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Graeme McDowell: ‘Major problem’ if top PGA Tour players leave for Saudi tour

SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda – With an announcement looming that a proposed global tour will name Greg Norman its commissioner, a concept that had previously been largely speculation has become very real.

Following a meeting between representatives of the Saudi-backed tour and select members of the media on Wednesday in New York City (Golf Channel was not invited to the meeting) the circuit is expected to name Norman commissioner and outline an investment in the Asian Tour, which announced earlier this year it will sanction the Saudi International starting in 2022.

“We’ve talked over pints for the last couple of years of what it all means,” Graeme McDowell said. “Is it constructive or is it destructive if five or 10 of the best in the world leave the PGA Tour. Obviously, we know that’s a major problem.”

McDowell won the 2020 Saudi International and there’s been speculation he would be interested in the new tour’s limited-field schedule.

“It’s such an unknown quantity right now. It’s so hard to make a comment. Is it good for golf or bad for golf? It’s very difficult,” he said following the first round of the Bermuda Championship, where he shot 1-under 70. “Competition is typically good for everyone. I feel that typically the PGA Tour product has never been as strong as it is right now and it continues to get stronger. I certainly don’t have any contracts [from the new circuit] right now. I’m certainly very happy where I am right now on the PGA Tour.”

McDowell also addressed a related issue that will likely have more near-term consequences. Like at least seven other PGA Tour players, the Northern Irishman has requested a conflicting-event release to play next year’s Saudi International but the Tour initially balked at granting those releases and has not yet said whether its members will be given releases to play the event.

“I asked the PGA Tour for a release to go back there again next year because I’ve played the Middle East for a large part of my career,” McDowell said. “[The Tour] said to do so [ask for a release] even though they haven’t decided if we’re going to be able to go and play that event.”

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