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Golf: Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter involved in awkward exchange over Saudi-backed LIV series

‘If Vladimir Putin had a tournament, would you play there?’ Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter are left squirming as they face awkward questions about joining Saudi-backed LIV series but refuse to comment on ‘speculation’

  • Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood had an awkward exchange with a journalist 
  • The golfing stars are under pressure after joining the Saudi-backed LIV series 
  • They rejected ‘hypothetical’ questions and ‘speculation’ at a press conference 

Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter were forced to awkwardly bat away questions about their involvement in the Saudi-backed LIV series on Wednesday after being asked if they would compete in a tournament run by Vladimir Putin. 

The breakaway tour has sent shockwaves through the game after snapping up some of the sport’s top talent for eye-watering signing on fees ahead of its inaugural event at St Albans on Thursday.

Many golfers have been quizzed about signing up for the competition given Saudi Arabia’s human rights record – with the country singled out for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and having carried out numerous executions.  

And ahead of the official press conference, Westwood and Poulter were both present to face the music, with journalists descending upon the event to quiz those involved, with one reporter asking some bold questions of both men.

The journalist asked him: ‘Is there anywhere in the world you wouldn’t play? If Vladimir Putin had a tournament, would you play there?’

Westwood looked totally dumbstruck and the camera flashes across to Poulter – who responded: ‘That’s just speculation, I’m not even going to comment on speculation.’

The reporter then doubles down: ‘Is there anywhere you wouldn’t play on a moral basis, if the money was right?’ 

Lee Westwood was also forced to bat away the line of questioning from the reporter

Ian Poulter (L) and Lee Westwood (R) faced awkward questions over their involvement in the Saudi-backed LIV series on Wednesday

Poulter refused to comment on speculation when asked if he would play in a tournament run by Russian president Vladimir Putin

Poulter refused to comment on speculation when asked if he would play in a tournament run by Russian president Vladimir Putin

Poulter took a large sip of water before taking a long pause – then hit back: ‘I don’t need to answer that question.’ 

He then took his focus to Westwood and asked if he would like to answer the question – stepping things up and asking if he would play in Apartheid in South Africa. ‘You’re just asking us to answer hypothetical questions, which we can’t answer,’ he added. 

Ther journalist defended himself, claiming they were ‘moral questions’. 

Westwood similarly decline to answer 'hypothetical questions' when asked if he would play a golf tournament in apartheid-run South Africa

Westwood similarly decline to answer ‘hypothetical questions’ when asked if he would play a golf tournament in apartheid-run South Africa

Other big names who have joined the series are Dustin Johnson, with the two-time major winner resigning from the PGA Tour in the process. Other top names such as Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell have also defected. 

Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler are reportedly also close to joining, according to the Telegraph.

DeChambeau’s inclusion would be most surprising given he distanced himself from the series last week.

The 28-year-old said: ‘For me, I personally don’t think that at this point in time I’m in a place in my career where I can risk things like that.

Golfing stars like Bryson DeChambeau are expected to link up with the controversial series

Golfing stars like Bryson DeChambeau are expected to link up with the controversial series

‘I’m loyal to my family that I’ve created around me with sponsors and everything. And as of right now, the golf world is probably going to change in some capacity.

‘I don’t know what that is. Not my job to do so. I’m just going to keep playing professional golf and enjoy it wherever it takes me, play with the best players in the world. 

‘That’s really all I’ve got, that’s what I’ll do for the rest of my life, because I want to be one of the best players in the world.’

Phil Mickelson has also signed up – despite calling Saudis ‘scary motherf***ers’, but refused to confirm whether he had been banned from the PGA Tour.

The six-time major champion said: ‘I’ve been a part of the tour for over 30 years and I’ve had a lot of incredible memories and experiences, tournaments that I’ve won and lost.

Phil Mickelson has linked up with the tour despite calling Saudis 'scary motherf***ers'

Phil Mickelson has linked up with the tour despite calling Saudis ‘scary motherf***ers’ 

‘I’ve gained a lot, received a lot and I’m grateful for everything the tour has done for me. I’ve also worked hard to contribute and build and add value to the tour in my time there.

‘I worked hard to get a lifetime exemption. I don’t want to give that up. I don’t feel I should have to. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve earned that and I don’t plan on just giving it up.

‘I’ve really enjoyed my time on the PGA Tour. I’m had some incredible experiences, great memories and I have a lot of strong opinions that it should and could be a lot better. 

‘One mistake I’ve made is voicing them publicly. I will make an effort to keep those conversations behind closed doors moving forward.’

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