Graeme McDowell expressed shock at the level of vitriol generated by his move to the LIV Golf tour as he revealed he now receives regular social media messages wishing him dead.
he former Ryder Cup stalwart said he expected consequences from his decision to join the contentious Saudi-backed series, but he did not anticipate “being torn to shreds”.
The 2010 US Open champion acknowledged his switch to LIV was “about the money” but he said the negativity around the rebel initiative was drowning out the positive changes it was attempting to make to the game of golf.
McDowell faced intense criticism following his widely publicised defence of the controversial new tour at a press conference ahead of the inaugural event in London last month.
He now says he wished he had said nothing at the press event at the Centurion Club.
The 42-year-old from Portrush was speaking to BBC NI on Monday as he took part in the JP McManus Pro-Am event at Adare Manor in Co Limerick.
LIV Golf: The Saudi Government and Sportswashing
“I never really have made my peace with how vitriolic the attacks would be regarding my reputation, on social media the things that I’d said being absolutely torn to shreds,” he told BBC NI.
“And it’s really hard because I’m being asked questions that there are no right answers to.
“I’m having my moral integrity attacked all the time when, at the end of the day, all I’m trying to do is play golf. I’m trying to make a business decision for me and my family. And, you know, I’ve paid my dues in this game over the last 20 years, I’ve tried to carry myself the right way.
“The tenuous links to what the Saudi regime have done, the horrible things they have done, they’re trying to link this to golf and playing professional golf.
“It’s very difficult when you’re in a situation where you’re literally being asked questions that there are no right answers to and you’re just being torn apart for it.”
I’m having my moral integrity attacked all the time when, at the end of the day, all I’m trying to do is play golf.Graeme McDowell
At the Centurion Club last month, McDowell described the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as “reprehensible” when he was pressed on crimes and human rights abuses linked to the regime.
But he then insisted that the LIV players were “not politicians” and said he was “proud” to help Saudi Arabia “get to where they want to be”.
On Monday, McDowell said: “I don’t wake up and feel proud of myself every day. You know, I can’t turn on my Instagram or Twitter account without someone telling me to go die. It’s been a really tough couple of months.
“But again, I expected it, I knew what the consequences are going to be, I just didn’t realise kind of just how heavily this was going to be hammered, trying to answer questions which are unanswerable.
“That’s probably the only mistake I made in London at the first event when I was in my press conference – I just wish I’d said nothing.
“I just wish I just sat there and just kind of shook my head and said no comment. But it’s not who I am. I always try and be truthful and try to answer questions. I shouldn’t have bothered.”
The Northern Irishman said professional golf is played in many countries with questionable records on human rights.
“I’ve played golf all over the world and countries whose human rights records could probably be torn apart as well,” he said.
“I’ve never questioned being in China or being in the Middle East or being all over the world.
“What I do is I play professional golf, I play golf for money. I’ve chased that money all over the world all my career. I’m 43 next month and, you know, the LIV Golf opportunity was incredibly lucrative. Do I research into the morals of every dollar I’ve ever made? No, I don’t.
“And, unfortunately, because of the competitive threat that this tour is compared to the other tours in the world the negativity has been focused heavily on here and it really hurts to kind of see my name attacked the way it has.”