Lee Westwood asks PGA Tour for release to play in first Saudi-backed golf event

Lee Westwood is on board with Greg Norman’s new golf league.

Westwood revealed on Wednesday that he’s officially requested releases both from the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour in order to play in the first LIV Golf Invitational Series next month.

"I've put a release in with the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, as many people have," Westwood said, via Sky Sports. "That's kind of the stage we're at and anything after that is just ifs and buts and speculation.

"It's an opportunity to play in a big tournament, against some of the best players in the world, in England. I love playing in England in front of home fans, so any time there's an opportunity like that I feel like I should take it."

The first event is set to take place from June 9-11 in London. The PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open is also set to take place that week, which means that Tour members need a release in order to compete elsewhere.

Players in the 48-man field will compete in 12-man teams at the event. Norman, who is leading the venture, has said that there are about 15 golfers ranked inside the top 100 in the world who have committed to playing. It’s unclear who those are.

Robert Garrigus and Phil Mickelson are the only other Tour players who have said they have asked for a release to play. Mickelson, of course, hasn’t played in months after his controversial comments about Norman’s league and Saudi Arabia — which is funding the new tour.

Norman actually blamed Mickelson, who called the Saudis “scary motherf***ers” when asked about their past alleged human rights abuses, for many of the sport’s best golfers from backing out in February.

"There's no question [Mickelson's comments] hurt," Norman said on Monday. "It hurt a lot of aspects. It hurt the PGA Tour. It hurt us. It hurt the game of golf. It hurt Phil. So yeah, across all fronts. It wasn't just specifically to us. But it definitely created negative momentum against us."

Westwood: Golf not first to 'have links with Saudi Arabia'

Westwood, 49, has won twice on the PGA Tour, most recently at the St. Jude Classic in 2010. He has 42 international wins, however, and 25 on the DP World Tour — including the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in 2020. Westwood, who claimed the No. 1 ranking twice in his career more than a decade ago, is currently ranked No. 58 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

While he knows what Saudi Arabia has been accused of, Westwood said Wednesday that he’s willing to look past it. In fact, he’s good with defending the nation and doesn’t get why golf is catching so much heat.

"We've played European Tour in Saudi Arabia and I've had releases from the PGA Tour to say I can play in Saudi Arabia, so it has been no problem to them in previous years," Westwood said, via Sky Sports. “Formula One raced there. Newcastle United are owned partly by people from Saudi Arabia … Golf's not the first sport to have links with Saudi Arabia, but it seems to be coming under more scrutiny than anyone else. Whether you think that's right or not is the individual's opinion.

"I think Saudi Arabia obviously know they've got issues. I think lots of countries around the world have got issues and I think they're trying to improve. They're trying to do it through sport, which a lot of places, a lot of countries do. I think they're doing it a lot quicker than some countries have tried to do it and that maybe worries or scares people. People don't like change do they, they like continuity and things to stay the same."

Lee Westwood
Lee Westwood wants to play in the LIV Golf event in London next month, the first in Greg Norman’s new Saudi-backed series. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images) (Andrew Redington via Getty Images)