Westwood snub to US Tour with refusal to play in fifth major

The Players Championship – aka the world's richest tournament, aka the fifth major, aka the PGA Tour's flagship event – will be minus the professional currently ranked the game's best player. With the news American officials were dreading, Lee Westwood revealed yesterday he will be skipping Sawgrass this year.

It seems certain the US Tour will have some explaining to do, if only to their sponsors. The world No 1, who two years ago resigned his American card, would play the $9.5m (£5.9m) spectacular, but feels the rigid rules are stopping him when put alongside his own scheduling demands. "I'd go over for the Players if I could play in the tournament the week before, but I don't want to pitch up at the Players cold, having not played for four weeks since Augusta," said Westwood. "So I'll play a couple of tournaments on the European Tour instead."

How the Players' sponsors and Wells Fargo, the US bank which backs the preceding week's Quail Hollow Championship, will feel about this does not require imagination, particularly in light of the continuing financial situation. They may even contact the Tour to ask why they are being denied one of golf's biggest names when he might grace their event. What they will encounter is a bizarre length of red tape threatening to strangle the very organisation it is supposed to protect. To be fair, it is a similar story in Europe, where members must play a minimum of 13 events.

"This sums up what's wrong with golf at the moment," said Westwood's manager, Chubby Chandler. "There are too many people in power thinking only about their own interests rather than what's good for the game. It does my head in to think the world No 1 in his sport can't play in a tournament he wants to play in, and which the sponsor wants him to play in."

Other sports will doubtless share Chandler's bemusement. But the PGA Tour will claim that, like the European Tour, they are simply following their rules and are not punishing the Englishman for refusing to sign up for the FedEx Series, their end-of-season dollar-fest.

When Westwood resigned his US membership, it meant he would be limited to 10 events. Take off the majors and the World Golf Championships and that leaves him with three. His year is built around winning majors and, in preparation, he likes to play the week before. Houston will thus benefit in the run-up to the Masters as will Memphis (where he won last year) before the US Open. As March's Honda Classic has long been inked in on a schedule carefully put together under the guidance of his fitness guru, Steve McGregor, Westwood feels he has used up all his US options.

The question is that, as the game goes global, shouldn't the top players be able to play where they please?

In truth, this is essentially America's loss as Westwood plainly isn't too concerned. If he was, he would travel over to Florida for a week. He is probably not alone in his indifference; Rory McIlroy is also considering missing Sawgrass. "The Players is a big PGA Tour event – but that's all it is," said Chandler, who also oversees the young Ulsterman.

Of course, to the PGA Tour it is rather more than that and this is why they quickly changed their rules late last year when they first heard rumblings of Westwood's intentions. They thought they had solved the problem by affording the Players special status, so allowing Westwood not to count it in his 10. They hadn't.

It would be so much less embarrassing for them if Westwood is not still the No 1 in May. But a victory in an Abu Dhabi Championship boasting seven members of the top 12 would make the tag extremely secure.

But Westwood, who turns 38 in April, will have to be on top form to see off a field which also includes the world No 3, Martin Kaymer and the joint No 4s, Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell. Mickelson is such a welcome visitor to the European Tour, who were thrilled to hear him say yesterday that, with his family in tow, he plans to play more of an "international" schedule. "We want to expand our horizons," he said. Not to mention their bank balance. Mickelson is reportedly receiving a $1.5m appearance fee.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas