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October 12, 2022

Dustin Johnson

Graeme McDowell

Harold Varner

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Royal Greens Golf & Country Club

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Welcome, we are joined by three past champions here, Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell and Harold Varner. Thank you for being here.

Q. Just wanted to ask you guys, what do you like most about the course, obviously having won on it before?

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I mean, listen, it's a really good golf course. The way the wind blows here, you have to hit a lot of different shots. It asks all the questions. You have to put it in the fairway to hit key shots.

But to me it's a big iron play golf course. You have to control your ball well, and it can really play difficult. I think this wind that blows out of the west, which is left-to-right on 16, is pretty much the prevailing wind here. I think all of us have seen that wind and obviously played well in that wind direction. Looking forward to trying that on the weekend here.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, like what Graeme said. I like the way the wind picks up every afternoon. You've got to hit quality iron shots and you have to drive it well, too. The fairways are pretty narrow, and if you hit it in the rough, it's really hard to control the golf ball.

HAROLD VARNER III: Yeah, I think it's pretty simple: We like to win. The golf course is great but at the end of the day, you play to win tournaments. And I haven't won as much as these guys, and the way I've won is pretty awesome. So that's what I'm saying.

Q. Have you recreated the eagle putt yet?

HAROLD VARNER III: I have not, no. Other than I saw it yesterday. Yeah, pretty awesome. Hope to do it again, get on the podium. That would be pretty awesome.

Q. Have you thought about what that win meant for you? It obviously bolted you up in the World Rankings faster and all the things that came into it?

HAROLD VARNER III: A lot. I got into the Masters and I got into every other major. Played well once I won. Obviously things went a little crazy when I got back to the States.

You know, maybe I've seen adversity in my life; to have that after you win, pretty weird. It's pretty funny.

Q. This tour will see in time World Ranking points. What have you heard from anyone that that's the case?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: You want me to go?

GRAEME McDOWELL: I'll go. I think it's possible for the guys to get some assurances. We all agree and I think most people in the world of golf would agree that the field out here is to a certain strength now where it's impossible to ignore the talent that's out here.

This guy standing in the middle of the three of us (Dustin Johnson), if his World Ranking is inaccurate, then the whole system is inaccurate. So the only assurances we get from LIV is that we are ticking all the boxes that we can tick and continue to do what is necessary for the OWGR to look at us the right way.

You know, hopefully it's inevitble, but the longer it goes on, the games that are being played, you know, all we want is to have a fair core, if you like, to recognize exactly what it is that we are doing out here.

Like I said, I feel like LIV tried to do everything they possibly can to be legitimate in the eyes of the OWGR. We've got some quality quality players out here.

HAROLD VARNER III: Thank you, Graeme.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Love you lots.

The word "Official" has to go away from OWGR if they don't take care of the players out here.

HAROLD VARNER III: That was unbelievable, your answer.

For me, I think we knew what we were getting into. I think it's easy to sit here and say what could happen, what should happen. But obviously for me, I knew what was going to happen. Like, it wasn't going to be easy.

I think the people at LIV did an unbelievable job...because I don't know about the check marks. Honestly I could care less. I knew exactly what was going to happen. I knew what could happen in my career and I accept that.

I've had a great time out here. So the World Ranking thing, it's just been a part of golf for so long, and now all of a sudden some feathers have been ruffled. It's funny, though, I think. But it is what it is.

Q. Did you get a haircut?

HAROLD VARNER III: No way (laughing). Calm down.

I don't know what it takes to be honest with you. Obviously they have been talking to us the whole time and giving us updates. I'm pretty, you know, just in the middle -- do we deserve it? Yeah? It feels unbelievable. It's sad sometimes. I just laugh. I like playing golf. These guys are a lot of fun. I think it's really cool that we hang out and things that we don't do as much on the PGA TOUR.

I think it's very -- they call it a fadeaway, whenever you leave a family you become hated. And in a real family, no matter what your son does or daughter, they are family and you take care of them, and that's just not been the way.

Q. You just said that they are incomplete, the World Ranking points, and if they are incomplete and clearly using stall tactics to push that down the road as far as they can, if they are inaccurate, does it make sense for another organization to step up and do the job that they are not doing?

GRAEME McDOWELL: You mean have another set of rankings?

Q. The OWGR points almost have an asterisk to it if you have a Dustin Johnson that's not on the list.


Q. We have 48 of the best golfers in the world out here, and none of them are getting points. That doesn't seem --

GRAEME McDOWELL: I don't know about the technicality regards another ranking system if someone was to create another ranking system.

To me, when I look at the OWGR, it's to give everyone a fair opportunity around the globe as a professional player, playing in a strength of field that's relative to be recognized within that ranking system to give everyone a fair crack at the whip.

You know, so like I said, I love the fact that LIV has been so transparent with us trying to make sure that they are ticking all the boxes and do the job they need to do to get a fair case with the OWGR. The guys that sit on that board, obviously there's a huge amount of confliction on that board.

The longer this goes on, we have a huge amount of deterioration in the current World Ranking points for the guys out here, and if that doesn't retrospectively kind of get taken care of, by the time that we do get ranking points, our strength of field is going to be relatively much less than it needs to be.

So we just get hurt the longer this game gets played, and it needs to be taken care of ASAP.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Graeme pretty much summed it up, exactly what I think. We're going to get World Ranking points. Just right now it's another way. And the longer it takes, you know, obviously the more low (ph) it becomes for us. If we wait too long, all of our rankings are going to drop so much, it's not going to matter.

We are hoping they do the right thing, and all of us hope to hear in the next week or so and this will all go away.

Q. When you won here in 2020, obviously things have changed a lot in the world of golf since then. For the European Tour, do you think the fact that they were involved complicates this whole situation --

GRAEME McDOWELL: The European Tour being involved?

Q. If was okay for them then.

GRAEME McDOWELL: When I won this tournament in 2020, I was very much like Harold. It got my golf game back on track and my -- European Tour had brought a nation to the table that were curious about the game of golf and wanted to -- that wanted to be involved. And that was exciting.

You know, The European Tour has played a huge amount of golf in the Middle East and been incredibly successful with that. To me this was just another great opportunity to come to a nation that were hoping to put money into the game of golf.

And when I won here in 2020 it was the same as Harold, got back in the Top-50 in the world, got me back in the Masters and got me back doing all the things I had missed for a few years. It was a huge win for me at the time and something I was proud of. Here we stand here two years later, 2 1/2 years later, the golfing globe has changed so much. The opinions on what we are doing here in this country have done a full 180. A huge amount of that is not real and driven by the media, unfortunately.

Q. Do you find playing courses like this and the environmental distances here, that your ball distances and flights change not only on a daily basis but an hourly basis, and it's a bit different from other parts of the world where you can see fairly consistent weather patterns? I'm interested in how the change in the wind and even the atmosphere with the dust particles, because you guys are so precise, how it affects your game.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: To me it goes the same distance but Bryson could probably answer that one (laughter).

For me, the ball goes --

GRAEME McDOWELL: It always goes far.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: That's normal, right.

Q. Do you think the conditions may change dramatically to the way you structure why you play?

HAROLD VARNER III: I think the weather has been unbelievable. Last week it rained and that was it. We had thunderstorms. I don't think anything is really --

DUSTIN JOHNSON: I think the ball travels a long way.

HAROLD VARNER III: I don't carry a yardage book, so I don't really know. I've never carried a yardage book.

Q. So you're $30 million richer. How would you describe this four and a half month journey you've had with LIV? Has it met your expectations? Exceeded it?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: We talked about this yesterday. I really regret my decision to come here (tongue-in-cheek, teasing tone). It's just so terrible (laughter). I'm sitting there last night thinking about it, it was really bothering me a lot (joking). Yeah, just can't get over it.

Q. The Saudis are welcoming you back to Saudi Arabia. Coming here for a different tournament and different system, how do you see the course? Is this going to be any different and how are you planning on attacking it?

HAROLD VARNER III: Yeah, I think I'm going to attack it the same way. Our team played well. These guys have played more events than I have. I'm just really invested in the team. I really like it when we are on the podium. That part of it, we are stupid underdogs. We are trying to take out the Aces -- I don't know what team Graeme plays for but it's just competitive. I think all 48 of us, we just want to compete, and the team aspect just makes it more fun.

Is it different? You still have to play well for your team to do well. So it's a lot of fun. Last week was good for me. We finished fourth, so it's that part of me being an underdog that is a lot of fun.

GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I'm one of those teams ahead. We got some cash last week for the first time which was a lot of fun.

But I think what Harold is saying is yeah, the team element of this is way more intriguing and fun. Talking to all the players, the team element is something that they are really highly invested in. You get a lot out of it and really enjoy kind of winning as a four, and really enjoying, kind of sharing that experience together.

So I think this golf course this week plays a little differently from how it plays in February. The golf course the three of us have won oncoming out of here the first time in Saudi Arabia, the golf course was a little drier, a little firmer, coming out of summer, a little water, overseed. So the golf course plays a little different from what it does in February.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: You know, for me, it's no different than the Saudi Invitational -- inaudible -- we might have got the No. 1 seed. I just want to beat -- yeah, the golf tournament, the course is different right now. It's softer. That's about the only thing. It's in pretty good shape, but soft, which is kind of weird playing. Usually the ball is running and the fairways are firm. Other than that, we'll prepare like we do every week, and if you want to win, you're going to have to really golf your ball well.

Q. In terms of the weather, you guys just came from Bangkok, and you have now this weather here in Jeddah. In terms of the weather, is it going to do anything in your opinion?

HAROLD VARNER III: Going to lose a lot more weight for sure. It's hot.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, it was hot last week and it's hot this week. Actually yesterday, like lunchtime or noon or whatever, I played in the morning and it was extremely hot. After, I went out and hit some balls and was way nicer than it was last week. When the wind blows it makes it bearable.

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