Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood threaten legal action against DP World Tour

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Lee Westwood of England pictured with his wife Helena and Ian Poulter of England during the LIV Invitational at The Centurion Club on June 10, 2022 in St Albans, England.
Lee Westwood of England pictured with his wife Helena and Ian Poulter of England during the LIV Invitational at The Centurion Club on June 10, 2022 in St Albans, England.

Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood are among a group of 16 players fined and banned from the Scottish Open who have threatened the DP World Tour with legal actions unless their sanctions are rescinded by Friday.

The punishments - £100,000 individual fines and bans from upcoming tournaments including the Scottish Open - were handed down by the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, last Friday as they formally moved to punish all players who have signed up for the Saudi rebel tour, which launched earlier this month.

There is a Tour deadline by next Friday, July 8, that means the rebels can't play until they have paid their fines, although LIV Golf's response was to offer financial support to its players to cover any penalties or legal costs they may incur.

But the players involved have threatened legal action unless they are allowed to play in the Scottish Open, the first jointly-sanctioned tournament ever staged between the DP world Tour and PGA Tour, at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick next Thursday.

In an open letter the 16 players claim that the DP World Tour is being hypocritical for banning them while allowing others to feature in events outside their tour, claiming the penalties levelled against them are "grossly unfair and likely unlawful".

They also question the 13-year partnership that was announced this week between the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, asking why the latter appears to be accepting that it will play second fiddle to its American big brother.

A letter, which was signed by 16 of this week’s LIV Golf Invitational competitors in Portland, who will be fined for playing in the event, and sent to the DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley and other board members, called for negotiations to align the rebel series with the two existing traditional tours, or face the risk of future legal action.

'The intention is not to further divide us'

It read: “In Mr Pelley’s latest communication, he uses the statement that every action in life comes with a consequence. We agree, and we are concerned that the actions of  the Tour against us, LIV Golf, and golf in general will have adverse consequences on the DP World Tour, a tour and an organisation that, despite our recent interactions, we care deeply for.

“The intention of this letter is not to further divide us, but to respond to Tour statements and to pose questions that the Tour should answer and we should discuss in detail. Instead of spending our time, energy, financial resources, and focus on appeals, injunctions, and lawsuits, we would implore you, the custodians of the DP World Tour, to reconsider your recent penalties and sanctions, and instead focus our energies on forging a path forward that is better for the DP World Tour members and the game of golf.

“To this end, we ask that you rescind your fines and suspensions by 5:00 pm on Friday, July 1, 2022. In addition, we represent over 5 per cent of the DP World Tour membership and, under its articles of association, we ask you to convene a meeting of Tour membership to discuss these important matters further. If not, you will leave us  with no choice but to employ the various other means and methods at our disposal to rectify these wrongs.”

The 16 players also questioned what the DP World Tour actually gained from its “strategic alliance” with the PGA Tour, given several of its high-profile members regularly miss tournaments to play in the United States while the ban on LIV golfers will mean several more are absent.

“We appreciate that the argument being put forward is that the ‘strategic alliance’ with the PGA Tour will provide overall benefit to DP World Tour members - hence the competitive threat to the PGA Tour being treated differently when it comes to releases and other matters,” the letter continued.

“To begin with, we do not accept that protecting the PGA Tour through this alliance could in any way justify this disparate treatment. Even if it could, what are these benefits? This a question we have asked for many months.

“Thus far, the option to play the Barracuda Championship instead of the Scottish Open doesn’t appear to be one that benefits the membership at all. Ultimately, approximately 40 DP World Tour members who would have been eligible for the Scottish Open on the DP World tour will now not be eligible, and  instead will only have the option to go and play on the PGA Tour in Kentucky the week before The Open, for less money but at a higher cost to participate.

“In addition, PGA Tour players have been encouraged to play the Scottish Open through a stipend  to cover travel costs, but the same benefit is not afforded to DP World Tour  members?! That the DP World Tour top performers will now earn PGA Tour cards serves only to solidify the DP World Tour as second fiddle to the PGA Tour and depletes the DP World Tour’s top rising talent even further. And without regard to  whether this collaboration is lawful, would this collaboration be happening without LIV Golf entering the market?”