IN THE CONTEXT of what is considered a good or bad year, Graeme McDowell has “only” earned $527,904 in 2022. Poor guy; it’s time we all created a GoFundMe page to address his struggles.
Oh, but wait, we don’t have to. The Saudi-backed LIV Invitational series offered the Ulsterman the hand of friendship. Their eight-event series begins tomorrow and McDowell is one of 48 players playing for the inaugural €25m tournament.
They have hearts, as well as banks, of gold these Saudis. Some of us were starting to worry about McDowell’s future, seeing as he’s had to make do with career earnings of just €19,099,766 so far.
As an audience, we need to be reminded every once in a while how stupid we are. We need to raise our level of respect for the courage of these golf rebels, some of whom are “risking their future Ryder Cup careers” to enter a series worth $255 million. Cry Me A River.
The unforgivable aspect of it all is that these golf heroes had to answer annoying questions from annoying journalists on minor matters like the link between the organizers of these golf tournaments and a government appointed, among others, by Amnesty International.
There can be two sides to every argument, but let’s just look at it from the perspective of golfers because let’s face it, they are a disadvantaged group that deserves to have their voices heard. Most of them have endured endless winter throughout their lives.
Take poor little Dustin Johnson – who earned a meager $74 million in his career. “I don’t want to play golf for the rest of my life, which I felt I was probably going to have to,” the 37-year-old said.
Well, thankfully, that discomfort is gone now that he’s signed up for Series LIV. Hopefully he can hang up the clubs at, say, 38?
Still, and all, Johnson and McDowell had to sit in boredom for a press conference yesterday where the morality of this tour was questioned.
It is difficult to know why.
Okay, Amnesty International’s website has highlighted some inconvenient truths about the Saudi government on its website, mentioning how “the Saudi-led coalition involved in the long-running armed conflict in Yemen has continued to be involved 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 establish the Union for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. In addition, there was the 20-year period inflicted on Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, a satirist, who criticized the government’s economic policies and governance.
“Women (in Saudi Arabia) continued to face severe discrimination in marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody,” Amnesty wrote on its website.
It is an unfortunate coincidence that the Saudi Public Investment Fund happens to be the body funding the $255 million Series LIV, especially since this Public Investment Fund is chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed. Bin Salman.
Really, we have to think – again – about the victims here. And yes, these are the millionaire golfers. “They surely want the best players in this competition,” said Kevin Na, the American, when asked if he was willing to give up the prospect of playing in future Ryder Cups.
McDowell was also heroic yesterday. He said he would have been “crazy” to turn down the opportunity to increase his bank balance at this point in his career. Don’t forget he hasn’t won 20 million euros yet, you poor bastard.
He also said a few times at yesterday’s press conference that golfers are role models.
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Some might say that a role model is a person who not only refuses this invitation, but also attacks the organizers by drawing attention to human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.
Some might say that the 2018 murder of a Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, was unforgivable. Others like Greg Norman, the face of LIV, said it differently. “We’ve all made mistakes,” was the Aussie’s take on Khashoggi’s murder.
Some might say that this series is sick, that the sport is sick, that accepting such obscene sums of money from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is just plain wrong.
McDowell, however, said, “We are not politicians. I know you 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’re proud to help them in this trip .”
In fact, Graeme, there is only one way to help Saudis reform. That’s walking away from this series, saying that unless there’s hard evidence that the Saudi government recognizes the rights of women, migrants, and members of the LGBTQ community, then you don’t not hit a ball in anger.
That is, after all, what a model would do.