Graeme McDowell: Majors over Ryder Cup should be the priority when golf returns


A year ago this week, Graeme McDowell resurrected his career with a victory at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. That feels like a lifetime ago, McDowell said, as the COVID-19 pandemic has made his return of form with the clubs “slightly irrelevant.” McDowell was speaking from his home in Florida where he was laying low with his family and waking up most mornings to his son asking him to go build train tracks.

McDowell was one of the voices of reason when the Players Championship was canceled after one round, saying one day later, “To be honest, I was expecting the horn to go off on the ground yesterday… It’s the right call. It’s the responsible move. At the end of the day what we’re doing out here is insignificant compared to what’s going on on the planet right now.”

Today was supposed to be the media day for the European Tour’s Irish Open, an event that McDowell, a proud Northern Irishman, committed to host in late May, but with each passing day seems less likely. With the season’s first two majors already postponed, McDowell expressed concern for whether the Ryder Cup, which is scheduled to be played Sept. 25-27, should be contested, and said the majors should take priority.

“I feel like the Ryder Cup can only happen if we felt the selection process wasn’t compromised,” said McDowell, a four-time European Tour Ryder Cupper and vice captain for Thomas Bjorn in 2018. “Otherwise the tournament wouldn’t just feel right. We need 3-4 months for the qualification process. It’s a crazy puzzle. I can’t imagine how much time the tours have spent figuring out a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D.”

He added: “If we could be back to playing golf around June, you could argue four solid months for the qualifying process. Could you pick two teams of 12? That could re-inject some adrenaline back into golf, then I’d be fully supportive of it.”

McDowell said many “bigger picture things” have to fall into place and “it’s a waiting game and a dynamic situation.”

As a part-owner in two restaurants, Nona Blue, with Orlando and Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, locations, McDowell may have a better perspective “from ground zero,” he said, than many of his fellow competitors as to the ripple effect the coronavirus has had on the economy. Both restaurants are shut down and trying to help staff through these difficult times. But being closed for potentially several months is going to have negative consequences on their restaurants’ cash flow.

“All of a sudden, you’re thinking about, ‘Will we be able to come out of this on the other end?’” he said. “It’s scary to think how quickly a business, all around the world, can be impacted by this.”

McDowell said he will be raring to go when the professional golf tours resume and it will only take two weeks of hard work to be ready. In the meantime, he says he’s enjoying plenty of quality time in the pool with his family.

“Our backyard looks like a pool supply store with all the inflatables and bouncy castles and slides you can imagine,” he said.

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