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Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood uncertain over Ryder Cup future as they defend LIV Golf Series involvement

Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood cited previous European Tour events held in Saudi Arabia as the pair were questioned over the morality of playing in the LIV Golf Invitational Series; Phil Mickelson is also competing at the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series tournament

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Ian Poulter says playing in the LIV golf tour should not be viewed as controversial, describing it as a 'magnificent opportunity'

Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood have downplayed the controversy surrounding the LIV Golf Series while admitting they are unsure of their Ryder Cup futures as the pair were quizzed on their involvement in the Saudi-backed tour on Wednesday. 

The British duo are among the high-profile names to have signed up for the breakaway series, joining two-time major winner Dustin Johnson, who confirmed his resignation from the PGA Tour on Tuesday, and six-time major champion Phil Mickelson.

Poulter labeled himself a 'global golfer' upon being asked whether he was a 'rebel or trailblazer', while Westwood insisted he would have to be 'stupid' not to pursue a pay increase at his age as both also referred to past European Tour events held in Saudi Arabia when questioned about the country's human rights record.

"We've played on the European Tour in Saudi Arabia over a number of years and the event has been a big event, it's had a world-class field," said Poulter. "It's been a world-class tournament.

"I don't believe it should be controversial, as Lee touched on there are eight events this year, 10 next year, 14 the year after, there is plenty of room to be able to have other great tournaments on other great tours we would like to compete in as well.

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Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood both hope that playing in the LIV Golf tournament will not affect their availability for the Ryder Cup.

"The legacy standpoint is I'm trying to provide for my family which is the first and foremost thing I want to do, I come to work to play golf and that's my job at the end of the day.

"I love it, I love playing golf, I love the opportunity LIV gives us from a standpoint of playing, slightly less golf which gives me the ability to be fresher to be ready to go. It's a magnificent opportunity I'm really looking forward to."

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Westwood also insisted he and other players were "comfortable" in making the decision to take part in the event without the blessing of golf's other prominent tours.

"We've all played in Saudi Arabia already, we've been given releases by the PGA Tour to play there and the European Tour has held events there," said the 49-year-old.

"This is no different really, so I feel educated on it, it's something I've done in the past. As independent contractors we can basically play where we want."

Both admitted they were unsure over how their Ryder Cup future would be impacted by the decision to join the LIV Tour, Johnson conceding on Tuesday that his PGA exit rules out his chances of captaining Team USA in the future.

"We don't know [if they are putting Ryder Cup futures in jeopardy]," said Poulter. "I'd like to think it wouldn't, all the golf I've played around the world in all the different countries and tours I don't see why this should be any different.

"It's an unknown risk, we don't know how DP World Tour will view it, it's obviously a factor."

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Phil Mickelson says he has worked really hard to earn a lifetime exemption and does not believe he should have to give up on the PGA Tour.

Westwood added: "It's something I have to take into account, I'm not sure about the playing days, I'm 50 next April. Captaincy could be in jeopardy as well, but Ian pretty much covered it all.

"What I will say is myself and Ian have been members of the PGA Tour while we've been on the European Tour and that's had no effect in the past on whether people have been captains.

"LIV Golf is another tour so why should it be any different?"

Westwood preceded to highlight the tournament's team format as a primary sell, with Poulter suggesting more players will show an interest upon watching this week's inaugural event.

"I like the concept of LIV Golf, I think it's exactly what golf needs, team format more often, shorter format, if you're asking me to say where I think golf needs to go, it needs to be faster, it needs to be team format, it needs all the people out at the same time," said Westwood.

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Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood refuse to answer questions on whether there is anywhere they wouldn't play at the LIV golf press conference.

"One of the funnest days of the year for me watching TV is watching the match-play where there are a lot of games out at the same time, a lot of action, not too many commercials.

"The thing that drew me to this was the concept and that in certain weeks of the year there's a place for this.

"It's competition isn't it and I think competition in any sport is good. It keeps everybody on their toes and keeps everybody trying to achieve as much as they can possibly achieve.

"LIV is there and they've made the statement not to try and be a threat to these other tours. I don't see any reason why all the tours can't co-exist, they're not there as a direct threat, although the other tours seem to perceive it that way and not want to work with us."

Mickelson feels 'so good' about LIV Golf Series

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Phil Mickelson says he had an 'awesome time' during his four months off from competing and feels good about being part of LIV Golf.

Phil Mickelson says he feels "so good" about the balance playing in the LIV Golf Series provides and added he will not resign from the PGA Tour during a tense press conference on Wednesday.

The 51-year-old is ending his self-imposed four-month exile from the sport to compete in this week's inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series tournament at Centurion Club.

Mickelson skipped his PGA Championship defence following a backlash over comments he made about the Saudi-backed breakaway tour, and was facing the media for the first since confirming his LIV Golf participation on Monday.

The six-time major winner repeatedly said "I don't condone human rights violations" when asked about his reasons for competing in the tour, despite calling the Saudi regime "scary" back in February, and stressed LIV Golf can "do a lot of good for the game".

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Phil Mickelson has defended and explained his decision to join LIV Golf at a lengthy and sometimes uncomfortable news conference for the six-time major champion

Addressing his break, Mickelson said: "I've had an awesome time, I've had a four-month break from the game. It's given me time to continue some of the work and therapy that I've been working on, on some areas I'm deficient in, in my life.

"It's given me time to reflect on what I want to do going forward, what's best for me, what's best for the people I care about. This allows me to be more present and engaged with people I care about.

"That is why, when I think about being a part of LIV Golf, I feel so good about it."

McIIory and Thomas: PGA Tour best place to play

Rory McIlroy has reaffirmed his commitment to the PGA Tour ahead of the start of the LIV Golf Series on Thursday.

The Northern Irishman was speaking after Bryson DeChambeau confirmed he will play in the second event of the Saudi-backed series, which starts in Portland later this month.

Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler are also reportedly set to join the likes of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood who are playing in the inaugural tournament at the Centurion Club.

McIlroy respects their decision but will continue to play on the PGA Tour and has no intention of joining the LIV Golf Series.

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Rory McIlroy says he can understand why some players left to join the LIV Golf series, however he insists that he is happy playing on the PGA Tour and wouldn't consider leaving.

"I think my stance on it has been pretty clear from the start. It's not something that I want to participate in," said McIlroy at his press conference ahead of this week's Canadian Open, where he is the 'defending champion' after winning the last staging of the tournament back in 2019.

"I certainly understand the guys that went and understand what their goals and their ambitions are in their life, and I'm certainly not knocking anyone for going.

"It is their life. It is their decision. They can live it the way they want to, but, for me, I want to play on the PGA Tour against the best players in the world.

Recently-crowned PGA champion Justin Thomas also insisted he has no bad feelings towards players that have decided to compete on the LIV Tour, though reaffirmed his belief the PGA Tour remains golf's best platform.

"I think a lot of us are, I don't know if annoyed or tired is the right way, it's just one of those things," he said. "I've thought a lot about it and it's like, people are entitled to choose as they wish, I don't dislike DJ (Dustin Johnson) now, I don't think he's a bad dude, I won't treat him any differently, he's entitled to choose as he wishes and I think the day and age we live in now is so negative.

"You see it in everything, sport, politics, whatever it is, if you disagree with somebody you just feel you're entitled to hate them and talk bad about them when everybody is entitled to their own opinion."

Kaymer: The world has become money-driven

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Martin Kaymer admits the extra money he'll earn playing in the LIV Series helps but insists it's not the only reason for joining the tour

Former world No 1 Martin Kaymer admitted money was a motivating factor behind his decision to join the LIV Tour, alongside his desire to compete against some of the biggest names in golf again.

"To be completely honest, if you see where I am in my career right now, I don't have a full PGA Tour card," said the German. "I would love to play against the best in the world but at the moment I can't.

"I won't play on the PGA Tour next year because I won't have enough tournaments this year, so I will only compete on the European Tour, and there was a great opportunity to play a different kind of golf with different kinds of golf tournaments. I think the format is exciting as well - it's very fair, everybody plays at the same time. At this stage of my career, I want to try something different.

"I would be lying if I said money wasn't a motivator. Of course, we'd love to earn a little bit more money in the tournaments that we play - it's very human - but money was never a motivator when I started playing golf. The world we live in has become very money-driven, and that's why I like the field that they invited this week. It goes from amateurs to older guys who played majors and Ryder Cups."

Why is the LIV Golf Series so controversial?

Due to the PIF's links to the Saudi government, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman serving as chairman, LIV Golf has faced accusations of sports washing.

Norman has adamantly denied such claims, telling Sky Sports in May Saudi Arabia is "changing their culture within their country" and insisting "I do not answer to Saudi Arabia. I do not answer to their government or MBS".

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Graeme McDowell says the LIV Tour is not designed to divide, hopes 'we can all get on together' and that inclusion won't affect Ryder Cup participation

Comments from a Mickelson interview with author Alan Shipnuck, who is writing an unauthorised biography of the six-time major winner, came to light in February, in which the 51-year-old questioned Saudi Arabia's human rights record and called the regime "scary".

Mickelson has since apologised for his "reckless" comments.

What is the format?

All 48 players compete against each other in a traditional stroke play format, with the lowest 54-hole total from the no-cut event being the winner, while a draft will help allocate players into the team format.

Each team will have a LIV appointed team captain who will select their three open team positions via a snake draft format, similar to those used on the Ladies European Tour in the Aramco Team Series.

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Former professional golfer Wayne Riley believes the LIV Golf tour is bad for the sport but doesn't blame players for joining the tour

For the first two rounds, the best two stroke play scores will count for each team. For the third and final round, the best three scores will count, with the lowest overall team score after 54 holes being named the team winner.

The format changes in the Team Championship, which is a seeded four-day, four-round, match play knock-out tournament. The top four seeds automatically receive a bye through the first round, with the remaining eight teams playing against each other to see who reaches the quarter-finals.

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