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Graeme McDowell admits some 'regret' over the backlash that greeted his move to the LIV Tour

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Graeme McDowell admits some 'regret' over the backlash that greeted his move to the LIV Tour

Graeme McDowell has admitted some ‘regret’ at the backlash that greeted his move to the LIV Tour as he admits he should have ‘said less’ than he did when he first supported Saudi Arabia… but insists he will stay he and Rory McIlroy are friends

  • Graeme McDowell among 69 players to break away from traditional tours
  • The player broke with convention in expressing some regrets over the past few months
  • McDowell said he and Rory McIlroy – the loudest anti-LIV voice – remain friends

For all the money involved in LIV’s breakaway series, lightning rods rarely get a good deal out of a storm.

It is for that reason among others that Graeme McDowell is a golfer worth listening to as this controversial new circuit enters the final weekend of its first season.

There was a trend among the 69ers who crossed over to speak only in plain terms about the decisions they made. In that vein, McDowell is a rebel within rebels.

Graeme McDowell - one of 69 players who defected from the LIV Tour - has expressed regret over the past few months

Graeme McDowell – one of 69 players who defected from the LIV Tour – has expressed regret over the past few months

Although he doesn’t regret his move, he does have some regrets. Although he found it to be a positive experience, it wasn’t all positive.

The former US Open champion admitted it took him months to get over the backlash. More specifically, he points to the criticism he brought on himself by parroting the tour’s party lines about Saudi Arabia in his first press conference ahead of the opening event in St Albans in June.

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‘It took me months to come to terms with what happened,’ he said. ‘You know hindsight is 20/20 right, if I could go back to London again, I would have said less than I did. But we’re the first in and I’m representing a Tour that believes in me to say the right things to represent them.’

McDowell broke with convention in expressing some regret over the Saudi-backed breakaway tour

McDowell broke with convention in expressing some regret over the Saudi-backed breakaway tour

At the time, it included a deafening response to questions about whether he and others were prepared to engage in Saudi sportswashing – a response in which he said: ‘If Saudi Arabia wants to use the game of golf to get where they want I think we are proud to help them on that journey.’

This did not play well with those who felt these golfers had crossed a moral line as well as a sporting one by aligning with a state whose human rights record was appalling.

‘Looking back now, I’m trying to answer the unanswerable questions – the Saudi stuff,’ McDowell added. ‘No matter how much I said, how much logic I tried to apply, I realized now that no one cared. I’m wasting my breath and all I do is shine a spotlight that’s too bright on myself. You’re not going to win that conversation.’

While those sentiments are open to debate, what’s more clear is that the creation of LIV fractured golf like never before, with the divide between traditional tours and Greg Norman’s inception.

Players on both sides, including Rory McIlroy, have recently called for a level of compromise between the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and LIV to chart a path forward – a view shared by McDowell, but he skeptical about whether this was achieved in the short term.

He said: ‘I think there is a lot of very muddy water under the bridge. Yes, everyone needs to have a conversation – it’s about the health of golf around the world.

‘I believe in this product, I believe there is room in the game of golf for it, and it will work better if it is additive and not defensive. It will always be difficult to integrate it into the system.

‘It can go one of two ways – let’s all get in a room and do it and be friends and put something special together for the fan. It didn’t go that way. The second way is that we need to break down some walls or hurt some feelings and eventually the momentum will be so great here that conversations need to be had.

McDowell said that if he had the chance again he wouldn't have done his first LIV press conference the way he did.

McDowell said that if he had the chance again he wouldn’t have done his first LIV press conference the way he did.

‘I want it all to work. It may not happen in my entire golfing life because I may only have two or three years of competition left, but I certainly hope to see it all come together because I love the game of golf and I love Europe and I love the PGA Tour and all the opportunities I have in this sport.’

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Despite the rancour, which currently appears to have killed McDowell’s chance to captain the Ryder Cup, he says he remains friends with McIlroy.

He said: ‘I can only speak for me personally, it hasn’t hurt me or any of my relationships with people I call friends. Rory and Shane (Lowry) in particular, are on their path and I’m on mine and I know they both understand why I’m on my path. They are paddling their own canoe and they are good players and I respect them both.’