10 Englishmen among 50 pros 'seeking releases' to play in debut Saudi golf breakaway event
Ten English golfers are reportedly seeking releases from the DP World Tour to play in the inaugural Saudi-backed LIV Golf event next month.
The controversial breakaway series, which has thus far failed to attract the world's top stars, will get underway at the Centurion Club in Hertfordshire on June 9. The 54-hole event will involve a staggering $25 million prize purse - almost double the amount available and next week's US PGA.
A host of leading players have previously spoken out against the concept, with Rory McIlroy already labelling the project "dead in the water." However, LIV Golf Investments CEO Greg Norman has remained belligerent, insisting players will sign up once they can comprehend the sums on offer.
However, the Australian was left furious last week when the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, reportedly decided to follow the stance of the PGA Tour and refuse to award players waivers to play in the tournament. The issue could now get ugly between the tours, with Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter two high-profile names to have applied.
However, an exclusive report in the Daily Telegraph has revealed that those who are entered into the 48-man field have been assured they will be backed if they do defy the verdict of Keith Pelley, the DP World Tour chief executive.
And as well as the two Ryder Cup icons, eight other English players are reportedly among those seeking a release. They are Richard Bland [world No 53], Laurie Canter , Sam Horsfield , Jordan Smith , David Horsey , Robert Rock , Ross McGowan  and Oliver Fisher .
Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell has also reportedly submitted forms and is 'weighing up his options' Indeed, the financial incentive, even for lowly ranked players, is enticing with even the last placed finisher in Hertfordshire set to make $120,000.
Westwood, 49, this month defended the highly controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series. He also cited the examples of other sports when suggesting that to criticise golfers for accepting Saudi-backed funding was hypocritical.
"Formula One raced there [Saudi Arabia]. Newcastle United are owned partly by people from Saudi Arabia. There has been boxing there and I think there has been snooker and darts there as well," he said.
"Golf's not the first sport to have links with Saudi Arabia, but it seems to be coming under more scrutiny than anyone else. Whether you think that's right or not is the individual's opinion."
Norman himself sparked outrage this week when pressed on the country's human rights record, and in particular, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi back in 2018 : "Look, we've all made mistakes and you just want to learn by those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward," he responded.
His views were described as "seriously misguided" by Amnesty International. Norman was speaking at the media launch of the tour in the Centurion Club venue in St Albans.