Lee Westwood has taken a thinly veiled swipe at the strategic alliance between the PGA and DP World Tours, describing the lack of star names and diminished world ranking points on offer at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship as a "double whammy".
There is $9 million up for grabs at the first Rolex Series event of 2023, yet Shane Lowry is the only player in the world's top 20 in the field at Yas Links, a far cry from the star-studded line-up of the PGA Tour's coinciding American Express Championship.
"It’s a $9 million (£7.25 million) tournament and there is only one member of the world’s top 20," Westwood told reporters in Abu Dhabi. "People might claim that as LIV players we aren’t welcome here, but probably because of this field, I’ve had loads coming up to me and thanking me for playing.
"I’m not being disrespectful to 15th place on the Challenge Tour but they have got in this week and this is a short field because of the daylight with only 120-odd players. I’ve never known it go so far down the list. And we all know why.
He added: "Next week’s field in Dubai is similar to here. So you have two $9 million events, back to back, an hour’s drive apart, in near perfect conditions. If you’re not going to get strong fields, like half a dozen of the world’s top 20, to these, then you’re never going to get them are you?
"The PGA Tour is forcing the hands of its top players to play and it stops them from appearing here. The FedEx Cup is structured around making every player play every week they can, which doesn’t leave much left for anyone else does it? And with the world rankings as they are now – and I’ve said enough about that – it’s a double whammy for this Tour."
This season marks Westwood's 30th on what was formerly the European Tour, racking up nearly 600 appearances in that time. However, the next two weeks could be his last, with the courts set to decide whether the DP World Tour has the right to issue sanctions to LIV players.
It would bring a sad end to his affiliation with his home circuit, a circuit he barely recognises from his early playing days. But whatever the outcome, Westwood admits it'll be good to have "clarity" on the matter.
"If I do get banned, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it," said Westwood. "I’m not going to play a guessing game. But what I will say is this – it is my 588th event and I love the European Tour and like to think I’ve supported it better than anyone who has been in my position. Yet I look at the Tour now and wonder what it is.
"With the hearing, there is going to be some sort of line drawing in the sand. Clarity will be good because everything has been so vague, too vague."
A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade M1 (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
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