Paul Azinger claims no malice in comments that upset Lee Westwood
Westwood and Ian Poulter say former Ryder Cup captain Azinger was "condescending" with comments about European Tour during Honda Classic final round
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 04/03/20 8:15pm
Paul Azinger has responded to accusations of being "disrepectful" following his comments on Lee Westwood, Tommy Fleetwood and the European Tour.
Westwood urged Azinger to avoid "creating divides" after the American was challenged over his remarks during the final round of the Honda Classic, when he appeared to question the value of Westwood's career achievements as only two of his 44 victories worldwide have been on the PGA Tour.
The former Ryder Cup captain also prompted a backlash for suggesting that Tommy Fleetwood, a five-time winner on the European Tour and the 2017 Race to Dubai champion, was under extra pressure to win at PGA National because he had yet to win in the United States.
"There is a lot of pressure here," said Azinger, now a television analyst and commentator. "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 that European Tour, the international game and all that, but you have to win on the PGA Tour.
"Westwood took offence to that, actually, when I asked about that. He said he's won 44 times all over the world, but it's not the PGA Tour. They know that, and I think Tommy knows that and it's put a little pressure on Tommy."
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Azinger's assessment of the relative merits of the two biggest Tours in world golf did not go down well in Europe, with Westwood, Poulter and 2018 winning Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn all taking to social media to register their disapproval.
Westwood wrote: "One minute Paul walks down the range wishing you good luck before you play the next he's condescending to the tour you play on and disrespects the tournaments you've won around the world. I've won in 19 different countries over 4 decades. That is disrespecting a lot of people
"I think Paul sometimes thinks he has to be controversial to be relevant. The PGA Tour is a great tour but in the current golfing climate we shouldn't be creating divides."
Poulter added: "I like Paul Azinger a lot. And get on with him great. But Paul please do not condescend or disrespect the European Tour and our players like that. We have slapped your arse in Ryder Cup for so long. I know you captained a win but seriously that was embarrassing today."
Bjorn hinted that Azinger's comments should give the European team extra motivation when they travel to Whistling Straits to defend the Ryder Cup in the autumn.
"It was so easy for Paul Azinger to say that," said the Dane. "Tommy Fleetwood 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 !"
But a day later, Azinger told the Golf Channel: "I wasn't trying to be malicious. I didn't mean to disrespect anyone. But professional golfers choke for two things: cash and prestige. And the PGA Tour has the most of both."
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Other than pronouncing my hometown wrong, getting the year I won The Honda incorrect & getting my name wrong, the announcer nailed it!!! 🤣🤣🤣 . 2 back heading into Sunday & in a great position. Thanks for all the support out there, loving it #Honda #HighWhycombe #2006champ #CallmeRonald #0for3 🍟🍔
Meanwhile, Westwood's fellow Englishman and former world No 1 Luke Donald managed to laugh off an unfortunate introduction ahead of his third round on Saturday, in which the starter made three errors.
The starter had problems pronouncing High Wycombe, Donald's home town, before getting the year of Donald's Honda Classic victory wrong and also his name ... "ladies and gentlemen, Luke McDonald"!