Lee Westwood Defends Interest in Saudi-Backed LIV Golf

England’s Lee Westwood requested releases from the PGA and European tours to compete in the first Saudi-backed LIV Golf International Series event next month in London.

The former World No. 1 addressed his decision in an interview with Sky Sports on Wednesday.

“I put a release in with the PGA Tour and European Tour, as many people have,” Westwood said. “That’s kind of the stage we’re at and anything after that is just ifs and buts and speculation. It’s an opportunity to play in a big tournament, against some of the best players in the world, in England.”

Ryder Cup Captaincy at Stake?

Westwood, 49, said any impact of his plans on his future candidacy as a Ryder Cup captain is “in the European Tour’s court.”

“I have no influence over the way they think. I’m an independent contractor. I work for myself. It’s my job and I have to do what’s right for me.”

PGA Tour players must receive a release from the tour to compete in the June 9-11 event at the Centurion Club outside London because it conflicts with the RBC Canadian Open in Toronto.

Lee Westwood
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Mickelson and Robert Garrigus are the only other players who have acknowledged seeking releases from the PGA Tour.

LIV Golf chairman Greg Norman told ESPN earlier this week that more than 200 players have requested to play in the 48-player field in London. The format features 12-man teams competing in a 54-hole event with no cut and shotgun starts.

Saudi Arabia ‘Trying to Improve’

In his interview with Sky Sports, Westwood acknowledged the controversy surrounding the LIV Golf Invitational Series and its association with a Saudi Arabian government that has a history of alleged human-rights violations.

“I think Saudi Arabia knows they have issues,” he said. “Lots of countries around the world have got issues. I think they (Saudi Arabia) are trying to improve, and they’re trying to do that through sport. I think they’re doing it a lot quicker than a lot of people are trying to do it. That worries people and scares people, because people don’t like change.”

Westwood reached No. 1 in the world rankings in October 2010. He has 44 career professional wins, including two on the PGA Tour and 25 on the European Tour. He is a two-time runner-up at the Masters (2010, 2016) and also finished second at The Open Championship in 2010.

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)