Poulter And Westwood Left Speechless After Vladimir Putin Question

The LIV Golf Series players were left struggling to answer an awkward question at a press conference

Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood at the LIV Golf Invitational Series London draft
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood held a joint press conference in preparation for their appearance in the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event at London’s Centurion Club.

During it, both Englishmen defended their decisions to sign up for the Saudi-backed Series, despite concerns over the origin of the money being used to fund it, including allegations of sportswashing. On the money on offer, Westwood declared: “I’d be stupid not to take it” while Poulter went further, saying of the start-up: “I don’t believe it should be controversial.”

However, there was an awkward moment that left both players a little tongue-tied. Asked the question, “If Vladimir Putin had a tournament, would you play that?" both players clammed up. Poulter made the first attempt to answer it, saying: “That’s speculation. I’m not even going to comment on speculation.” The journalist wasn’t done, though, and reframed the question, asking: “In a generality, is there any way you wouldn’t play on a moral basis? If the money was right, is there any way you wouldn’t play?” After an awkward pause, Poulter simply said: “I don’t need to answer that question.”

Turning his attention to Westwood, the journalist asked: “Would you have played in apartheid South Africa, for example?” Westwood responded: “You’re just asking us to answer a hypothetical question, which, we can’t answer a question on that.” You can watch the video of the awkward moment below.

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While the pair managed to fend away the questioning, it perhaps gives an insight into the kind of scrutiny that might await other high-profile players who sign up for the Series. The Saudi influence has been contentious for months, and came to a head in May when LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman drew criticism for appearing to downplay the seriousness of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by saying: "We've all made mistakes”.

Meanwhile, the amount of money on offer, which dwarfs that of the DP World Tour and PGA Tour, has also received criticism, including from Robert McIntyre, who said last month it’s “obscene money to be throwing at sport.”

Each of the seven regular tournaments will have a $25m purse, with the individual winner of each guaranteed $4m and the player finishing last receiving $120,000. There are also team prizes, with the top three after each event sharing $5m. The final tournament, October’s Team Championship, will see the purse double to $50m. 

Mike Hall

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.