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'Why Should I Be Threatened?' Ryder Cup Status Still a Giant Unknown for LIV Golfers

Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia have been European Ryder Cup stalwarts for decades and don't feel their LIV commitment should affect future appearances.
Lee Westwood is pictured at the LIV Golf inaugural event in June 2022 at London's Centurion Club.

Lee Westwood has played in a record-tying 11 Ryder Cups for Europe, but his status for a 12th or a future captaincy appears in doubt.

NORTH PLAINS, Ore. – Among the many possible unknowns for taking part in the LIV Golf Invitational Series is how it will impact a player’s future participation as either a Ryder Cup player, captain or both.

LIV Golf signees have been suspended by the PGA Tour indefinitely and the DP World Tour has fined its members for competing in the first event outside of London three weeks ago. Presumably, they will also be fined for playing the tournament here that begins Thursday at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.

But for those with a long history with the biennial event, they are aware of the possible ramifications — and don’t believe there should be any.

“Why should I be threatened?’’ said England’s Lee Westwood, who played in his European-record tying 11th Ryder Cup last September at Whistling Straits. “I’ve been playing Ryder Cup golf since 1997, and the criteria has been to be a member of the European Tour. Now, the criteria for being a member of the European Tour is to play four events. Why should they change that now?

“I’ve been a member of the PGA Tour and still played four events on the PGA Tour, and why would the European Tour change their rules so dramatically because another tour doesn’t like it or feels financially threatened? There’s just a bit too much protection going on for my liking and not transparency.

“I think as long as you fulfill the criteria to be a European Tour member, then you should still have the opportunity to try and qualify for the Ryder Cup team.’’

Westwood is one of several LIV participants who has a Ryder Cup history. He joined Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Bernd Weisberger on the European side last fall. Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka played for the Americans.

Also participating in the second LIV event is Phil Mickelson, who served as a U.S. assistant captain, as well as Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer, who were European assistants.

American Patrick Reed did not make the U.S. team last fall but played in the matches in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

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“Obviously I love to play Ryder Cups,’’ said Martin Kaymer, the two-time major winner who in 2012 made a par putt on the 18th hole to cap a dramatic European comeback that secured the Cup at Medinah. "I would love to play for Sergio or Lee one day. That’s just how it is. Obviously we didn’t know what the sanctions might become one day, but if you asked me if I would do the same, I would make the same choice, absolutely, because I do believe in the whole vision that LIV Golf provides for the game of golf and for us players.’’

Westwood turned down the opportunity to be the 2023 European captain, saying he wanted to make a push to play on one more team.

Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion, is the most successful European Ryder Cup player in terms of victories (25) and points (28 ½), having played in 10 Ryder Cups dating to 1999.

Like Westwood, he would seemingly be a lock for a future captaincy were there not the LIV cloud.

U.S. players such as Reed might be shut out. He resigned his PGA Tour membership and players can only earn points via PGA Tour events. Others who have not resigned have been suspended. There is still the question as to whether or not a player could get a captain’s pick although being a member of the PGA of America – which comes with PGA Tour membership – could be a sticking point.

For the European players, there is less clarity. No suspensions have been applied. There is still question as to whether they can compete in future European Tour events. And the Ryder Cup question looms.

“Obviously (we) were hoping it wouldn’t change,’’ Garcia said. “We still hope that it won’t affect it.

“At the end of the day, I did this for several reasons. I did it because I think this is the future of golf, I think this is a great opportunity.

“I hope that I still have the possibly to be part of a few more Ryder Cup teams, but that’s not going to depend on us now. We’ll just keep our fingers crossed.’’

Henrik Stenson has been named European captain for 2023. The Swede continues to be linked to LIV Golf, although he has not been part of the first two events and there is no indication if he will actually make the leap later this year.

What happens if he does? That, too, will be interesting to see how it plays out.