Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell said he regrets even speaking about his decision to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series after receiving messages on social media from people telling him to “go die”.
Speaking ahead of the inaugural event in London last month, McDowell had said the circuit was “polarising” but that he was proud to be part of it.
The $255 million series is being bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which critics say is a vehicle for the country to improve its image in the face of criticism of its human rights record.
“I can’t turn on my Instagram or Twitter account without someone telling me to go die,” McDowell told the BBC on Monday. “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.
“I’m trying to make a business decision for me and my family. 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.”
LIV Golf’s first event was won by South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, who pocketed a $4 million prize – the biggest pay check in golf history.
“It is about the money, and I think most guys would happily say that to you,” McDowell said. “They’re there for the financial opportunity, no doubt about it.
“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.”
The next event on the LIV Tour takes place at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, later this month.