Graeme McDowell says new Saudi-backed Tour was too good to turn down while Rory McIlroy changes position

Graeme McDowell admits the consequences of joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf International Series are “scary” but insists the chance to play in the $25m event was too good to turn down.

he Portrush man was named in the 48-player field for next week’s event in St Albans, the first in a money-spinning new series fronted by Greg Norman and backed by the Saudi regime.

McDowell will be joined by the likes of Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood, and Sergio Garcia at Centurion Club next week.

However, it is not a decision that comes without risk. The PGA Tour and DP World Tour have threatened to ban all rebel players from their tournaments – which includes the Ryder Cup – but McDowell has implored them to see sense.

“The perceived consequences are definitely concerning,” McDowell said. “But as players, we just ask ourselves the question, if we do get banned from the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, for example, is that good for the sport of golf?

“I believe it is not good for the game and I really feel what the guys at LIV have done is they’ve tried to create a schedule, which especially fits around the PGA Tour.

“It is designed to co-exist with the other tours in the world and let’s just hope that it all works out. The unknowns are a little scary, but I am sure it’s weighed into the decision of every player that’s decided to take the leap. And we just hope that the right decision will be made.”

A former major champion, McDowell also has ambitions to one day captain Europe in the Ryder Cup but that would certainly be dashed if the DP World Tour takes a stand.

But the 2014 Ryder Cup hero says it is not a decision he has taken lightly.

He added: “It was an exceedingly difficult decision. It is a difficult decision as a player when there’s so many unknowns. We do not know what the reaction is going to be.

“It just boils down to the fact that I am a business and I have operated all over the world for 20 years. This is a compelling opportunity. It is a fun format and there are some guarantees there.

“It was not a decision I took very lightly. I realised the consequences could be far-ranging. But I felt like it was the right decision for me and my family – to be able to take an opportunity like this and play on something new.”

McDowell will warm up for the event by going back to where it all began, with Slaley Hall in Newcastle the venue for the latest leg of the Asian Tour International Series.

It was at Slaley Hall where McDowell made his professional debut 20 years ago this week.

The 42-year-old added: “It has been a fun journey and hopefully there are some years ahead. I want to stay competitive.

“I still feel good enough to play at a high level.

“This week I think I can compete and beat this field.”

Meanwhile. Rory McIlroy appears to have softened in his doubts over the new series.

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Rory McIlroy

Speaking yesterday ahead of his participation in the Memorial Open at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, the Holywood star said he can understand the lure of the initiative for some players.

“You know, you have some guys in a position where like they are literally not guaranteed a job next year,” he told a press conference.

“As we’ve seen, it’s a young man’s game nowadays. So someone that isn’t guaranteed their Tour card next year, another entity comes along and says, we’ll guarantee you this amount for three years, plus you’re playing for a ton more prize money, and you’re playing less events, you can spend more time with your family.

“I mean, whenever you sit down and look at some of those things, you know, it’s very appealing to some of those guys that are in that position.

“Again, I’m not in that position, and it’s not something that I would do. But you know, you at least have to try to put yourself in other people’s shoes and see where they are coming from.”

As for McIlroy, he insists he can still build on his US PGA fail in Ohio this weekend.

McIlroy faded from a first round lead to finish eighth on two under par at the US PGA last month as his eight-year major drought continued.

“I did some really good stuff that week. It’s just a matter of trying to build on that,” he said.

“I’m embarking on a four-week stretch here. So I’m going to be playing a lot of golf coming up and I feel like my game is in good shape.”

Free entry for the International Series England (2-5 June) is open to all fans by simply registering at intlserieseng.seetickets.com

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