Lee Westwood and Luke Donald have expressed their "extreme disappointment" at the news that the BBC is pulling out of showing any live European Tour action and pleaded with the corporation to increase its coverage as British golf goes through a boom.
Sky Sports has secured the exclusive rights for the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, meaning that this year the BBC will broadcast only six days of live men's professional golf. Seven years ago it screened 24 days, at a time when no British players were in the top 10. Now the top players in the world hail from the United Kingdom.
"It's extremely disappointing," said Westwood. "Actually, it's very poor. It doesn't encourage people who would not ordinarily take up the game. From a golfing standpoint the guys running the BBC aren't doing a very good job."
Donald concurred. "It is a shame," he said. "The game hasn't been this exciting for years, particularly from a UK standpoint with Lee, Rory, myself in the top three and others such as Justin Rose winning as well. You would have though the BBC would have been clamouring to try to get as much on TV as possible. There's a certain tradition of golf being on the BBC and that seems to be being lost.
"The true fans always find a way to watch it, but it does limit exposure to a wider level, to lure the next tranche of fans. "
Having already lost the live coverage from the first two rounds of the Masters to Sky ( which shows all four days), the BBC is concerned it could sacrifice the final two rounds when the TV deal is renegotiated for next year.
"We just hope Augusta look at the bigger picture and see that Sky only get about a 10th of our figures," said an insider. "Surely the golfing powers have a responsibility to show it to as many as possible."
The BBC has a deal to show the Open Championship, the only men's professional event to which it holds exclusive rights, until at least 2016.