G Mac believes competition from Saudis can benefit the PGA Tour

by Ronan MacNamara  

Graeme McDowell. Photo by Golffile

Graeme McDowell believes that the competition being provided by the Saudis can only benefit the PGA Tour and push it to improve.

McDowell who won the 2020 Saudi International will appear in the fourth edition of the event next month alongside compatriot Shane Lowry and he described the current power struggle in golf as “evolution.”

“Golf Saudi has created multiple conversations within golf around the world, which have made, take the PGA Tour example, they are trying to be a better version of themselves,” McDowell told Alex Miceli of the Morning Read.

G Mac will kick off his 2022 campaign at the Sony Open in Hawaii in his first appearance since the QBE Shootout where he will tee off alongside his partner Corey Conners and 2009 Open winner Stewart Cink for the opening two rounds.

The 2010 US Open champion believes that the threat of the Greg Norman lead Saudi Operation which will see $200 million pumped into ten tournaments on the Asian Tour – with the Saudi International being the flagship event – should prompt the PGA Tour to understand how important the top players are to the Tour.

He referenced the controversial Player Impact Programme (PIP) as a decision taken to alleviate the pressure put on Jay Monahan and the PGA Tour.

“Sort of that who made who a little bit. If you take Tiger Woods as an example, would we be sitting here today in this financial environment that is the PGA Tour if it wasn’t for Tiger Woods?

“The PGA Tour is obviously stepping up and taking care of these guys now and some of that’s been driven by the competition that Golf Saudi has put out there with potential guarantees with these guys, just for being there.

“That's something the PGA Tour model hasn’t ever really embraced before because it’s been very much, 'we’re going to put it out there and if you want to come and play the best, you can earn it.'”

The 42-year-old will be “returning to the scene of the crime” next month at Royal Greens and Country Club but it could also be the spark the Portrush native needs after enduring a nightmarish period since winning the event in February 2020.

That win moved the four-time Ryder Cup star into the top-50 and at that stage, he was in a great position to put a strong bid for a fifth Ryder Cup appearance together.

Since then, it has been a downward spiral and McDowell tees it up in Honolulu this week 328th in the world after a year where he posted one top-10 finish on the PGA Tour, took two months out mid-season after surgery on an arm injury and lost his caddie for a period due to Covid.

With his sights set on a playing role at next year’s Ryder Cup in Rome having pulled out of any captaincy discussions, McDowell is looking forward to getting back to himself after a turbulent year where he chopped and changed coaches between Lucas Wald, Kevin Kirk and Pete Cowen.

Having previously admitted that chasing distance at this stage of his career was the wrong decision, the four-time PGA Tour winner has some serious work to do on the greens if he is to remain competitive at the top level.

Despite ranking 178th in strokes gained putting this season, McDowell is excited to coach himself and is feeling very motivated and encouraged by where his game is at heading into 2022.

“I’m kind of looking forward to coaching myself this year, just going back to being me at the end of the day you can’t kid yourself.

“I’m a little more free-spirited than I have been for a long time. As I move on to this stage of my career, the final few chapters in the main PGA Tour career, I want to finish strong, I want to finish with a good attitude and I want to finish with a guy that doesn’t put any pressure on himself.”

After the Sony Open, McDowell will decide upon making his debut at the Farmers Insurance Open or joining Rory McIlroy and Lowry at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship before heading to Saudi Arabia.

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