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Lee Westwood enters the 2022 Saudi International having played in all three previous iterations of the tournament. This year however, is different. The Saudi International is now an Asian Tour event after the European Tour (now DP World Tour) removed its association amid speculation the Saudis were planning a breakaway Super League and recruiting star players with the lure of large appearance fees and even larger tournament purses.
Speaking ahead of the tournament, Westwood was quick to shutdown any questions on the rumoured Super League and revealed he has signed an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). The Englishman said, “I don't know whether I want to answer questions on that. I've signed an NDA.”
The NDA likely prohibits him from making comment on the subject. Westwood did however, speak about the relationship between the PGA, DP and Asian Tours by saying, “The players of the other tours see the Asian Tour as a threat now, don't they, because of the huge investment. It's kind of like a game of poker really where the European Tour and the PGA Tour have had the biggest hand, and now there's somebody else come to the table with more chips, so everybody is on their guard and very defensive and are clearly seeing the Asian Tour as a threat. Nobody can deny that. There wouldn't have been all this trouble with releases and things like that if that wasn't the case.”
Westwood did offer some sympathy by adding, “Yeah, I can see why they feel threatened, but at the same time, the PGA Tour and the European Tour have gone into areas I suppose in the Asian Tour's path over the years and never had any problem playing tournaments all over Asia and the Middle East, which I think has probably cost Asia, as well. Now that the Asian Tour has this backing, it appears to me like they're just doing what the PGA Tour and the European Tour have been doing the last 25 years.”
Speaking at the PGA Championship last year, Westwood said he hadn’t received an approach from the Saudis on the alleged Super League. The introduction of an NDA may well mean that has changed. He was however, a little more open back then. "If somebody stood here and offered me £50 million to play golf when I'm 48, it's a no-brainer," he said at the time.
As reported in the Daily Telegraph, Ian Poulter is said to have received a $30m approach from the Saudis and has been told that he would face a lifetime ban from both the PGA and DP World Tours should he accept. It was also reported this would remove any further involvement from the Ryder Cup and we can only imagine the same would apply to Westwood, where he ties the total number of appearances for Team Europe with eleven.
Westwood has already pulled out of the running for the 2023 European Ryder Cup captaincy due to the fact he still competes at the highest level and plays a full schedule. Luke Donald is favourite for the job after it was revealed that Henrik Stenson faces a similar Super League vs Ryder Cup dilemma to Ian Poulter.
James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.
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