Lee Westwood believes the Asian Tour has given its European and American rivals a taste of their own medicine by going global with a new international series . Speaking on Wednesday, ahead of the PIF Saudi International, the Englishman said he thought the DP World Tour and PGA Tour saw their Asian counterpart’s new enterprise, which includes a stop in London, “as a threat” and compared the ongoing animosity to “a game of poker”. Westwood is one of several high-profile golfers playing in the Asian Tour’s 2022 season opener in King Abdullah Economic City this week, alongside the likes of Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia and Phil Mikelson. An infusion of some US$300 million from LIV Golf Investments, which is headed by former world No 1 Greg Norman, and backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, has given the Asian Tour financial clout it did not have before. And while the increased prize fund of US$5 million this week has played its part, some hefty appearance fees of up to US$15.5 million have not done the tournament at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club any harm in attracting the world’s best. However, those players had to get releases from the tours in Europe and the US just to play, another example of the uneasy relationship that exists between the three. Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho confident he can mix it with best in the world “It’s kind of like a game of poker really, where the European Tour and the PGA Tour have had the biggest hand, and now there’s somebody else come to the table with more chips, so everybody is on their guard and very defensive and are clearly seeing the Asian Tour as a threat,” Westwood said. “I can see why they feel threatened, but at the same time, the PGA Tour and the European Tour have gone into areas I suppose in the Asian Tour’s path over the years and never had any problem playing tournaments all over Asia and the Middle East, which I think has probably cost Asia, as well. “Now that the Asian Tour has this backing, it appears to me like they’re just doing what the PGA Tour and the European Tour have been doing the last 25 years.” Here comes the defending champ @DJohnsonPGA 🏆⛳ #SaudiIntlGolf #whereitsAT pic.twitter.com/mKixY4219P — Asian Tour (@asiantourgolf) February 2, 2022 During Tuesday’s unveiling of an initial 10-tournament series, Norman repeatedly expressed his desire to “grow the game”, and said the average age of golf fans, which he put at 65½, meant the sport “had a problem”. “We have to reach down to that younger generation,” he said. “That’s part of what LIV Golf Investments is going to be doing.” The expectation is that a series Norman called “just the beginning” will evolve into the much-discussed super league, a competition that could turn the game on its head. Englishman Ian Poulter has reportedly been offered upwards of US$30 million to play in the new team competition, while Westwood said he could not discuss his potential involvement because of a non-disclosure agreement. But, Westwood did say he recognised that 72-hole golf was not captivating people and the sport had to “move with the times and become more heat-of-the-moment, volatile and impactful right from the word go”. Asian Tour adds India stop to 2022 schedule with new HK$3.9 million event Johnson was equally coy regarding any involvement in a super league, and while his response to whether he would be tempted to take part was “we’ll see”, he did not deny being approached, but added any offer was “not similar” to Poulter’s. The issue for all three is that the PGA Tour and DP World Tour have threatened lifetime bans for anyone defecting to the Saudi competition. In the case of the two Englishman that would bring an immediate end to their Ryder Cup days, and likely scupper any hopes of captaining the European side. Westwood’s immediate focus though is on Thursday’s first round, when he will be grouped with Tommy Fleetwood and DeChambeau. The trio tee-off at 12.20pm local time (5.20pm HKT). Poulter is out early, alongside Patrick Reed and Shubhankar Sharma, while Johnson is grouped with US compatriot Jason Kokrak, and Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Joohyung Kim. Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho begins his PIF Saudi International at 11.50am (4.50pm HKT) alongside Rory Hie and Poom Saksansin.