McDowell Dismisses LIV Golf Criticism As 'Smear Campaign'

The 42-year-old is unimpressed with the negativity surrounding the Saudi-backed Series

Graeme McDowell during the second round of the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series event
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Graeme McDowell has dismissed concerns over the LIV Golf Invitational Series as a smear campaign in response to a tweet criticising the Saudi-backed venture.

The Northern Irishman is one of the players signed up to the lucrative Series, which has drawn criticism from many due to the source of the money funding it. Prize money of $225m is available over the eight tournaments, while players including Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson have been lured to the Series for staggering sums. 

However, there are suggestions the Saudis are funding the Series to sportswash the country's human rights record, which has led to criticism from fans, the media and players. Meanwhile, others, including Rory McIlroy, have expressed their indifference to the strength of the field despite the inclusion of the high-profile headliners. 

Now, McDowell has suggested that the negativity heaped on the Series is the result of a smear campaign. The 42-year-old made the remark while responding to a Twitter post that said: “Nobody is going to watch a washed up group of money hungry old men play an exhibition.” McDowell replied: “Watch this space. It will be a compelling field in no time. There is room for the sport for this product. Once the smear campaign dies down and the golf takes over, we will see.”

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McDowell’s comment comes just a month after LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman drew criticism for apparently downplaying the seriousness of the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi by saying of the incident: "We've all made mistakes". The Australian insists the Series primarily exists to grow the game, but considering the amount of money funding it, it seems likely the suggestions of an ulterior motive will persist.

One observation of McDowell's that appears accurate is on the improving strength of the fields. As well as the likes of Johnson and Mickelson, the second tournament, in Portland, Oregon, will also include 2020 US Open winner Bryson DeChambeau and 2018 Masters Champion Patrick Reed. Meanwhile, there are rumours of more high-profile LIV golf signings to follow.

Following Mickelson’s struggles in the US Open, where he admitted he wasn't as prepared as he thought, there is a concern that LIV players will become rusty without the fierce competitive edge of playing for incentives such as Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points. An application to have the Series count towards the OWGR has been submitted. In the meantime, McDowell seems convinced that the quality of player joining the Series will soon ensure suggestions its tournaments will resemble exhibitions never come to pass.

Mike Hall
Mike Hall

Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.