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Graeme, if you want to be a role model then withdraw from the LIV Invitational Series

Any golfer who has signed up for the Saudi backed tournaments needs to examine their conscience not just their bank balance.

Image: PA

IN THE CONTEXT of what is considered a good or bad year, Graeme McDowell has ‘only’ earned $527,904 in 2022. The poor chap; it’s time we all set up a GoFundMe page to cater for his hardship.

Oh, but wait, we don’t have to. The Saudi-backed LIV Invitational Series has offered the hand of friendship to the Ulsterman. Their eight-event series starts tomorrow and McDowell is one of 48 players playing for the €25 million inaugural tournament.

They’ve hearts, as well as banks, of gold these Saudis. Some of us were beginning to fret over McDowell’s future, seeing as he has had to scrape by on career earnings of just €19,099,766 so far.

As a public, we need to remind ourselves every now and then how stupid we are. We need to increase our level of respect for the courage of these golfing rebels, some of whom are ‘risking their future Ryder Cup careers’ to sign up for a Series that is worth $255million. Cry me a river.

The unforgivable aspect of all this is that these golfing heroes have had to answer some irritating questions from pesky journalists about minor issues such as the link between the organisers of these golf tournaments and a government that is slated by, among others, Amnesty International.

There may be two sides to every argument but let’s look purely from the golfers’ perspective because let’s face it they’re an underprivileged lot who deserve to have their voices heard. Most of them have suffered an endless winter through their lives.

Take poor little Dustin Johnson – who has earned a meagre $74m in his career. “I don’t want to play golf for the rest of my life, which I’ve felt like I was probably going to have to do,” the 37-year-old said.

liv-golf-invitational-series-tuesday-june-7th-centurion-club Johnson's fears Source: PA

Well, thankfully that discomfort has been taken away now that he has signed up for the LIV Series. Hopefully he’ll be able to hang up the clubs at, say, 38?

Still, and all, Johnson and McDowell had to sit through the tedium of a press conference yesterday where the morality of this tour was questioned.

It’s hard to know why.

Okay, Amnesty International’s website pointed out a few inconvenient truths about the Saudi government on its website, mentioning how ‘the Saudi Arabia-led coalition involved in the long-running armed conflict in Yemen continued to be implicated in war crimes and other serious violations of international law’.

Oh, and there are references to the imprisonment of Mohammad al-Otaibi, after he helped set up the Union for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. Plus, there was the 20-year stretch handed down to Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, a satirist, who criticised the government’s economic policies and governance.

“Women (in Saudi Arabia) continued to face serious discrimination in marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody,” wrote Amnesty on their website.

It is an unfortunate coincidence that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund happens to be the body bankrolling the $255 million LIV series, especially as that Public Investment Fund is chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Really, we need to think – again – about the victims here. And yes, those are the millionaire golfers. “Surely they want the best players in that competition,” said Kevin Na, the American, when asked if he was prepared to throw away the prospect of playing in future Ryder Cups.

McDowell too was heroic yesterday. He said he’d have been “crazy” to turn down the opportunity to add to his bank balance at this juncture of his career. Remember he has yet to win €20m, the poor sod.

He also said on a couple of occasions during yesterday’s press conference that golfers are role models.

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But for what?

Some might say a role model is a person who not only turns down this invitation but lashes into the organisers of it by drawing attention to human rights abuse in Saudi.

Some might say the 2018 murder of a Saudi Arabian journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, after he went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, was unforgivable. Others such as Greg Norman, the face of LIV, put it differently. “We’ve all made mistakes,” was the Australian’s take on Khashoggi’s killing.

Some might say this Series is sick, that sport is sick, that the acceptance of such obscene sums of money from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is just plain wrong.

McDowell, however, said: “We’re not politicians. I know you guys hate that expression. But, you know, if Saudi Arabia wanted to use the game of golf as a way for them to get to where they want to be, and they have the resources to accelerate that experience, I think we are proud to help them on that journey.”

Actually, Graeme, there is only one way to help the Saudis reform. It’s by pulling away from this Series, by saying that unless there is tangible evidence that the Saudi government recognises the rights of women, migrants and members of the LGBTQ community, then you won’t hit a ball in anger.

That, after all, is what a role model would do.

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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