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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

“I thought Paul was quite condescending with the remarks he made about it being much easier to win in Europe than America.

These days it is tough to win anywhere because the competition is so strong wherever you go. Paul’s obviously got some sort of bias and he took a bit of a verbal lashing from the Europeans as a result of what he said.

I suppose you could call him a representative of the old guard because, out of choice, he chose not to travel much to Europe during his playing days. But you really cannot say that one victory in America is worth three in Europe. It doesn’t work like that. To win internationally is not easy at all.

When you get behind a microphone, you have to be careful with what you say. You are clearly going to get criticised from time to time if you throw out the wrong sentiments and I thought Ian Poulter’s response to Paul’s comments were right on the money.

Poulter put the issue in much better perspective when he said that it was disrespectful to the European players, especially in view of the amount of times our guys have beaten the Americans in the Ryder Cup in recent decades. He called Paul’s remarks ‘embarrassing’ and I think that was fair-dos on Ian’s behalf.

Furthermore, if you took the international players out of the PGA Tour, it would not be a very interesting circuit. Fifty years ago, there was a definite reticence from the Americans towards the likes of me, Gary Player, Bruce Devlin, Bruce Crampton and Harold Henning.

There were just a handful of us foreigners on the tour back then and some of the old guard simply didn’t want us there. They didn’t speak to us and that frostiness came from the guys who refused to travel.

It never came from the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer or Lee Trevino. They embraced the challenge we represented. These days the PGA Tour is awash with international players and the competition is so much better as a result.

Turning attention back to the golf that was on offer at the Honda Classic, I was pulling for the Brits of course. Tommy Fleetwood went oh so close to notching his first PGA Tour victory and he shouldn’t despair at missing out.

He will get into the winners’ enclosure soon enough, it’s just a matter of time for him. He just has to keep his head down and it will happen, perhaps even on a bigger stage than last week’s.

We’ve got some high-profile tournaments coming up over the next few months. Tommy has hit form at the right time and that should stand him in good stead for what is to follow.

He missed the green by just a couple of yards at the last hole but it’s such a small target there. PGA National has never been one of my favourite courses because it is too penal in my opinion.

Tommy could have bailed out of course and tried to get up and down from the left side of the green but he was going for the flag and, if it had turned out the way he wanted it to, he would have won outright.

It was another good performance from Lee Westwood too. He putted unbelievably well. He’s got his hands much higher now and the claw grip he is using seems to have done wonders for his confidence.

I remember watching him in the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine with Sir Nick Faldo, who believed Lee had picked up the yips. He was poor on the greens there but he has done excellently to recover from that and is playing some really good golf now.

It was also heartening to see Luke Donald perform so well. He’s been in the wilderness for years. His career looked as if it was over but his display will give him a great boost for the rest of the season.”