The Open: Westwood hits back at Woods' 'vested interest' in LIV Golf debate

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Lee Westwood believes Tiger Woods has a "vested interest" in the controversial LIV Golf International Series debate, with the American bound to back the PGA Tour.

The Saudi-backed breakaway competition, headed by two-time major champion Greg Norman, has split opinion in golf, with defectors banned from playing on the PGA Tour.

The LIV Golf stars were allowed to play at the U.S. Open and the R&A followed suit by allowing the breakaway golfers to feature at The Open Championship, which started at St Andrews on Thursday.

Woods, who has won two of his three Claret Jugs at St Andrews, suggested before the final major of the year that defectors had "turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position".

The 15-time major winner also likened the 54-hole format to the Seniors Tour, but Westwood was quick to defend his decision as he questioned the motivations behind Woods' comments.

"He's got a vested interest hasn't he?," Westwood told reporters after recording a four-under 68 in the first round, in which Woods carded an error-strewn six-over 78.

"The LIV players will talk the LIV tour up, the PGA players that aren't on the LIV tour will talk the PGA Tour up and put down the LIV tour.

"I don't pay too much attention to people's opinions. Tiger is entitled to his opinion. I respect Tiger as a golfer. One of the two best golfers that has ever played the game."

Ian Poulter had earlier played down suggestions he was greeted by jeers at the first tee following his decision to join LIV Golf, and Westwood insists he is always welcomed with a positive reaction.

"I always get a fantastic reaction from the galleries at the Open Championship," he added. "As a British player it is the best tournament of the year. The atmosphere is incredible.

"I think the general public just want to go out there and see good golf, no matter where it is being played or who is playing it."

Some have suggested that the R&A have granted unfavourable tee times to the LIV Golf defectors, with no assurances that the breakaway golfers will be welcomed at future majors.

But Westwood believes whoever wins the 150th Open will be lauded by the organisers and their fellow competitors, with the quality of golf the most important factor in Scotland.

"Who told you that? [R&A chief] Martin Slumbers? Did he tell you the R&A wouldn't be happy?," Westwood responded when asked how The Open would feel if a LIV Golf star wins the event.

"You just made that up then, all right. So we don't need to have that conversation, do we?

"I think he'll be happy with whoever is the Champion Golfer of the Year holding the trophy aloft on Sunday night because they'll have played the best.

"And that's what the R&A want from this championship, they want the best player to win, regardless of what Tour they play on."

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