Saturday, February 4 2023

On Wednesday, the PGA Tour announced a plan to punch back against the threat from upstart tour LIV Golf. It didn’t take long for one of LIV’s key figures to punch back.

Speaking to Golf Digest, former world No. 1 Lee Westwood — one of the first players to commit to LIV — was blunt in assessing the PGA’s plan to create a 20-tournament schedule for the best players. In short, he’d seen it all before.

“I laugh at what the PGA Tour players have come up with,” he said. “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.”

Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and other top PGA Tour pros have spearheaded a campaign to attempt to stem the flow of players to LIV, the result being a 20-tournament schedule for the top players in which they can compete for higher purses averaging around $20 million.

The tour also plans to double the bonus pool of its Player Impact Program to $100 million spread across 20 players, and it’s changing the criteria, so it’s geared more toward media exposure.

Players starting out their careers will get $500,000 at the start of the year that will count against their earnings until the number is surpassed.

Also, the tour already has suspended players who have joined LIV Golf — some have resigned — as soon as they play in Greg Norman’s rival league.

LIV Golf, backed by the Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia, has been paying big names — such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka — massive signing fees said to be worth $150 million or higher.

Each event has a $25 million purse for a 48-man field over 54 holes. The individual winner of the LIV event gets $4 million. The money has been appealing in attracting some two dozen PGA Tour players.

Westwood made it clear he remains perfectly happy with his decision to join LIV. Unlike some of his LIV Golf colleagues who are fighting a legal battle to retain their PGA Tour memberships, he is fine with playing fewer events and traveling less as he approaches his 50th birthday in April next year.

“My age was obviously part of my decision-making process,” he said. “Then there is the fact that the LIV tournaments are 54 holes, not 72. I saw that as a benefit. I also had a look at the senior tour schedule. Even there they are encouraging guys to play as many as 25 events. … That’s a lot for a senior. And, of course, the LIV events are offering 10 times the prize money.

“Anyway, the end result is that I’ve done exactly what I said I was going to do at the start of all this,” Westwood continued. “I’ve given up my PGA Tour card. There was no way I could ever play in all the events required to keep it.”

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