Lee Westwood talks fan reception, LIV player court case — and ‘fantasy world’
No, Lee Westwood doesn’t know how a DP World Tour-LIV Golf player trial will go. And no, another LIV player’s suggestion ahead of the day in court probably won’t fly.
And yes, Westwood believes he’s in good form. And yes, the fan reception this week was great.
Westwood’s post-BMW PGA Championship session with reporters on Sunday was short — just 11 questions at Wentworth Golf Club — but filling. His week was polarizing; there was his golf, and his golf tours. And he talked on both subjects, though the conversation was chippy at times.
We’ll start with the golf golf. The 49-year-old Englishman, after a stretch of average play — four cuts in eight events on the PGA Tour, then finishes of 29th and 16th in his first events on the 48-man LIV Golf series — is playing better. In July, at the Open Championship, Westwood tied for 34th. With LIV, he tied for fourth last week, after finishing ninth in the circuit’s third event. On Sunday, during the final round of the BMW PGA, he shot a seven-under 65.
And the galleries in Surrey, England, after a postponement of play late Thursday and all of Friday due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, were appreciative, Westwood said.
“You know, the fans are always really good here, but this week, it’s been really special,” he said. “Obviously you know, Her Majesty passing away, everybody is a little somber and downbeat, but they look like they went out there and really enjoyed their golf today, the fans, as we did and tried to give them something to enjoy. It’s an entertainment game, isn’t it. Show a few birdies.”
The question of fan reaction these days is not without other meaning, and that brings us to LIV Golf. In short, Westwood is a longtime DP World Tour and PGA Tour pro who has joined the threat to both leagues, LIV Golf, and he and 17 other LIV golfers are playing the BMW PGA on the DP World Tour, ahead of a trial that should determine whether he and other LIV players can play more DP World Tour events in the future. Maybe that wasn’t short. Anyway, you knew the proceedings may get at least a little awkward, and comments ahead of the tournament suggested as much.
Westwood himself has been vocal before on the subject, including at the Open Championship, where he, among other thoughts, said that “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.”
On Sunday, he was asked for a prediction on the trial, which is scheduled for early next year. And the exchange went as well as you may think.
“Have you got any sense of how the case will go in February?” a reporter asked. “Any idea which way the wind is blowing? Your legal mind.”
“Do I look like a lawyer?” Westwood said.
“Any discussions you’ve had?” a reporter continued.
“No, and I don’t know what everybody is after, either, because there’s mixed messages coming from everybody,” Westwood said. “So no, leave you to it.”
Staying on the subject, a reporter then asked Westwood for his thoughts on an idea from Graeme McDowell, who, like Westwood, is also a longtime PGA Tour and DP World Tour golfer now playing for LIV. Earlier in the week, McDowell offered that there shouldn’t be a trial, telling the Guardian, “Let’s send 326 emails out and maybe two videos — one from the LIV players saying we’d love to support this tour eight, 10, 12 times a year, and then the other side of it is [DP World Tour commissioner] Keith Pelley’s statement this week.”
Westwood’s answer was, at first, short.
“Whatever is the fairest way.”
“Do you see that as a fair way?” a reporter asked.
“I have not encountered any animosity from the other players this week,” Westwood said. “You know, they won’t go for that, will they? Let’s face it, we don’t live in a fantasy world, do we? Well some of us do.
“No, I mean, all I’ll say is I’ve had a really good reception this week regarding players and fans and most of the European Tour staff as well, which is what I would expect because they are all professionals.”
So what’s next for him? Before the trial comes, Westwood will play in LIV’s final four events, though he said he wasn’t sure when he would play again on the DP World Tour. [On the PGA Tour, players are suspended.] There’s also a possibility, Westwood said, that he’ll play LIV’s final event, at the end of next month, then not play again until next year.
“Possibly, yeah,” Westwood said. “You know, I honestly don’t know. It gives me options, doesn’t it? I might play a couple in there. I mean, I’m the kind of player that needs to tick over a little bit, but just recently, I’ve been taking four weeks off and then finishing fourth last week and played well this week. I can just play it by ear.”