Paul Azinger was up to his usual provocative tricks with his ridiculous claims that the PGA Tour is the be all and end all of tournament golf
If there was anything to be said for a new world tour then it might, just might, wobble a few heads of our American friends. As a Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger was exceptional, arresting an horrific run of results with a new approach that worked wonders in Kentucky. As a player, over a five-year period, he was outstanding. Gnarly, pugnacious, unconventional, and very nearly an Open champion on his first visit to the Championship.
As an analyst for NBC he said this on the Sunday of the Honda Classic as Tommy Fleetwood was looking to break his PGA Tour duck.
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“A lot of pressure here, you’re trying to prove to everybody that you’ve got what it takes. These guys know, you can win all you want on that European Tour or in the international game and all that but you have to win on the PGA Tour.”
The certainty in what he’s saying is incredible. For the record the strength of field in Abu Dhabi was 330 in 2017 and 351 the following year in which Fleetwood won both. This week’s field came in at 281.
Forget the back-to-back top 5s at the US Open, the near 62 at Shinnecock, the second place at Royal Portrush or the 4-0 on the first two days of his Ryder Cup debut, against a host of PGA Tour winners, should Fleetwood land the Honda Classic then this would be the real coming of age for him.
He’s the World No. 12.
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You’d like to think that this might have come up in the conversation but Azinger ploughed on regardless.
“Westwood took offence to that when asked about that on Saturday, he’s got two wins on the PGA Tour and he said he’d won 44 times around the world (pulls silly face). But it’s not the PGA Tour. And they know that, and Tommy knows that and it puts a little bit of pressure on Tommy, this is where they want to be.
“They want to prove that they can win at this level particularly on this golf course. Even some of the obscure names that have won here, like a Mark Wilson and you think, man, Mark Wilson won at PGA National.”
Even Mark Wilson’s nearest and dearest don’t see it like this.
This is how the Westwood post-round chat went…
Q: “If somebody had said to you 10 years ago that you would have two PGA Tour wins, would you have been surprised by that?”
LW: “No, not really. Forty-four career wins, I would have been surprised at that, yeah. Do you think I should have more or…”
Q: “No, I’m just asking.”
LW: “I don’t know whether you think it’s too many or not enough.”
You wonder whether a major win will alter some people’s thinking but then you cast your mind back to Danny Willett’s Masters win in 2016. Then, as freakish as the Jordan Spieth turn of events were, you might think that Willett had somehow crept into the field when in fact, like Fleetwood now, he was the 12th best player in the world.
As the transmission continued so did Azinger, repeatedly coming back to the importance of a win on tour like he was playing his own drinking game.
If this was some young American, who doesn’t play anywhere outside the States, then you might understand a smidgen of Azinger’s thinking. To win on your home tour, or anywhere for that matter, takes a multitude of factors to come together and should be celebrated from the rooftops.
The cheerleading aspect of this type of analysis is as condescending as it is futile. For the record Bernhard Langer, away from his two Green Jackets, had one regular PGA Tour win in his entire career while Seve had four of them and, like Westwood and Fleetwood, it didn’t do them any harm.