Lee Westwood, the world No 1, yesterday accused the US Tour professionals of being vindictive and "employing the same voting process as Fifa" in naming Rickie Fowler Rookie of the Year ahead of Rory McIlroy.
Westwood made his comments on Twitter and, because of his status, they will inevitably cause a stir. A few weeks ago McIlroy followed the Englishman's lead in deciding not to take up his American card for next season and claimed that the showpiece FedEx Cup play-off series "is just about the money". Westwood clearly believes the young Ulsterman is being victimised.
"Wouldn't have something to do with Rory not joining the tour next year?" wrote Westwood. "Maybe the PGA Tour just employs the same voting process as Fifa... Come on, fair's fair!"
Westwood was not alone in his surprise. When hearing the news of the award – which is decided by a poll of PGA Tour pros – Dustin Johnson, the US Ryder Cup player, told the Associated Press: "Rickie won? Maybe he's an American."
Fowler, from California, actually won more money than McIlroy on the US Tour, yet the former took 28 events to compile his $2.86m while McIlroy collected $2.55m in just 16 appearances. Furthermore, Fowler, a few months older than McIlroy, failed to win a single event, although he did finish second twice. "Yes he's had a good year but Rory McIlroy – third in two majors and an absolute demolition of the field at Quail Hollow?" said Westwood. "Oh yes and on the winning Ryder Cup team. Please!"
For his part, McIlroy said he "did not care" as he doesn't believe he should be eligible. "I was already in the world top 10 when I joined the PGA Tour," he said. Yet whatever McIlroy's feelings, his name was on the ballot and all the precedents say he was a legitimate contender. In 1993 Vijay Singh was 30 and a multiple winner in Europe and in 2004 Todd Hamilton was 38 and had already enjoyed a successful career in Asia.
When asked whether he lost the vote because the pros didn't consider him a genuine rookie or because of his decision to quit the Tour, McIlroy replied, "It might be a little bit of both." Westwood was not so conciliatory. "Is this yet another case of protectionism by the PGA Tour or are they so desperate to win something?" he wrote.
The last barb will sting after a miserable campaign for the Americans. Westwood's victory in South Africa on Sunday meant that he will finish the season as world No 1 and the UK outscores the US 6-4 in the top 11. One of these, the No 7, Graeme McDowell, was celebrating yesterday after making it a winless 2010 for Tiger Woods.
Never before had Woods lost when leading by at least three shots going into a final round, but with a 69 and an audacious 20-footer on the last McDowell forced a play-off at Woods's own event, the Chevron World Challenge in California. On the first extra-hole, McDowell holed from 25 feet. "This year has been the stuff of dreams," said McDowell. In contrast, at least Woods had a golfing end to his nightmare 12 months.