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The first event in the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Invitational series is about five weeks away and names, numbers and speculation continue to swirl.
Greg Norman, CEO of the breakaway league, told ESPN earlier this week that at least 15 of the world’s top-50 ranked players had committed to the tournament at Centurion Golf Club in London, June 9-11. SI.com’s Bob Harig had previously reported that 15 of the world’s top 100 players had registered.
Reports also stated that two of the golfers are former World No. 1s and we’ve learned Lee Westwood is one of them. In talking with Sky Sports on Wednesday, Westwood said he put a release in “with the PGA Tour and the European Tour.” The European Tour changed its name to the DP World Tour at the start of the current season.
🗣️ "Formula One race there, Newcastle are owned by people from there, there's been boxing fights there, snooker and darts there…"
Lee Westwood speaks to Sky Sports after confirming he has asked for a release to play in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series opener ⛳ pic.twitter.com/o900Z90BKf
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) May 4, 2022
When asked if putting in the release was something he had to “think long and hard about,” Westwood replied: “No. It’s an opportunity to play in a big tournament with some of the best players in the world, in England. I love playing in England in front of the home fans, so anytime there’s an opportunity to like that, I feel like I should take it.”
The opportunity also reportedly comes with the chance at big money.
“I’m an independent contractor. I work for myself. It’s a job and I have to do what’s right for me,” he said.
LIV Golf is planning on 54-hole events with $20 million purses, with the winner getting $4 million. There’s further money to be won, if all goes according to plan, with prizes for winning teams at these events. Appearance fees could also sweeten the pot.
During the Sky Sports interview, Westwood wasn’t asked about any of those specific numbers but he was asked if he had any issues with where the money is coming from.
“Well, we’ve played European Tour events in Saudi Arabia and I’ve had releases from the PGA Tour saying that I can go play in Saudi Arabia and it’s been no problem to them,” he said. “Formula 1 raced there. Newcastle’s owned by, partly by people from Saudi Arabia. There’s been fights there, boxing fights. I think there’s been snooker and darts there as well.
“Golf’s not the first sport to have links with Saudi Arabia but it seems to be coming under scrutiny than anywhere else. Whether you think that’s right or not is the individual’s opinion.
“Saudi Arabia knows they got issues. Lots of countries around the world has got issues. And I think they’re trying to improve. They’re trying to do it through sport, which a lot of countries do.”
The second event for the LIV Golf series is scheduled for Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland, July 1-3. It’s set to be the first in the U.S. The deadline for PGA Tour members to apply for waivers to compete is May 17, however, PGA Tour rules do not allow releases for tournaments held in North America against its own schedule. The PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic is June 30 to July 3 in Silvis, Illinois.