24 places and Tulsa: Why Westwood, Poulter and LIV Golf’s Brits need an upturn in form
Since LIV Golf launched last year, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood have rarely been out of the headlines for long.
Sure, commissioner and CEO Greg Norman has been LIV’s most prominent spokesperson and Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson its two most high-profile signings but, after that, the British pair have been the focus of much coverage.
Ryder Cup hero Poulter and three-time European order of merit winner Westwood took a lot of the early heat around the new circuit, having been among the first sign-ups to emerge.
And their legal battle with the DP World Tour over their entitlement to retain membership, and potential be involved in future Ryder Cups, while playing in LIV Golf continues to rumble on.
But Poulter, Westwood and a clutch of other British players may not be firm fixtures in the LIV Golf news cycle for too much longer unless they can engineer a rapid improvement in their results.
Under the new LIV Golf League format implemented this year, any player who finishes lower than 24th in the standings at the end of the season is at risk of being cut from the competition.
The move is designed to ensure the league is not a closed one, with promotion and relegation from the International Series on the Asian Tour and the opportunity for captains to trade underperforming players for new blood during the off-season.
Of the seven players from the UK and Ireland playing on the Saudi-backed tour, Paul Casey is currently the highest in the standings, at 24th, after five of 14 tournaments. Poulter is 33rd, and Westwood 43rd.
As a team captain, Poulter will likely be protected from being traded out although he could, in theory, still be relegated if he finishes in the bottom five places of the individual standings.
Westwood is also part of Poulter’s Majesticks, who lie rock bottom of the team table. So is compatriot Sam Horsfield, who is 29th in the individual rankings thanks to a top-10 finish in Orlando last month, and his occasional injury stand-in Laurie Canter (40th).
Just above them are Martin Kaymer’s Cleeks, who feature Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell (36th) and English journeyman Richard Bland (37th).
Casey is the one British player punching his weight, although his only points this season came in a fourth-place finish at the opening tournament in Mexico.
On the whole, LIV Golf has a very American flavour at the top of the leaderboard. The top three men in the individual standings are from the US, as are 11 of the top 20.
Sergio Garcia and Cameron Smith, the Australian winner of last year’s Open Championship, are the only players from beyond the Americas in the top 10.
At the summit sits Talor Gooch, who became the first player to win back-to-back LIV Golf events last time out in Singapore. The former Oklahoma student is on a hat-trick in Tulsa.
Further down the standings there is another battle playing out, however, and Poulter, Westwood and their fellow Brits are in the thick of it.