LIV Golf: 'No doubt' players joined new series for money, says Graeme McDowell

'I'm being asked questions there are no right answers to'

There is "no doubt" that money was the main motivating factor for players who have joined the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series, says Graeme McDowell.

The Northern Irishman defended his "business decision" to join the new series but admitted to being hurt by the public backlash he has received.

"It is about the money, and I think most guys would happily say that to you," he said.

"They're there for the financial opportunity, no doubt about it."

This year's inaugural LIV Golf Series is made up of eight events with £200m in prize money and many players are reported to have signed up for huge appearance fees.

It is fronted by former world number one Greg Norman who says he has a further £1.6bn of funds to turn the series into a 14-event league.

And McDowell, 42, said that while "no-one will argue that point in a million years" when questioned about the financial incentive, he added: "There is more to what it is we're trying to create: a new product for the fans.

"The 54-hole shotgun team format is fun, it's different. But no-one cares about that right now, they only care about the negativity. Am I out there for the money? Yes, of course I am."

McDowell came under criticism for his defence of LIV Golf at the series' inaugural event at Centurion Club, near London, last month.

The 2010 US Open champion said the murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was "reprehensible" but added: "No-one's going to argue that fact but we're golfers. We're not politicians."

Speaking at the star-studded JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor in Ireland, McDowell admitted to being shaken by the social media response to his first LIV Golf news conference.

"I don't wake up and feel proud of myself every day. I can't turn on my Instagram or Twitter account without someone telling me to go die," he said.

"I just wish I had said nothing. I wish I had sat there and shook my head and said 'no comment' but it's not who I am.

"It's really hard because I'm being asked questions that there are no right answers to. I'm having my moral integrity attacked all the time when all I'm trying to do is play golf.

Graeme McDowell at the inaugural LIV Golf event in London in June
McDowell played at the inaugural LIV Golf event in London last month

"I'm trying to make a business decision for me and my family. I've paid my dues in this game over the last 20 years, I've tried to carry myself the right way.

"The tenuous links to what the Saudi regime have done... the horrible things they've done - they [those who have criticised LIV Golf] are trying to link this to golf and playing professional golf.

"I've played golf all over the world, in countries whose human rights records could probably be torn apart as well.

"I've never questioned being in China, the Middle East, all over the world and what I do is I play professional golf. I play golf for money. I've chased that money all over the world all my career.

"Do I research into the morals of every dollar I've ever made? No I don't."

'I don't want the ability to play because a judge says I can'

McDowell was not among the players who threatened the DP World Tour - formerly the European Tour - with legal action if it did not reverse its decision to ban those who competed at the first LIV Golf event from the Scottish Open, which starts on Thursday at the Renaissance Club.

DP World Tour responded to the threat by saying the players in question "knew there would be consequences" if they joined LIV Golf.

"The guys are executing their right to be an independent contactor," McDowell reflected.

"To have the ability to play anywhere they want in the world and if tours are going to stand in their way they want to go legal with it.

"My opinion is I don't want a courtroom to give me the opportunity to come back and play, for example, the Scottish Open this week.

"I only want to play the Scottish Open if the Scottish Open wants me there.

"I only want to go and play those tournaments if they want me back and they're happy that we can co-exist. That they give me the ability to play wherever I want.

"I don't really have a goal to settle some legal dispute and have the ability to play because a judge says I should be allowed to play."

Top Stories

Elsewhere on the BBC