Lee Westwood has hailed the LIV Golf community as one big family amid growing tension between the Saudi-backed circuit and golf’s status quo.
The 49-year old was speaking in the latest edition of bunkered where he predicted a bright and bold future for LIV Golf in the face of a New York Times report that told a very different story, as well as the resignation of LIV’s COO, Atul Khosla.
“I think the animosity has brought all the players and caddies and all of the LIV team together. It’s kind of us against them, which has made us like one big family,” Westwood said.
“I see the determination in everybody who’s involved and I think it’s going to go from strength to strength.”
While the NYT report suggests that LIV, on its current trajectory, could lose $355m before interest and taxes in 2028, Westwood pointed to what he believes is the unique selling point of LIV as one of the key drivers behind his optimism.
“People are getting so defensive because they’re worried, because they know it’s a good product, because they know LIV can guarantee sponsors these 48 players on these weeks of the year. Nobody else can do that. The PGA Tour and DP World Tour can’t,” Westwood argued.
“A sponsor might pitch up, put in $12million and say, ‘Great, so Rory [McIlroy] will obviously be playing then’ and they’ll be told, ‘Oh no, Rory can’t play. You’ll have to pay him appearance money to be guaranteed him turning up’.
“That’s not what a sponsor wants to hear when they’ve just poured $12million into an event, is it? Whereas with LIV, it’s all cut and dried. There’s certainty and that’s worrying for all of these other tours.”
You’d think Westwood would worry that one of his key reasons for optimism revolves around Rory McIlroy’s ability to attract sponsors. Fair enough, McIlroy mightn’t pitch up at every PGA Tour event, but he won’t tee-up at any of LIV’s!
But while golf’s so-called needle movers continue to swerve the Saudi dollar, Westwood maintains that LIV’s product stands out because it is different, hence why it’s been greeted with nothing but hostility since day dot.
“Let’s face it, LIV’s very different,” he said. “I think that’s why there’s such a negative approach to it from the other tours. It gives things that they can’t give and they realise that and it’s threatening to their product.”
One thing LIV was always going to threaten was the reputation of those who joined the league. Many have become persona non grata in the game of golf. It didn’t have to be that way, of course, with Westwood revealing that he turned down the Ryder Cup captaincy for Rome next year in favour of the 48-man series.
“I analysed it and, for a few different reasons, I decided not to take it,” he added. “It wasn’t the right time.”