"It was disappointing": McDowell reveals he was forced out of LIV Golf team

Exclusive: Graeme McDowell reveals how Brooks Koepka came to the rescue after he was left in the cold.

"It was disappointing": McDowell reveals he was forced out of LIV Golf team
"It was disappointing": McDowell reveals he was forced out of LIV Golf…

Graeme McDowell has revealed to GolfMagic how Brooks Koepka came to his rescue during the off-season after Martin Kaymer made it crystal clear there was no future for him on Cleeks GC.

Speaking exclusively to GolfMagic ahead of LIV Golf's fourth event of the 2024 season at Hong Kong Golf Club, McDowell opened up about his new captain and the lifeline he threw him ahead of the new season. 

McDowell's journey with Cleeks GC began in 2022 when captain Kaymer selected him alongside Richard Bland and Bernd Wiesberger in the draft.

Related: McDowell tells GolfMagic how Talor Gooch really feels about his Masters snub!

It was disappointing: McDowell reveals he was forced out of LIV Golf team

However, McDowell admitted his first two seasons on LIV didn't play out as anticipated with finishes of 34th and 42nd in the individual standings.

Eager to discuss his new team, Smash GC, which also comprises Talor Gooch and Jason Kokrak, the Northern Irishman opened up on how his switch came to light.

McDowell told GolfMagic:

"The Cleeks relationship had kind of run its course a little bit. It wasn’t really a good fit. I don’t think Martin saw a future with me on the team, which is disappointing.
"At the time, you know, I was worried, I was worried about my future; you know, my contract with LIV was up, and it was clear that Cleeks didn’t want me on the team. So you know Brooks really offered me a lifeline."

Since his move to Smash GC, McDowell has found some early-season form and currently sits tied for 19th in the individual standings thanks to a fifth-place finish at LIV Golf Las Vegas, which also coincided with Smash GC winning the team event. 

Smash GC also finished seventh at Mayakoba and third at Jeddah, which puts them second in the team standings.

With a new captain and a fresh perspective, McDowell is motivated to kick on in 2024 and eager to repay Koepka's faith.

McDowell said: 

"Obviously, he’s put a lot of trust in me, bringing me into this team this year, and it’s been nice to be able to play decently so far. I want to continue working hard for him, and you know that pushes me and motivates me.
"As a 44-year-old guy who’s been doing this for 22 years, the freshness and the different perspective that it brings is really helpful for me, and I really feel like it’s helping, it’s helping my game."

McDowell was full of praise for Koepka and believes the five-time major champion is pleased with how the team has settled so quickly following a turbulent 2023 season that saw him heavily fall out with former teammate Matt Wolff

"Yeah, I mean, you know, it was pretty public that Smash GC last year had some personnel issues, and there was definitely some tension within the camp. I really feel like you know Brooks is obviously very happy with the team camaraderie this season.
"When you’ve got a guy like that driving you from the front, asking kind of you know, obviously not verbally asking you to kind of give your best, but you know he expects everyone to give 100%.
"That pressure and that motivation is kind of what I need right now. It kind of feels like it narrows my focus. And you know, like I said, I’m enjoying being around him."

Throughout the 2023 season, Koepka failed to hide his displeasure with Wolff, and the feud spilled over publicly several times. 

Koepka's brother and fellow Smash GC teammate Chase also endured a difficult season, resulting in him being relegated.

Chase made way for McDowell, and then Gooch replaced an out-of-favour Wolff, who headed over to Bubba Watson's RangeGoats. 

With McDowell leaving Cleeks GC, two-time major champion Kaymer brought in new signing Adrian Meronk, who decided to make the move to LIV Golf despite earning his PGA Tour card for the first time in his career. 

Kaymer also welcomed Kalle Samooja who earned his playing rights through the LIV Promotions event at the end of 2023, and Wiesberger was sent packing from the team. 

McDowell is optimistic about his chances of backing up his recent good form in Hong Kong this week, and he believes his experience playing the course during his DP World Tour days may just give him a slight advantage over the rest of the field. 

The former US Open champion said: 

"A lot of guys are here for the first time, so you know I have a little bit of an advantage. It helps that I have pretty good course knowledge.
"If I were to draw up a golf course where I think I can compete, it would look something like this one. So, you know, I’m pretty excited to continue the form and the little bit of belief and momentum that I’m creating within my game."

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Stay tuned to GolfMagic for more comments from McDowell following our lengthy interview with him ahead of LIV Golf Hong Kong this week. 

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