What did LIV Golf’s Lee Westwood say about the PGA’s new changes?
Like him or not, the former PGA player who recently joined LIV Golf was absolutely clear about how he felt about his previous employers.
With the battle between the PGA and LIV Golf well and truly underway, one of the new tour’s players weighed in and he didn’t hold back.
Lee Westwood hits out at PGA’s new changes
If we’ve learned one thing in recent days, it’s that Lee Westwood has no love for the PGA Tour’s new plan to tackle the LIV Golf Invitational Tour. Westwood, who was among the first players to join the increasingly controversial Saudi Arabian sponsored Tour, believes that the PGA is doing nothing more than mirroring LIV with its move to increase the purses and fields for tournaments. Interestingly, Westwood also referenced the newly launched venture of Rory McIlroy’s and Tiger Woods’ new venture.
“I laugh at what the PGA Tour players have come up with,” Westwood said. “It’s just a copy of what LIV is doing. There are a lot of hypocrites out there. They all say LIV is ‘not competitive.’ They all point at the no-cut aspect of LIV and the short fields. Now, funnily enough, they are proposing 20 events that look a lot like LIV. Hopefully, at some point they will all choke on their words. And hopefully, they will be held to account as we were in the early days.”
What do the PGA’s changes look like?
Regardless of where you stand on the debate, Westwood’s words to do point to an interesting idea. It was just this week, that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced several big changes to the Tour in Atlanta. According to Monahan, when the next season tees off the Tour’s top 20 players as outlined by the “Player Impact Program,” will be participating in a 20-event schedule which also includes 12 “elevated events.” It is understood that said events will include The Players Championship, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the four major championships and more.
In keeping with the PIP program, there will be a pool of $100 million in prizes available to those 20 players. Going even further, The Tour has also announced a “league minimum” of $500,000 per player, on the grounds they said players participate in at least 15 events per season. The PGA even took the step of addressing travel expenses which players face, by offering a travel stipend for players ranked below No. 125. There is also the recently announced golf league of Woods and McIlroy which is said to be tech-infused and is projected to start in 2024.
Is the PGA copying LIV Golf?
While any move at this level of any sport will likely have its fans and critics, it’s worth noting that there are a great many similarities between what LIV recently introduced to the world of Golf, and what the PGA is now proposing to do. With guaranteed money for players, significantly higher purses and no cuts in its 54-hole events, the PGA has effectively rebranded innovations which were implemented by their competitor. Seemingly giving credence to the point, McIlroy conceded on Wednesday. “As much as I probably don’t want to give Phil [Mickelson] any sort of credit at all, yeah, there were certain points that he was trying to make. Some of these ideas, did they have merit? Of course, they did. But he just didn’t approach it the right way.”
What else did Lee Westwood have to say?
If you’re wondering, about whether or not Westwood has any doubts about his decision to join LIV Golf, then don’t. At 49 years-old and with a decent collection of wins - 42 internationals - to his name, the former world No.1 has no regrets. Indeed, if anything he’s even more annoyed by the PGA’s recent cooperation with the DP World Tour which also took the step of suspending players who joined LIV Golf.
“I’m not convinced by the strategic alliance because I’ve seen how the PGA Tour has behaved over the years,” Westwood said. “There’s not been much ‘give.’ They have always been bullies and now they are getting their comeuppance. All the PGA Tour has done since Tiger came on tour is up the prize purses. In turn, that has taken all the best players from Europe away from the European Tour. ...They’ve had to play in the States, taking all their world ranking points with them. That was their strategy: ‘Put up the money. Get all the players. Hog all the world ranking points.’ Which becomes self-perpetuating. What we have seen over the last few months is just LIV doing what the PGA Tour has done for the last 25 years.”
Golf not Politics is where Lee Westwood is focused
Whether you want to class this fight as a case of the old resisting the new, or a lack of loyalty, there is one thing that Westwood seemed to stay clear of and that’s the question of the Saudi government’s human rights track record. With numerous accusations of “sportwashing,” LIV Golf has been viewed by many as a vehicle which is being used to smooth over the Kingdom’s questionable reputation. Where Westwood is concerned, he doesn’t believe it has anything to do with him. Regardless, Westwood said he’s extremely happy with his new league and, more importantly to him, his new lightened schedule.
“The questions on the Saudi government and their policies are unanswerable,” Westwood said. “My response is just to try and not answer them. I’m not a politician; I’m a golfer. But I do know that sport can be used as change for good. ...Loads of other countries are doing that. And have done it. Besides, I don’t understand why golf is being taken to task so much. Why is [soccer] not being held to the same standard for having the World Cup in Qatar? Why was [heavyweight boxer] Anthony Joshua not criticized more for fighting in Jeddah last week?”