Lee Westwood says he thinks LIV Golf will go from strength to strength, partly because it offers more certainty to sponsors than the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
The 49-year-old made the comments in the latest issue of Bunkered (opens in new tab), where he said LIV Golf’s streamlined fields are a big selling point for businesses prepared to sponsor tournaments. He said: “I see the determination in everybody who’s involved, and I think it’s going to go from strength to strength. People are getting so defensive because they’re worried because they know it’s a good product, because they know LIV can guarantee sponsors these 48 players on these weeks of the year. Nobody else can do that. The PGA Tour and DP World Tour can’t.”
Video: What Is LIV Golf?
“A sponsor might pitch up, put in $12million and say, ‘Great, so Rory [McIlroy] will obviously be playing then’ and they’ll be told, ‘Oh no, Rory can’t play. You’ll have to pay him appearance money to be guaranteed him turning up.’ That’s not what a sponsor wants to hear when they’ve just poured $12million into an event, is it? Whereas with LIV, it’s all cut and dried. There’s certainty and that’s worrying for all of these other tours.”
The PGA Tour has made unprecedented changes to combat the LIV Golf threat, with several tournaments given elevated status. Part of the agreement is that the top players are obliged to play in most of those higher-profile tournaments - a decision that should go some way towards resolving the issue facing the PGA Tour described by Westwood.
However, LIV Golf has a far smaller pool of players than rival tours. That means that the big-name players – barring issues like injuries – are almost certain to be among the 48-player fields for its events. Westwood also thinks that is why it has been received so negatively by the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. He said: “Let’s face it, LIV’s very different. I think that’s why there’s such a negative approach to it from the other tours. It gives things that they can’t give and they realise that and it’s threatening to their product.“
Another player with the Greg Norman-fronted organisation, Anirban Lahiri, has said LIV Golf players feel ostracised. However, Westwood thinks the hostility has helped the bonding process of those involved with it. He said: “I think the animosity has brought all the players and caddies and all of the LIV team together. It’s kind of us against them which has made us like one big family.”
It's not the first time Westwood has criticised LIV Golf's rivals. Before September's BMW PGA Championship, he described the PGA Tour as bullies, and on its relationship with the DP World Tour said: "I’m not convinced by the strategic alliance because I’ve seen how the PGA Tour has behaved over the years. There’s not been much ‘give.’ They have always been bullies."
One sacrifice Westwood will almost certainly make for joining LIV Golf is a place in next year’s European Ryder Cup team. Captain Luke Donald recently hinted that LIV Golf stars' Ryder Cup days are over. However, Westwood revealed that he had been offered the captaincy before joining LIV Golf. He said: “I analysed it and, for a few different reasons, I decided not to take it. It wasn’t the right time.”
Last year, Westwood ruled himself out of the captaincy, explaining he wanted to concentrate on his game while he was still competitive. He said: “Of course it is not a decision I’ve taken lightly as it would be a huge honour to captain Europe and it is something I’d love to do one day. But it’s almost a full-time job nowadays and that is something I can’t commit to while I’m in the top 50 and still competitive." Eventually, the captaincy was given to Henrik Stenson, but after he also moved to LIV Golf, it was finally awarded to Donald.
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Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories.
He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game.
Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course.
Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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