Lee Westwood finds PGA Tour's changes laughable: 'There are a lot of hypocrites out there'
Lee Westwood is not a fan of the PGA Tour’s new plan to counteract the LIV Golf Invitational Tour.
Westwood, who was one of the first to jump ship for the controversial Saudi Arabian-backed golf venture, thinks the Tour is just copying their ideas when it comes to the new elevated purses, bigger fields and even Rory McIlroy’s and Tiger Woods’ new venture.
“I laugh at what the PGA Tour players have come up with,” Westwood told Golf Digest. “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.”
PGA Tour moves to counter LIV Golf
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced several big changes to the Tour this week in Atlanta.
Starting next season, the league’s top 20 players — as defined by the “Player Impact Program” — will commit to a 20-event schedule, including 12 “elevated events.” Those will include tournaments such as The Players Championship, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the four major championships and more.
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The PIP program will feature a pool of $100 million in prizes available to those 20 players, too. The Tour is also guaranteeing a “league minimum” of $500,000 per player, so long as they play in 15 events each season, and offering a travel stipend for players ranked below No. 125.
The announcement comes as Woods and McIlroy announced a tech-infused golf league that will start in 2024.
Undoubtedly, the Tour’s new changes are similar to what LIV Golf is doing. That league provides guaranteed money to its players, extremely high purses and no cuts during its 54-hole events.
“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,” McIlroy said Wednesday prior to the Tour Championship this week in Atlanta. “Some of these ideas, did they have merit? Of course they did. But he just didn't approach it the right way.”
Westwood has no regrets joining LIV
Westwood was one of the first to leave the PGA Tour for LIV Golf, and he has no plans to return.
The 49-year-old has won just twice on the Tour, but has 42 international wins to his name and held the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking in 2010. Westwood took issue with how the Tour has aligned itself with the DP World Tour, too.
Like the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour suspended and fined its members for leaving for LIV Golf. Westwood thinks that the PGA Tour will simply view the DP World Tour like a “feeder” league.
“I’m not convinced by the strategic alliance because I’ve seen how the PGA Tour has behaved over the years,” Westwood told GolfDigest. “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.”
Regardless, Westwood said he’s extremely happy with his new league and, more importantly to him, his new lightened schedule.
As for the “sportswashing” criticism that he and the Saudi-backed venture have received, Westwood is holding strong. In his eyes, he’s not responsible for addressing any of that.
“The questions on the Saudi government and their policies are unanswerable,” Westwood said, via GolfDigest. “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?”