Paul Azinger has caused a major storm over comments made about the European Tour during Tommy Fleetwood’s bid to secure a first win on the PGA TOUR in the Honda Classic.
Fleetwood, a five-time winner on the European Tour including in Rolex Series events featuring high class fields, led the Honda Classic by three shots during the final round and was still in contention to win when he found water on the final hole.
Englishman Fleetwood, the world number 10, ultimately finished third behind South Korea’s Sungjae Im and Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes. But it was Azinger’s comments in relation to Fleetwood getting across the line on the PGA TOUR that the event will perhaps be remembered for.
Paul Azinger said during his commentary for NBC at the Honda Classic: “A lot of pressure you know, you’re trying to prove to everybody you’ve got what it takes and 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.”
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The 1993 USPGA Championship winner had also taken aim at Lee Westwood earlier in the weekend when commenting on the fact that only two of his 44 career victories had come in PGA TOUR tournaments.
“Westwood took offence to that actually yesterday when asked about that,” Paul Azinger said. “Two wins on the PGA Tour but he’s like ‘oh I’ve won 44 times all over the world’ but it’s not the PGA TOUR though.
“And they know that and I think Tommy knows that. It puts a little pressure on Tommy but this is where they want to be isn’t it? They want to come here, they want to prove that they can win at this level.
“And if you prove it on this golf course, I mean even some of the obscure names that have won here on the Tour, when you know a guy won here you think about a guy Mark Wilson or somebody it’s like man, Mark Wilson won at PGA National.”
Ian Poulter, who splits his time between the PGA Tour and European Tour, was quick to take to social media to offer his views on Paul Azinger’s comments—and his response wasn’t particularly friendly despite his respect for the American.
“I like @PaulAzinger a lot,” Poulter wrote on Twitter. “And get on with him great. But Paul please do not condescend or disrespect the @EuropeanTour and our players like that. We have slapped you’re arse in Ryder Cup for so long. I know you captained a win but seriously that was embarrassing today.”
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano added: “Is this the same Azinger who last year called Molinari’s putt at Bay Hill’s 18th ‘the most important of his career’ months after he just won the Open?”
Ironically, the official strength of the field at the Honda Classic was significantly less than the two in which Fleetwood won the Abu Dhabi Championship twice, both of which were Rolex Series events.