Golf: Westwood blasts 'hypocrites', claims PGA changes only copy LIV Golf

England's Lee Westwood (above) jumped to LIV Golf for its record US$25 million purses and 54-hole events. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - England's Lee Westwood says US PGA Tour changes announced for next season are simply copies of what the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit is doing.

PGA commissioner Jay Monahan said this week at the Tour Championship that tour players have agreed to compete in 20 events next season, included 12 "elevated" stops with US$20 million (S$27 million) in prize money and minimum season pay amounts for fully exempt players.

Westwood, who jumped to LIV Golf for its record US$25 million purses and 54-hole events, told Golf Digest in an interview published on Friday that he sees the PGA as trying to duplicate what LIV Golf has already done.

"I laugh at what the PGA Tour players have come up with," Westwood told the magazine.

"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."

Several reports say as many as seven more players will jump from the PGA to LIV Golf after this week's Tour Championship in Atlanta.

LIV Golf returns with events next month in Boston and Chicago.

Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth said LIV Golf's formation was a spark to the PGA's changes, which will ensure top-ranked players face each other more often.

"It's impossible to not think that that was a catalyst for continuing to want to make sure the players that we have on the PGA Tour now stay on the PGA Tour," Spieth said.

"Would this have gone that direction this soon? Maybe not, but to say that it wouldn't have happened in general, I'm not sure.

"But I think that that certainly has been a catalyst for looking at the product as a whole and figuring out how to make it the best it can possibly be."

The PGA Tour has issued indefinite bans to any player who departed and played in a LIV Golf event. Eleven LIV Golf players filed a lawsuit against the PGA Tour, although it is unlikely to be resolved before 2024.

LIV Golf has been criticised as a "sportwashing" bid for the Saudis and accusations of human rights violations.

"The questions on the Saudi government and their policies are unanswerable," Westwood says.

"My response is just to try and not answer them. I'm not a politician. I'm a golfer."

'Weird' at Wentworth

Westwood, who turns 50 next April, sees the 54-hole format as more compatable to his life these days.

"I'm looking forward to playing the LIV event in Miami at the end of October then not having to tee-up again until February," Westwood said.

"Already I can say to people, 'These are the 14 weeks I'm playing next year.' And I can have some fun in the other 38."

Westwood said he hopes to play in four DP World Tour events next year and looks forward to playing in the BMW PGA Championship next month at Wentworth, where many LIV Golf players will compete against players from the European circuit.

England's Matt Fitzpatrick, the reigning US Open champion, said it will be tricky at Wentworth with 20 LIV Golf players expected in that field.

"It's going to be odd seeing certain people, obviously, at Wentworth. That is going to be a bit weird and obviously it's a little bit disappointing," he said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.