Westwood to miss PGA Tour return – is it a clue British Masters will go ahead?

2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship winner Lee Westwood says he will not be playing the first events when the PGA Tour resumes
Lee Westwood’s victory in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January was his 25th victory on the European Tour and increased his chances of making an 11th Ryder Cup. Picture by GETTY IMAGES

LEE Westwood is prepared to miss key events on the PGA Tour because of the planned quarantine restrictions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA.

And his reasoning could be the biggest hint yet that the European Tour is ready to return to action in July at the British Masters, which Westwood is set to host for a second time at Close House.

Westwood, who is in line to qualify for his 11th Ryder Cup appearance after his victory in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, has indicated he will miss the first two events when the PGA Tour returns in June.

But in a TV interview in the USA, Westwood said: “Right now, I won’t be playing them.

“Not with having to leave here two weeks before, quarantine, then play the two tournaments, then come back here and quarantine again.”

Former European No. 1 Tommy Fleetwood has also said he won’t return to the USA to compete in the first few events.

The first four are to be played behind closed doors with no spectators.

Next month’s Charles Schwab Challenge will be the first scheduled PGA Tour event since The Players was called off after the first round, in March.

The Heritage at Hilton Head, in South Carolina, follows a week later.

But all of the 25 international players due to play in Texas, would need to be in the USA by Monday, May 25, to meet the quarantine regulations on foreigners travelling to America.

Westwood revealed his reasoning by saying: “It’s six weeks for two tournaments, and to me, that’s just not worth it.

“And it’s not worth taking the risk if everybody thinks that those kind of precautions have got to be in place.

“I don’t feel like golf’s a priority if it’s that severe.’”

Lee Westwood and Close House owner Graham Wylie
Lee Westwood with Close House owner Graham Wylie – the pair are set to host the 2020 Betfred British Masters in the North East

Westwood set to host British Masters for a second time

WESTWOOD has the added complication that he is due to host the British Masters, which is scheduled to be played from July 30-August 2.

The European Tour event at Newcastle’s Close House – close to where the World No. 31 is based – is now expected to be the first action for the Wentworth-based Tour.

All European Tour events were called off after the end of February, when the Oman Open was held in the Middle East.

If the British Masters goes ahead as planned, Westwood, and any other top European players who enter, will be unable to play in the PGA Championship – unless the US quarantine rules are relaxed by then.

The USPGA was moved from mid-May to the early August slot after the cancellation of the Men’s Golf at the Tokyo Olympics, allowed the Major to move back to an August date.

Last year was the first time the USPGA had been held in its new May date, and after the Masters and US Open were postponed – and the Open Championship at Royal St George’s was moved back to 2021 – the USPGA is set to be the first Major of the 2020 season.

Fans are not expected to be allowed at the British Masters.

And Westwood is conscious of the need to balance safety – while the risk of a second wave in the coronavirus crisis exists – and trying to put on some golf for the public to watch while the lockdown.

Westwood added: “Obviously, people want something to watch, and it’s a good way to kick-start your economy.

“But we don’t want a second wave, so we have to make sure we are very, very safe.”

‘Robust testing and hygiene processes’

2015 British Masters winner Matt Fitzpatrick at Woburn
Matt Fitzpatrick won the British Masters at Woburn, in 2015

The European Tour has been working ceaselessly trying to reschedule its season.

But chief executive Keith Pelley has said he will not disclose the details until the Tour is happy it has “robust testing and hygiene processes” in place.

Westwood’s reason for returning to the UK suggests, however, the British Masters could well be the European Tour’s first event on the new 2020 calendar.

Previous winners of the British Masters include Oxfordshire’s Eddie Pepperell, who claimed the title at Walton Heath in 2018.

And Yorkshire’s Matt Fitzpatrick recorded his first European Tour win at Woburn, in 2015.

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