Lee Westwood breaks silence on Saudi-backed LIV Golf events in passionate plea

Lee Westwood, a 29-year veteran of the DP World Tour, has become the first player to talk openly about the Saudi-backed LIV Golf International Series after confirming that he’d requested to tee up in next month’s opening event on English soil.

Speaking at The Belfry, where he is competing in this week’s Betfred British Masters, the 49-year-old talked passionately about the threat of players being banned if they align themselves with new money-spinning series being fronted by Greg Norman.

Westwood had previously been reticent to chat about being linked with the $25 million events, the first of which is being held at the Centurion Club, near St Albans, but, while trying to be respectful about his workplace for the next four days, the former world No 1 clearly decided it was time to speak up.

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“I've asked for a release from the PGA Tour and European Tour for the Centurion like many others have,” said Westwood as he joined Richard Bland, the defending Betfred British Masters champion, in confirming that.

“I've asked for releases for tournaments for as long as I've been on tour. It's not the first release I've asked for. I've asked for many. Not heard anything back yet. Ball is in the European Tour's court and the PGA Tour's court for that matter.”

PGA Tour rules stipulate that the tour must decide whether to grant releases at least 30 days before the Centurion event, which would be 10 May. That is also the deadline for DP World Tour players to request releases.

“I don't think it's a case of fairness,” said Westwood, a British Masters winner by five shots at The Belfry in 2007, in reply to being asked if someone like him who’d been loyal to the DP World Tour over the years deserved to be facing a potential ban. “I think it's a case of whichever authority is feeling whatever they do is right.

“I've supported the European Tour for 29 years. I've gone over and won on the PGA Tour in '98, not taken my card. I've never been sort of driven by playing on the PGA Tour like a lot of the guys have. It's been their kind of goal to get on to the PGA Tour. It never has for me.

Lee Westwood speaks to the media ahead of the Betfred British Masters hosted by Danny Willett at The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

“My goal has always been to be a European Tour member and support this tour and kind of go in and out of the PGA Tour. I've hosted events on this tour and obviously played wherever I can through Covid and stuff like that. I consider myself a European Tour member and I've always tried to support the European Tour as much as I can.”

Two other European Ryder Cup stalwarts, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter, have also been linked with the LIV Golf International Series, which comprises eight events this year, as have two past Open champions, Louis Oosthuizen and Phil Mickelson.

It is rumoured that the PGA Tour are set to grant releases for the Centurion event but will then take a different approach over tournaments on American soil thereafter that clash directly with ones on the US circuit.

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“It's being portrayed as us and them, whereas the people from LIV Golf, all the reports I've read, have said that they want to stand side-by-side and they are not going up against any of the really massive tournaments,” observed Westwood. “They kind of 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 skeptical about it and people like, in whatever walk it is, they like continuity and they like just the same to carry on. Whereas change in competition are 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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