Westwood requests release to play in Saudi-funded event

SUTTON COLDFIELD, England (AP) — Lee Westwood has requested a release to play the first event of the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational series in Britain next month.

Westwood said he has asked both the European tour and the PGA Tour for the release required to contest the $25 million event at Centurion Club from June 9-11.

“Not heard anything back yet,” Westwood said Wednesday. “Ball is in the European tour’s court and the PGA Tour’s court for that matter.”

The 49-year-old Westwood said in February that he had signed a non-disclosure agreement regarding his possible participation in the breakaway series funded primarily by the Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund and fronted by another former No. 1, Greg Norman.

Westwood has previously said it would be a “no-brainer” to play for such big money at his stage of his career.

“I think some of my mates I grew up playing with in Worksop (in England), if I went up to them and said I’ve been given an opportunity to play in a tournament, a 48-man tournament for $25 million, they would probably pull me to one side and say, ‘What is it you’re actually thinking about?’” Westwood said.

“This is my job. I do this for money. It’s not the only reason for doing it. But if anybody comes along and gives any of us a chance at a pay rise, then you have to seriously consider it, don’t you? I’ve supported the European Tour for 29 years. I’ve hosted events on this Tour. It’s being portrayed as an us and them (situation), whereas the people from LIV Golf have said that they want to stand side-by-side; they are not going up against any of the really massive tournaments.”

Westwood said some people “have a problem with change.”

“They are skeptical about it and people like continuity,” he said, “whereas change in competition is good in any walk of life I think. It shakes things up and keeps everybody on their toes and keeps everybody trying to improve and improve their product.”

Asked if the source of money was a problem given Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights issues, Westwood said sport and politics should not mix.

“The first time I ever played in Saudi Arabia was on the European Tour,” he said. “The first three times I played there, the European Tour sanctioned it so they had no problem with where the money came from.

“I think Saudi Arabia are trying to become more Westernized and make changes and they are trying to make changes quickly, and that’s probably worrying a lot of people and scaring a lot of people. But they are just trying to improve, aren’t they? I’m of a belief that sport and politics shouldn’t mix, as we have seen it doing in Wimbledon with the Russian players not being allowed to play there. I happen to disagree with what they have done there, as a lot of people do.”

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