Golf

Lee Westwood Defends His Potential Participation In Saudi-Backed Golf Tour

Lee Westwood Defends His Potential Participation In Saudi-Backed Golf Tour

We could see some major changes to the structures in professional golf in the coming years. While the PGA Tour and European Tour have been the two dominant forces in the sport over the last number of decades, a new contender is set to emerge.

The Saudi-backed 'LIV Golf Invitational Series' has been attempting to recruit some of the biggest names in the sport over the last couple of years. While a number of the top ranked players have shunned their advances, their first event is still set to go ahead next month.

It will take place at Centurion Club in the UK from 9-11 June, with a $25million prize pool up for grabs. It is expected that 48 players could take part, with Lee Westwood likely to be among them.

Despite the looming threat of expulsion from the two main tours, the Englishman has not been deterred in taking part in events under the umbrella of the new association. He previously signed a non-disclosure agreement blocking him from discussing his potential participation, although he has now confirmed that he has asked for a release to play in the event next month.

Speaking earlier today, Lee Westwood said he would be foolish not to take part in the Saudi league due to the money on offer.

I’ve asked for releases for tournaments for as long as I’ve been on Tour. Not heard anything back yet. Ball is in the European Tour’s court and the PGA Tour’s court for that matter.

I think some of my mates I grew up playing with in Worksop, if I went up to them and said I’ve been given an opportunity to play in a tournament, a 48-man tournament for $25million, they would probably pull me to one side and say 'what is it you’re actually thinking about?’

This is my job. I do this for money. It’s not the only reason for doing it. But if anybody comes along and gives any of us a chance at a pay rise, then you have to seriously consider it, don’t you?

I’ve supported the European Tour for 29 years. I’ve hosted events on this Tour.

It’s being portrayed as an us and them (situation), whereas the people from LIV Golf have said that they want to stand side-by-side; they are not going up against any of the really massive tournaments.

They want everybody to be able to play, have options. They are not forcing anybody’s hand, so I believe.

People always have a problem with change, don’t they? They are sceptical about it and people like continuity, whereas change in competition is good in any walk of life I think. It shakes things up and keeps everybody on their toes and keeps everybody trying to improve and improve their product.

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Phil Mickelson came under heavy criticism for his comments about the tour last year, although Westwood seems undeterred about taking part at this point.

He is unlikely to be the only big names to be included, although younger players such as Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka have already said that they will not be participating.

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Gary Connaughton

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