World No 1 Lee Westwood launched a furious “rant” at what he described as PGA Tour “protectionism” after Rory McIlroy was snubbed for the Rookie of the Year title in the US.
PGA Tour players voted to hand the gong to American Rickie Fowler, despite the fact that McIlroy had a better season.
McIlroy claimed the he didn’t mind, explaing that he didn’t feel he was a true rookie as he had played 11 events in America last year.
But stablemate Westwood got straight onto Twitter when he heard the news and lashed the Americans for punishing McIlroy over his decision not to rejoin the US circuit next term.
Westwood wrote: “Sorry, 140 letters is not going to be enough for this rant! Just seen Rickie Fowler has been given Rookie of the Year!
“Yes he’s had a good year but Rory McIlroy third in two majors and an absolute demolition of the field at Quail Hollow! Oh yes and on the winning Ryder Cup team! Please!
“Is this yet another case of protectionism by the PGA Tour or are they so desperate to win something?
“Wouldn’t have something to do with Rory not joining the tour next year? Maybe the PGA tour just employs the same voting process as FIFA! Come on, fair’s fair!”
McIlroy was never likely to get the award when the Americans felt he had turned their back on the US by giving up his PGA Tour card.
When asked if he was overlooked because players don’t consider him a true rookie or because he decided last month to resign his PGA Tour card for 2011, he said: “It might be a little of both.”
The Holywood star made more enemies on the other side of the pond when he said last month that he would probably skip next year’s Players, the self-styled Fifth Major, because he doesn’t like Sawgrass.
And even US Ryder Cup star Dustin Johnson was amazed to learn that McIlroy had been snubbed by the PGA Tour players in the vote.
Before hearing the result, Johnson said: “Rickie’s going to get votes because he had a decent year. But McIlroy is going to win. He’s got to win.”
Told that Fowler had been handed the title, Johnson added: “Rickie won? Maybe (it’s because) he’s an American. I don’t know why.”
The Irish star should have been an automatic choice for the award.
While he turned pro in 2008 he joined the US Tour this season and won the Quail Hollow Championship against one of the strongest fields of the year with a closing 62.
He equalled the major championship low scoring record at St Andrews with an opening 63 when he tied for third at The Open and then tied for third in another major at the US PGA.
Fowler, 21, turned pro at the end of last year, had a higher scoring average than McIlroy and didn’t win a tournament in his rookie year.
But the pair have been close since they clashed in the 2007 Walker Cup at Royal County Down and McIlroy insisted in the US at the weekend that he was happy that the award went to the California kid.
He said: “It’s fine. Look, I really didn’t want it. I’m not a rookie.”
Justifying the decision to give the award to Fowler, McIlroy said: “When I joined the PGA Tour, I was top 10 in the world. Rickie had an unbelievable year. He deserves it.
“I’m happy for Rickie that he got it. Coming straight out of college, playing the Walker Cup in 09, the Ryder Cup, winning nearly $3 million, getting to 25th in the world.
“It’s a great first year. That’s what a rookie should be - the first year. I don’t feel like I should have been eligible.”
However, the rules say that McIlroy was a rookie as it was his first year as a member of the PGA Tour.
And previous experience around the world meant nothing in 1993 when Vijay Singh won the award in 1993 at the age of 30, while Todd Hamilton was 39 when he won the award in 2004.
Fowler turned pro after last year’s Walker Cup and after going through Q-school, he had runner-up finishes in the Phoenix Open and The Memorial and became the first rookie picked for the US Ryder Cup team.
Rory v Rickie
World ranking: 11 (9th at end 2009)
Wins 2010: 1 Quail Hollow Championship
FedEx Cup: 36th
US money: 22nd - $3,104,280
Official US Top 10s: 5 from 16 starts
Majors 2010: Masters (cut), US Open (cut), Open (tied 3rd), US PGA (tied 3rd)
Ryder Cup: Win (2 pts from 4)
World ranking: 26th (251st at end 2009)
Wins 2010: 0
FedEx Cup: 32nd
Official US Top 10s: 7 from 28 starts
US money: 21st $3,289,808
Majors 2010: Masters (did not play), US Open (did not play), Open (tied 14th), US PGA (tied 58th).
Ryder Cup: Loss (1 pt from 3)