UPS ends 14-year deal with Lee Westwood amid involvement with Saudi-backed league
Lee Westwood’s long standing partnership with UPS is done.
The former top-ranked golfer in the world was reportedly asked by UPS to remove its logo from his shirt and bag after a 14-year partnership — something that comes amid Westwood’s involvement with the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational series.
“We value the relationship we’ve had but make decisions based on what is best for our business,” a UPS spokeswoman said in a statement to Sports Illustrated. “We will continue to focus on sponsorship initiatives that are important for UPS and consistent with our business priorities.
“The decision to end our partnership is a strategic business decision that allows us to focus on other initiatives. We maintain alternative sponsorships across other sports as well as cultural, philanthropic and sustainability-led initiatives to support our brand and meet the needs of our business.”
Westwood was not wearing the UPS logo in the first round of the PGA Championship, though he did have it on during practice rounds at Southern Hills earlier in the week.
The 49-year-old shot a 5-over 75 on Thursday at the PGA Championship, and made three straight bogeys to close his day. Early leader Rory McIlroy posted a 5-under 65.
Westwood has two PGA Tour wins in his career, most recently at the 2010 St. Jude Classic. He’s won 42 times internationally, including at the 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the DP World Tour, and entered the second major of the year ranked No. 71 in the world.
Westwood is one of a few golfers who have publicly admitted to asking the PGA Tour for a release to compete in the Saudi-backed golf venture’s first event next month in London. The tour denied those requests, meaning any golfer would face potential discipline if they participate. Commissioner Jay Monahan has threatened players with the loss of their tour card, potentially permanently.
Many on tour have distanced themselves from the Greg Norman-run league, though Westwood was joined by Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson as notable players who wanted to participate. Rickie Fowler has said he hasn’t decided one way or another too.
Mickelson, of course, hasn’t played golf since he apologized for his comments about Saudi Arabia earlier this year, where he called them “scary motherf***ers.” Norman made similar comments earlier this month when he downplayed the killing of former Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He also said he was willing to overlook Saudi Arabia’s recent mass execution of 81 individuals.
“I got a lot of messages but quite honestly I look forward,” Norman said. “I don’t look back. I don’t look into the politics of things. I’m not going to get into the quagmire of whatever else happens in someone else’s world. I heard about it and just kept moving on.”
Though UPS didn’t specifically cite the Saudi league when cutting ties with Westwood, the golfer has made it clear that he’s fine with playing on a tour run by the country.
“There’s a Formula 1 race there, Newcastle is partly owned by people from Saudi Arabia. There’s been fights there, I think there’s been snooker and darts there.” he said earlier this month, via Sky Sports. “Golf isn’t the first sport to be played in Saudi Arabia but it seems to have come under more scrutiny. Whether you think that’s right or not is the individual’s opinion.”
UPS, however, is apparently not on that same page.