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Graeme McDowell: Banning players from attending the LIV golf event would be ‘not healthy’ for the sport.

Graem McDowell
Graeme McDowell won the US Open in 2010 and has represented Europe at four Ryder Cups

Graeme McDowell says it wouldn’t be “healthy” if players were banned from golf for attending next week’s $25 million Saudi Arabia-funded LIV Golf Invitational.

The PGA Tour and DP World Tour denied waiver requests from players who wish to play and threatened to ban those found violating the rules.

“I don’t agree with that, I hope they make the right decisions,” the Northern Irishman told BBC Radio Newcastle.

“When the major tours of the world start banning players, it’s just not healthy for the sport.

“There are a lot of smart people out there in the world who play golf and I think they will do the right thing for everyone.”

Major champions Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia, along with England’s Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Richard Bland, are also among the 48-man field for the three-day tournament at Centurion Club, near London, although they were denied entry.

It is the first of eight planned events – five in the US, one in Saudi Arabia and one in Thailand – with a total prize pool of US$255m (£202m). The first seven events are worth $25 million, with the final team competition having $50 million up for grabs.

The PGA Tour said last month that its decision to deny waiver requests was “in the best interests of the Tour and its players.”

The PGA Tour is yet to comment on Wednesday’s announcement of the field for Centurion, while the DP World Tour told BBC Sport it had no comment to make at this time.

What action will be taken against the players who have defied the PGA Tour remains to be seen and world No. 376 McDowell admits it was not an easy decision.

“It took me several months to make my decision because it has become so polarizing [there is] so much negativity about what this all means for golf,” said the 42-year-old, who won the US Open in 2010.

“But I had to boil it down to the fact that I’m a businessman who’s done business around the world for the last 20 years and this is just another compelling golf opportunity.

“I feel like a free agent, I feel like I can play anytime, anywhere, and it’s really interesting to exercise those rights on an opportunity.”

LIV Golf Investments, led by former world number one Greg Norman, promises to revolutionize the game with a shorter, sharper product lucrative enough to attract the biggest names.

However, it has faced criticism because its money comes from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

This has led to allegations of sports laundering, with organizations like Amnesty International arguing that some countries may be investing in sport to distract from poor human rights records.

McDowell is at Slaley Hall in Northumberland this week to play in the first Asian Tour event in England. This second tournament in the International Series has a prize pool of US$2 million and is being funded by LIV Golf Investments. with seats up for grabs at next week’s LIV Golf Invitational.

He acknowledges the controversial nature of next week’s event but believes it could lead to the growth of the sport.

“Financially it’s lucrative, but the format is innovative and different and attractive to the next generation,” he said.

“A lot went into this decision. All I know is that the guys I deal with at PIF and LIV are passionate about the game of golf and that’s important to me. I love spreading the game around the world. I love playing golf as a force for good, to really inspire the next generation and instill great values.

“We are not here to save the world’s geopolitical situations, we are here to play golf and promote the game in a country like Saudi Arabia. They happen to have a huge amount of resources to accelerate their journey in golf and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

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