Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood have rounded on Paul Azinger after the former United States Ryder Cup captain played down the relevance of the European Tour.
Azinger was accused of showing “disrespect” to the European competition in television commentary for NBC at the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic, which was also broadcast on Sky Sports.
In his role as the American network’s lead golf analyst, Azinger said English golfer Tommy Fleetwood had yet to prove himself, effectively claiming his European Tour victories counted for little.
“There is a lot of pressure here (on Fleetwood),” he said. “You know you are trying to prove to everybody you’ve got what it takes.
“These guys know, you can win all you want on the European Tour, the international game and all that, but you have to win on the PGA Tour.”
Fleetwood, the world number 10 who has five professional wins and two major runner-up spots to his name, was leading at the PGA National before going on to finish third, two behind winner Sungjae Im, after finding the water on the 18th.
Westwood, who finished tied for fourth, said on Twitter: “I think Paul sometimes thinks he has to be controversial to be relevant.
“It’s a little disappointing that Dan (Hicks, NBC golf presenter) sits there and looks to be agreeing and then doesn’t question his comments.
“The PGA Tour is a great tour but in the current golfing climate we shouldn’t be creating divides.”
Poulter, who can boast 14 wins, six defeats and two halves in the Ryder Cup, also called Azinger to account on social media.
He wrote on Twitter: “I like @PaulAzinger a lot. And get on with him great. But Paul please do not condescend or disrespect the @EuropeanTour and our players like that.
“We have slapped your a*** in Ryder Cup for so long. I know you captained a win but seriously that was embarrassing today.”
Europe’s victorious 2018 Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn also weighed in, and seemingly cannot wait for the 2020 event in Wisconsin.
The Dane posted: “It was so easy for @PaulAzinger to say that @TommyFleetwood1 has won around the world and is a world class player. Now the time has come for him to prove that on the strongest tour in the world. He was at best ignorant, at worst arrogant in delivering that. Bring on September!”