LIV Golfer recalls hostile Westwood/Poulter news conference: "I gave them a hug"

Laurie Canter, who has played in LIV Golf events, has revealed what he said to Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood after a memorable new conference.

Ben Smith's picture
Tue, 9 Jan 2024
LIV Golfer recalls hostile Westwood/Poulter news conference: "I gave them a hug"

Laurie Canter has revealed he gave Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood each a hug after the English duo's first news conference as LIV Golf players in which they faced a hostile media asking questions about whether they would tee it up in Vladimir Putin's Russia. 

Poulter and Westwood were two of the first high-profile golfers to make the leap to the breakaway tour in June 2022. 

Week after week the two European Ryder Cup icons and their peers faced questions about being complicit in sportswashing and if they had concerns over Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses. 

For their parts both players insisted they were just doing what they had always done: make decisions as independent contractors. 

They insisted they needn't be banned from the established tours. 

Poulter, 47, and Westwood, 50, have now resigned their PGA and DP World Tour memberships and, at least at this moment in time, have little to no chance of being involved in the Ryder Cup as either vice-captains or captains. 

For his part Canter, who has played multiple events for the rival league across the first two campaigns, said he has never had a problem with the source of the money bankrolling LIV. 

The Englishman opened up on the subject on the most recent edition of The Chipping Forecast.  

One common accusation thrown at LIV players is that they've been bought and paid for by the Saudis and are told what to say. 

Canter conceded LIV players were prepped before the first news conference in June 2022 at Centurion Club. 

Canter explained: "The straight answer to that is, just before the first event in London last year, I remember there a few key points about what LIV was trying to achieve in terms of the demographic they were trying to bring into the game, that kinda thing. 

"To be honest a lot of them were, I feel, like every golfer would endorse and feel they fairly normal. It was just written down on a piece of paper.

"I haven't had anyone telling me I can or cannot talk or do things. I think the interview requests for me are a little bit lower down the pecking order than some of the other guys on LIV."

He continued: "So, from my own standpoint, I didn't have a problem with the source of the money because I had played tournaments in Saudi Arabia before. I was comfortable with that.

"In terms of the moral haze within that, that wasn't something that was... I don't want to say particularly concerned with it's just, I feel that's the nature of our job [and] we go to a lot of places [that have issues with human rights].  

"There's lots of things about the places we go I don't agree with. I remember at the time there were things going about the abortion laws in America and all that kind of stuff and I had just played in the PGA and I was thinking it depends where I'm going to draw that line. 

"That really wasn't something that worried me."

Remind yourself of the Poulter, Westwood exchange here:

Discussing the Poulter and Westwood news conference, of which Canter attended, he continued: "That press conference was unbelievably uncomfortable.

"And when we got out and went into the holding room I gave them both a hug, Westwood and Poulter. They had to handle all of that. 

"Obviously Ian came out, I feel like he reverts to all guns blazing. That's how he operates if he feels something is being thrown at him that's how he comes back.

"I can't help but feeling sorry for a lot of the guys that had to do those interviews in the early days because there is no right and wrong answer. Everyone has got context to human rights [and] there's so much around it you have to consider.

"It's not, for me, a clear area. I could sit and debate it with people much smarter than me who could tell me all the reasons why it's terrible what we're doing.

"I looked at it in terms of, if you're going to play professional golf that is something that in my opinion you sign up to do. You go and play where you have opportunities to play. 

"I think in my head that is how the world of golf works." 

Canter was asked what affect the criticism has had on the likes of Westwood and Poulter.

He said: "Because I had so little of that to deal with relative to them I don't feel I answer that question for them but I can answer it if it had been me. 

"I think it would take its toll. I think those guys, certainly the first year of LIV, it was every week. 

"It was difficult for those guys. They wanted to get their heads down and focus on golf and wherever they went that was one of the early things they had to deal with."

Canter said this has come full circle for the leading PGA Tour players who have had to answer questions about the 6 June framework agreement. 

He added: "It's bound to have had an affect, especially when you look at where everyone's sentiment and feeling is within golf now. 

"When you look at the answers they were giving, they couldn't say anything right. But if you look at what they actually said, to me, a lot of it was fair."

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