VIRGINIA WATER, England – Graeme McDowell is keenly aware that he’s not the most popular person at Wentworth, as a member of the LIV Golf contingent that has made the DP World Tour’s flagship event a referendum between the established tours and the Saudi-backed breakaway circuit.
He explained after his opening round at the BMW PGA Championship that his only desire this week was a need for competition and admitted that he considered withdrawing from the event given the controversy the inclusion of the 18 LIV players has caused. Ultimately, he stressed it’s his fellow players, not the media or fans or sponsors, who should decide if he and the other LIV players should be allowed to play European tour events.
“I should have asked this in the [player-only] meeting Tuesday,” said McDowell, who opened in 1-under 71. “But I’d like to take a vote of the 320 or so members and let them decide if I should be here, let them decide if we bring value.”
McDowell and the other LIV players had fines and suspensions assessed by the Euro tour stayed in July by a British arbiter. There have been a handful of LIV players in the field at various events since, including the Scottish Open, but this week’s championship is the largest contingent and they have received criticism from many, including some of their fellow players, for what some see as an attempt to chase world ranking points.
Rory McIlroy, the most outspoken advocate for the PGA Tour and the status quo, quickly dismissed McDowell’s suggestion for a player mandate to decide the LIV players’ fates.
“At this point with legal things and everything, you’d just have to go by the book,” McIlroy said. “If you’re abiding by the rules and regulations of the tours then by all means you can play, but if you’ve broken rules and regulations, actions have consequences and they’re living the consequences – well they’re not living the consequences at the minute, but in February they might.
“It’s mindboggling that it’s gotten to this point, that the future of their golf careers is up to one person [a judge]. It’s crazy. They put themselves in that position.”
A formal legal hearing is scheduled for February in the United Kingdom to decide if the LIV players should be allowed to continue to play DP World Tour events or if the circuit has the right to suspend and fine them for violating tour policies.