PGA Tour members vote for their Player of the Year (POY) following this week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta. The vote has often been a foregone conclusion, especially in the years when Tiger Woods was so dominant. Woods has won the award that reflects the views of his fellow golfers 10 times. He was the more than lukewarm but not hot favourite starting the Tour Championship, given that he’s won five PGA Tour events this year. No other player has won more than twice.
But, and it’s a big “but,” Woods is held to a higher standard of his own making, and his fellow players’ collective awareness. He has said many times during his astounding career that the majors are far and away the most important tournaments to him. And he hasn’t won a major this year. He has won prestigious tournaments such as the Players Championship – that “all but a major,” - the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Farmers Insurance Open, along with two World Golf Championships events. But will his peers think he doesn’t deserve their vote as player of the year without a major?
That remains to be seen. Woods started the Tour Championship with a three-over par 73 and refused to speak with the media later. What would he have said, anyway? He putted poorly and didn’t make a birdie in his opening round. Only Jason Dufner, the PGA Championship winner this year, was worse. He shot 74 and is playing the second round with Woods, at the back of the field.
It’s all but impossible to predict the winner of any tournament, let alone get into the heads of PGA Tour players and figure out how they weigh Woods’s five wins – or six should he find his game and come on like Secretariat and win the Tour Championship – against the records of those players who have won majors. Still, I’ll take a shot.
I’d say that the PGA Tour players will vote Woods in as Player of the Year. That’s because every PGA Tour player knows how difficult it is to win a tournament, whether or not it’s a major. Woods has won five times, with the Tour Championship yet to be decided. Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson, the most likely golfers to vie for the POY vote, have each won twice.
Now, Scott won the Masters – his first major – and the Barclays, the first of the four FedEx Cup playoff tournaments. Mickelson won the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, and then took the Open Championship at the Muirfield Golf Club in Gullane, Scotland. That was his first Open victory. He also tied for second at the U.S. Open in June.
My caveat to already handing the POY to Woods is twofold: Should Scott win the Tour Championship, the players could well vote for him at POY. He will also win the FedEx Cup if he wins the Tour Championship. Mickelson could win the Tour Championship and not win the FedEx Cup – that’s a matter of permutations and combinations. It’s not a gimme that his fellow players will vote for him as POY should he win the former and not the latter. But there’s at least a very good chance of his being voted POY in that case.
Being voted POY does mean something to the players. It’s always significant when one’s peers, who, after all, know better than anybody what goes into having a great year, vote for you as POY. Woods made this clear earlier in the week of the Tour Championship. Here’s his complete answer when he was asked whether the POY vote carries much weight with players.
“Absolutely, it does,” he said. “And I think this tournament has a lot of value to it. There are guys who have won a couple times but they’ve had major championships in there. I’ve won five times. But I think that this week has a lot to do with it…… The player of the year award is something we hold dearly because it’s the respect of our peers. It’s voted on by our peers. Having a year where they think that you were deserving of the player of the year, it’s pretty special. I’ve had my years over the course of my career, and hopefully this will be another one.”
Scott also places a high value on the POY award.
“Yeah, it’s been a great year for sure, but I think this week counts so much for me and how the year will be remembered by myself and others, for that matter,” Scott told reporters at the Tour Championship. “There’s so much to play for. Two trophies here this week. And also potentially throwing my name in a Player of the Year debate, which I think is quite a prestigious honor amongst the company that I play golf against.”
Neither Scott nor Mickelson has been voted Player of the Year. Woods has those 10 POY awards. The most recent was in 2009 when he didn’t win a major but did win six times on the PGA Tour. Did that set a precedent for the upcoming vote?
We will know next week, when the players vote. I say Woods, allowing for my twin caveats that could change the situation. Who do you say?
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein