Lee Westwood blames media for LIV controversy: ‘You’re creating issues’
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Lee Westwood shot four-under 68 to begin his Open Championship on Thursday.
As he came off the course, he was just getting warmed up.
Westwood, a LIV Golf commit, eagerly took to the mic post-round, insisting he has had no issues with other players and that the controversy surrounding LIV has been largely a media creation. Given he was talking to the media, something of a back-and-forth followed.
“I always get a fantastic reception from the galleries at the Open Championship,” he said. “As a British player, it’s the best tournament of the year to play at. The atmosphere out there is incredible.”
The reporter wondered if Westwood considered that this year’s reception could have been different, given Westwood’s departure for LIV and all its associated complexities. Westwood rejected that assertion.
“No, I don’t think it had the potential,” he said. “I think the media are stoking it up and doing as much as they can to aid that. I think the general public just want to go out there and see good golf no matter where it’s being played or who’s playing it.”
The reporter pushed back, pointing out that consternation around LIV is hardly just a media creation. Westwood wasn’t having it.
“We could stand here and argue all day, but it is [a media thing],” Westwood said. “I’ve spoken to a lot of people over there last week, and there’s no animosity between players. Yet the story’s been written that there are. Yeah, you’re creating issues where there are none. You want to be that way, fine.”
Later, Westwood was asked how it would be received if he or another LIV player were to win that tournament. Another testy exchange followed.
“Is that the best way to shut the critics?” a reporter asked. “Or the R&A wouldn’t be happy if a LIV member was to win?”
“Who told you that, Martin Slumbers?” Westwood fired back, referring to the head of the R&A. “Did he tell you the R&A wouldn’t be happy? Did he say that?”
No, the reporter replied. Slumbers hadn’t said that, specifically.
“Well, you just made that up then, all right,” Westwood said. “So we don’t need to have that conversation, do we? I think he’ll be happy with whoever is the Champion Golfer of the Year holding the trophy aloft on Sunday night because they’ll have played the best.
“And that’s what the R&A want from this championship. They want the best player to win, regardless of what Tour they play on.”
Asked to comment on Tiger Woods’ criticism of LIV, Westwood sprinkled in another media critique.
“I didn’t hear them. I’ve read little bits, but like most things, probably taken out of context,” he said. He was also dismissive of Woods as an objective commentator on the subject.
“He’s got a vested interest, hasn’t he? The LIV players will talk up LIV. The PGA Tour players that aren’t on the LIV Tour will talk the PGA Tour up and put down the LIV tour. So anybody who’s got a vested interest — I don’t pay too much to people’s opinions.”
It’s not correct for Westwood to pin the entirety of the LIV controversy on the media, of course. Nor can he dismiss Woods’ nor Slumbers’ own feelings; both spoke out against LIV in the lead-up to this tournament.
There is inherent conflict in a breakaway tour upending the balance of professional golf. There are billions of dollars at stake. The new tour has all kinds of ramifications: financial, social, political. Westwood is correct to point out that LIV players have received warm receptions. He’s correct that LIV and non-LIV players are cordial at tournaments. He’s correct that the media have focused in on the subject, too. But it’s incomplete to suggest the firestorm surrounding LIV is a media creation.
“Tiger’s entitled to his opinion,” Westwood said. Does he respect that opinion? “I respect Tiger as a golfer,” he continued. “He’s one of the two best golfers that’s ever played the game.”
That’s hardly a “yes.” But Woods and Westwood are on opposite sides of this now; Westwood said so himself. They’ll continue to be, no matter the media’s participation.