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By Charlie Bennett
Graeme McDowell admits the consequences of joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf International Series are “scary” but insists the chance to play in the $25m event was too good to turn down.
The Northern Irishman was named in the 48-player field for next week’s event in St Albans, the first in a money-spinning new series fronted by Greg Norman and backed by the Saudi regime.
McDowell, who will play in the Asian Tour’s International Series England event at Slaley Hall from Thursday, will be joined by the likes of Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood, and Sergio Garcia at Centurion Club next week.
However, it is not a decision that comes without risk. The PGA Tour and DP World Tour have threatened to ban all rebel players from their tournaments - which includes the Ryder Cup - but McDowell has implored them to see sense.
“The perceived consequences are definitely concerning,” McDowell said.
“But as players, we just ask ourselves the question, if we do get banned from the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, for example, is that good for the sport of golf?
“I believe it is not good for the game and I really feel what the guys at LIV have done is they’ve tried to create a schedule, which especially fits around the PGA Tour.
“It is designed to co-exist with the other tours in the world and let’s just hope that it all works out. The unknowns are a little scary, but I am sure it’s weighed into the decision of every player that’s decided to take the leap. And we just hope that the right decision will be made.”
A former major champion, McDowell also has ambitions to one day captain Europe in the Ryder Cup but that would certainly be dashed if the DP World Tour takes a stand.
But the 2014 Ryder Cup hero says it is not a decision he has taken lightly.
He added: “It was an exceedingly difficult decision. It is a difficult decision as a player when there’s so many unknowns. We do not know what the reaction is going to be.
“It just boils down to the fact that I am a business and I have operated all over the world for 20 years. This is a compelling opportunity. It is a fun format and there are some guarantees there.
“It was not a decision I took very lightly. I realised the consequences could be far-ranging. But I felt like it was the right decision for me and my family – to be able to take an opportunity like this and play on something new.”
McDowell will warm up for the event by going back to where it all began, with Slaley Hall in Newcastle the venue for the latest leg of the Asian Tour International Series.
It is there that McDowell made his professional debut 20 years ago this week and the 42-year-old, who headlines the field, was in a reflective mood on Wednesday.
“I was young and naïve; I had dreams and hopes of course but you never imagine achieving the things you have achieved. There are ups and downs, but it is an amazing sport. It is very tough at times, but it is nice to achieve some things along the way,” he said.
“It has been a fun journey and hopefully there are some years ahead. I want to stay competitive. I still feel good enough to play at a high level. This week I think I can compete and beat this field.”
This week marks the first event staged by the Asian Tour in the UK and is one of ten top-tier tournaments announced by LIV Golf investments and the Asian Tour which make up the all-new International Series as part of unprecedented an $300million investment in the game.
Scheduled to take place across Asia, the Middle East and Europe every year for the next decade, each event is designed to grow the game of golf worldwide and offer new pathways for emerging talent from all over the world to progress their careers.
Slaley Hotel, Spa and Golf resort is set to be the perfect destination for anyone interested in enjoying superb sport in a stunning location on what’s set to be an extended special weekend celebrating the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.
“I have played all over the world and travelling as a young player is one of the best things I have ever done,” McDowell said.
“I think it rounds you and shows you how to manage yourself and exposes you to more cultures. I am proud to be part of that.”
Free entry for the International Series England (2-5 June) is open to all fans by simply registering at intlserieseng.seetickets.com