Today in U-Turns: Westwood Coming (Back) to America
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Westy eyes playing more in the States

Given Englishman Lee Westwood’s past comments regarding The Players Championship and his loyalty to the European Tour, I was understandably a little surprised when I received the press release this morning announcing that Westwood plans to split his time between Europe and America after deciding to rejoin the PGA Tour in 2012.

Here’s part of the hilarious statement:

The move will see Westwood return to the prestigious The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass, which he did not contest this year due to scheduling complications, and take part in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedEx Cup for the first time in September.

“I missed The PLAYERS Championship last year when watching it on television. It was always a scheduling issue for me. Though the rules changed making it exempt from PGA TOUR restrictions, I had already set my schedule for later in the year in Asia. I didn’t want to break any of those commitments,” Westwood said.

“It’s a great event and one I’ve always enjoyed playing. It just felt right in Ryder Cup year to commit to a full programme in the United States. The FedEx Cup looked pretty good on TV this year. I thought it would be great to give it a go, having never taken part.”

Westwood begins his American involvement at the Accenture World Match Play in Arizona in February, the first of four World Golf Championship Events of the year, and signs off with the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedEx Cup. He is obliged to play a minimum of 15 events in the United States. Westwood’s involvement will not affect his European Tour commitments.

The world No. 3 took up his PGA Tour card in 2008, but didn’t re-up the following year.

Last year around this time, the Tour added an asterisk to its policy for players that had given up their membership, which included Westwood and Rory McIlroy, saying The Players Championship didn’t count as one of the 10 sanctioned or co-sanctioned events they were allowed. Despite the amendment, Westwood delivered what some dubbed as a “snub” to Commissioner Tim Finchem and the Tour, saying in January at the Abu Dhabi Championship that his schedule was set and didn’t include a stop at TPC Sawgrass.

Here are some of Westy’s comments:

“I’d play if I could, but my schedule is based around the majors. And it’s set now. I don’t want to go into The Players not having played for four weeks after the Masters. And I don’t want to stay in the States to practice for three weeks so I’ll play a couple of tournaments on the European Tour instead…

“After the two opening World Golf Championships I would bracket our (European Tour) PGA Championship in May as just as important as it offers exemption for anybody in the world’s top 50 to play… I don’t see many of them (Americans) wanting to take up that offer. So you can’t really please everyone, can you?”

In 2010 Westwood said the Tour’s marquee event, often called the “fifth major,” ranked below the World Golf Championships on his list, dryly pondering, “So what is it, eighth on the list now?”

I wonder what he’ll call it in 2012.

(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)