Lee Westwood Hopes to Play at Centurion And Admits He's Doing it For The Money
AND so it begins...first it was Robert Garrigus looking for a waiver from the PGA Tour to take part in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational at Centurion. Robert who? Nobody cared too much.
But the world is now going to sit up and take notice after the news that Lee Westwood has sought permission for a release to play in the same tournament next month. And defending British Masters champion Richard Bland is hoping to join him.
Believe me when I tell you that this is just the start. My guess is that many golfers have been waiting for somebody to break ranks. And Westwood is that man.
The former world number one will no doubt be accused of greed but he has been quick to defend his decision, even if it means a showdown with the DP World Tour. He is 49 years old, is in the autumn of his career and believes he has earned his right to cash in.
“This is my job. I do it for money. It’s not the only reason but if anybody comes along and gives any of us a chance at a pay rise, then you have to seriously consider it, don’t you?
“It’s not the first release I’ve asked for. I’ve not heard anything back yet. The ball is in the Tour’s court.
“Some of my mates I grew up playing with in Worksop, if I went up to them and said I’ve been given an opportunity to play in a 48-man tournament for $25m, they would pull me to one side and say, ‘What is it you’re actually thinking about?’” said Westwood.
Westwood’s stance puts him at loggerheads with Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, who has threatened serious consequences for those who break ranks.
For Westwood, who shares the European record of 11 Ryder Cup appearances with Nick Faldo, it could mean he is overlooked for the captaincy. “That’s for somebody else to decide,” said Westwood. “Why should it? The European Tour have no problem with me being a PGA Tour member, so this is just another tour.
“I’ve supported the European Tour for 29 years. I’ve hosted events on this tour and played wherever I could through Covid and stuff like that.”
Westwood, who tees it up at the Betfred British Masters at The Belfry this week, dismissed claims that he is embracing blood money given the Saudi human rights record.
“Saudi Arabian money is in all different sports whether it be football or Formula One,” he said. “Saudi Arabia is trying to become more westernised and make changes quickly and that’s probably worrying people. But they are just trying to improve.
“I’m of a belief that sport and politics shouldn’t mix.”
Bland has also asked for a release to play at Centurion Club.
One of the criticisms of the rebel tour is that it is effectively a pension fund for ageing stars but the Saudis are offering one-year deals to the world’s top amateurs, including Alex Fitzpatrick, the brother of Ryder Cup player Matt.
If they accept and turn pro they will pocket a minimum £800,000 for playing in this season’s eight tournaments and be granted playing rights on the Saudi-backed Asian Tour.
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