Graeme McDowell is a golfing great but I fear he has diminished his career by letting himself be wooed by Saudi cash

A letter from Peter Lockhart:

By Letters
Wednesday, 8th June 2022, 1:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th June 2022, 8:28 pm
Graeme McDowell  wins the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia in 2020. He has been accused of greed for joining the Saudi-funded LIV rival golf tour (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Graeme McDowell wins the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia in 2020. He has been accused of greed for joining the Saudi-funded LIV rival golf tour (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

The eagerly anticipated field for the first LIV event — a rival golf tour funded by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia — was recently announced.

One name will have stood out for Irish golf fans above all others, that of Graeme McDowell.

His involvement is highly disappointing for many who have, rightfully, put him on a pedestal for his achievements.

Letter to the editor

Yes, it has been years since McDowell could be credibly called a ‘force’ in the top echelons of the game and he’s not getting any younger, but his involvement will undoubtedly tarnish what has been a stellar career.

McDowell is one of the four key pillars of modern Irish golf alongside Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and of course, Rory McIlroy.

His US Open win in 2010 was the first by a golfer from Northern Ireland since Fred Daly in 1947.

In fact, between the Open in 2007 and the PGA Championship in 2014, these four golfers won nine of the 28 majors played, a stunning statistic given the relatively miniscule talent pool they were emerging from.

The current crop of Irish success, led by McIlroy but also containing the likes of Seamus Power, Shane Lowry and Leona Maguire, have undoubtedly benefited from the achievements of this quartet.

As well as his crowning achievement at Pebble Beach, McDowell played an integral part in multiple European Ryder Cup teams and won 16 professional titles including three on the PGA Tour and 10 on the European Tour.

These kinds of numbers put McDowell in esteemed company in golf history and have made him a household name back in Northern Ireland.

By joining the LIV Tour, McDowell has been accused of complicity in ‘sportswashing’ (using sport to improve a country’s reputation globally).

He has been also accused of greed, considering the fact that the huge LIV earnings will come on top of his $18,954,870 career earnings to date and a host of sponsorship deals.

The primary lens through which many will view Graeme McDowell’s involvement is as a legend of Irish golf.

For so many Northern Irish fans, McDowell played an integral part in growing the game in the early 2010s, part of a vanguard of golfers showcasing everything great about a region previously known only as a case study in conflict and dysfunctional politics.

Tourism and the economy benefited as Northern Ireland embraced its profile as a golfing paradise, finally finding an effective way to market its world class golf courses. This culminated in the awarding of the 2019 Open to Royal Portrush, which saw record crowds and once again helped boost the perception of Northern Ireland.

McDowell’s inclusion on this list represents his most significant contribution to golf for years, and it isn’t a positive one.

He joins a host of other has-beens and nearly men, on a list which would have embarrassed LIV Commissioner Greg Norman and co were it not for their marquee signing — Dustin Johnson, the man who infamously shot 82 on Sunday to hand McDowell his US Open title.

Watching McDowell win that US Open, there would have been few amongst his supporters concerned with how much money it made him.

Watching golfers play for money is not fun. No, the pride people felt watching McDowell win the US Open was that they could feel like he did it for them.

To join a tour which is so overtly marketed in terms of its mammoth financial backing, is to remove this element entirely.

I believe that McDowell’s decision to play the Centurion Club — the venue of the first LIV event — is financially motivated.

It diminishes a brilliant career, and sadly means one of our legends has pioneered the partition of elite-level golf.

Peter Lockhart, Belfast BT9

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