Lee Westwood and European golf chef Keith Pelley face off at LIV’s legal hearing

Lee Westwood and European golf chief Keith Pelley face off at LIV legal hearing - Getty Images/David Cannon

Lee Westwood and European golf chief Keith Pelley face off at LIV legal hearing – Getty Images/David Cannon

Lee Westwood will face the DP World Tour this week at a legal hearing in London that will effectively decide whether the golfers who have joined LIV Golf can be banned from the Ryder Cup.

Sports Resolutions’ three-member arbitration panel hears arguments for five days, focusing solely on the Tour’s conflicting event release regulations and Wentworth HQ’s ability to enforce that rule.

If the Tour wins, they get to suspend the Rebels and ultimately prevent them from qualifying for and playing in the Ryder Cup.

It was initially thought that this arbitration dispute would only involve the teams of lawyers from the two sides, but Telegraph Sport has learned that not only Tour chief executive Keith Pelley will be personally involved, but also Westwood, the former world number 1 and three-time winner of the Tour’s Order of Merit.

That could be an awkward meeting to say the least, following the duo’s cross-media feud in Dubai last month. Westwood criticized the Tour, accusing management of “inflaming tensions” with an “anti-LIV email to all players” that he called “propaganda”, before Pelley hit back, claiming that “unfair remarks” “have affected the staff of region had made”.

‘I have nothing to be uncomfortable about, so I like to go in person’

When asked by Telegraph Sport about his involvement in the hearing, Westwood sounded determined to come forward. “We all made written statements and thought maybe that would be enough, but I’ve been asked to testify at the hearing and as I’m in London on Tuesday I’ll be coming along,” Westwood told Telegraph Sport. “They said I could do it via an internet link, but I have nothing to feel uncomfortable about, so I’m happy to go in person.”

Asked if he thought the experience might seem surreal given his 30 years as a member of the Tour and his quarter of a century playing for Europe in the Ryder Cup, Westwood replied: “It might feel a little strange, yes. But this probably needs to be done to get any resolution.

“Enough has been said and it will be good if impartial judges decide and then we can all deal with it. I don’t know about professions and anything, and I could be wrong, but as far as I’m concerned this will draw a line and that will be it. We don’t know when we’ll get a decision – it won’t be immediately – but I’ve been told it will probably take two to three weeks.”

Westwood is one of 13 players to appeal against sanctions issued by the Tour when the golfers sought releases of “conflicting events” from the DP World Tour last June to play the inaugural LIV event in St Albans. Those requests were rejected, but the players competed anyway at Centurion Club and were fined £100,000 and suspended from the Scottish Open.

Initially, Ian Poulter, Adrián Otaegui and Justin Harding appealed the penalties and were suspended pending a substantive appeal, allowing the players to compete in Tour events all the time.

In a Netflix documentary, Full Swing, Poulter re-emphasized what the biennial metabolic rate means to him. “I love the Ryder Cup and if I get the chance to captain the Ryder Cup one day I would absolutely love it,” he said. “It would be terrible if it were taken away.”

Poulter and Co’s claim is that releases have previously been granted to play on other tours, but a DP World Tour spokesperson pointed out that these were not always greenlit.

“Every member signs our bylaws when they pay their membership fees each year,” he said. “There are precedents where they have not been granted in the past.”

LIV Golf pays the legal fees for its players, but the Tour funds their legal bills through their central treasury. Sources indicate that the costs for the Tour alone run into the seven figures. “This is all coming from the members’ pot,” Pelley said during a briefing with journalists in Dubai. “It’s a lot of money, and it’s a lot of time and resources.”

Pelley is adamant that nothing has yet been decided on the extent of the sanctions the rebels will face if the Tour wins the verdict. Although it is clear that there will be unlimited bans on the table. “We will go through the actual hearing and whatever the results may be, we will act accordingly and only then make the decisions,” he said.

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