuals.
Before the inaugural LIV Golf Series event in June, when asked about accepting money from the Saudi Arabian regime, McDowell called the tour “incredibly polarizing.”
“I think we all agree here, let’s take the Khashoggi situation, we all agree that it is reprehensible. Nobody is going to dispute that fact,” he told a news conference.
“But we’re golfers. Personally speaking, I really feel like golf is a force for good in the world. I just try to be a great role model for kids. I know what golf has taught me. I love using the game of golf as something to help everybody grow up. That’s pretty much what we’ve been for the last 20 years, being role models for kids and trying to use this game, like I say, as a force for good really. .
“We’re not politicians. I know you guys hate that expression, but unfortunately we’re not. We’re professional golfers. If Saudi Arabia wanted to use the game of golf as a way to get to where they want to be and they have the resources to accelerate that experience, I think that we’re proud to help them on that journey by using the game of golf and the skills we have to help grow the sport and get them where they want to be.”
Since that first event in London, as more and more players choose to join in for a bigger payday, the scrutiny has only increased.
And for 2010 US Open winner McDowell, that attention and criticism has become quite a burden.
“I can’t turn on my Instagram or Twitter account without someone telling me I’m going to die,” the 42-year-old said Monday. “I wish I hadn’t said anything. I wish I’d have sat there, shook my head and said, ‘No comment,’ but it’s not who I am.”
“It’s really hard because I get asked questions for which there are no right answers. My moral integrity is under attack all the time when all I’m trying to do is play golf.”
“I’m trying to make a business decision for myself and my family. I’ve paid my dues in this game for the last 20 years, I’ve tried to conduct myself the right way.”
“The weak links to what the Saudi regime has done…the horrible things they have done (those who have criticized LIV Golf) are trying to link this to golf and professional golf.
“I’ve played golf all over the world, in countries whose human rights records could probably be shattered as well.
“I’ve never questioned being in China, the Middle East, all over the world and what I do is play professional golf. I play golf for money. I’ve chased that money around the world for my entire career. Do research on the morality of every dollar I make?” Have I won? No, I don’t.”
Spearheaded by former World No. 1 Greg Norman, the team-based LIV series is backed by the PIF and has pledged to award $250 million in prize money. Tournaments are held over 54 holes, rather than the PGA Tour’s 72 holes, and there are no player cutoffs during tournament play.