Koepka handed McDowell a get-out-of-jail-free card since he finished outside the top 24 in the 48-man league. When McDowell signed with LIV 18 months ago, he agreed to a two-year deal.
LIV featured him heavily leading up to the inaugural season in 2022. The Northern Irishman stated then that he felt obliged to answer questions about Saudi Arabia’s terrible human rights record. Those comments forced him into the spotlight, and he received a lot of heat because of them.
Then, in September 2023, he joined a podcast discussing the comments he made before the inaugural London event in June 2022.
“I’m not being paid by the Saudi Arabian human rights organization; I’m being paid by this new start-up golf tour, which is a financially lucrative opportunity for me at this stage in my career. The end,” he said.
“Of course, it was about the money. It didn’t need to be said. Of course, that’s what I was there for—it was a business decision.”
McDowell finished 40th in the money standings in 2023 and hoped Martin Kaymer, the Cleeks GC captain, would keep him for the 2024 season. However, his former Ryder Cup teammate looked elsewhere to fill his team.
Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, another member of the Cleeks, left and decided to reapply for DP World Tour membership.
However, as understood in his LIV Golf contract, McDowell would have to pay that financial penalty himself.
Instead, Koepka recruited him to join Smash GC. The five-time major champion gave his team a boost by adding McDowell and is more likely to succeed in the team competition than the Cleeks, who are now trying to replace two members.
Will McDowell succeed more with Smash GC, or will this end up with him paying his fines and returning to the DP World Tour?
Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.