Breaking news: Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth were named Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, respectively, by a vote of their peers.
Reaction: And in other news, morning coffee is served throughout the land and a key to good health is breathing.
Come on, if you’re surprised with either of these winners . . . well, let’s scratch that and start again.
Let’s all agree that Spieth was the biggest lock of the year since at least last weekend’s slate of college football games. (Has anyone checked to see if Ohio State and Louisville were done scoring against Florida A&M and Florida International, respectively? Hey, who would have thought for the softest cupcakes you went to Florida?)
Not an iota of time needed to spent debating whether Spieth was worthy. Heck, he was more likely to be Player of the Year than to not be Rookie of the Year. At this time a year ago, Spieth was enrolled at the University of Texas; now here he is basking in his achievements – a victory; $3,879,820 to place 10th in money; tied for first in top 10 finishes (nine); ascension to No. 21 in the Official World Golf Ranking; a captain’s pick to the Presidents Cup team; best fourth-round scoring average (69.22) of those who played at least 15 rounds; a blistering 66.75 final-round average in the four playoff events.
Let’s just say that rounding out the rookie voting choices with Russell Henley, Derek Ernst, and David Lingmerth was akin to the 1972 presidential ballot that included Benjamin Spock, John Hospers, and E. Harold Munn. One can only assume that Henley, Ernst, and Lingmerth weren’t sitting around, waiting for the phone call.
In fact, if any of them received a vote, find the perpetrator and revoke his PGA Tour membership. Or at least suspend his right to a courtesy car for six tournaments.
So that being taken care of, onward to the most polarizing athlete on the global stage: Woods.
That he won the award is certainly ho-hum material. After all, it’s the 11th time in his 17 full seasons on Tour that he’s been so honored in a vote of his colleagues. (In addition, he’s won the POY Award as earned in a PGA of America points-system 11 times, too.)
Never has he won at least five times in a season and not captured the trophy and twice (2003, 2009) he has failed to win a major yet still copped the POY prize. So it shouldn’t be surprising that he is where he is this morning: Making room in the case for another trophy.
In 2013, Woods won five of his 16 starts, was top 10 eight times, captured the money title for the 10th time, took another Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average, and pretty much confirmed that he was as PGA Tour Commissioner defined the award as “best overall player.” That none of his five wins were of the major flavor is probably a personal letdown, for clearly that is what sits at the heart of his mission statement each and every season.
But the honor doesn’t go the major winner who had the best season, or if it did, we’d have to have a re-vote for four of the last five years (Woods in 2009 and ’13, Jim Furyk in 2010, and Luke Donald in 2011 have copped the trophy without winning a major).
No, this year it goes to the guy who from start to finish played the best, and nothing about winning two more World Golf Championships, a second Players Championship and five times total is not worthy of the trophy.
Now if you wanted to turn this around and ask if Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott had seasons Woods would have preferred, well, you’ve got yourself a brilliant debate there. My guess is, if Woods were being honest, he’d say yes in a heartbeat. He’d rather have his hands around another Claret Jug than another one of those swords you get for winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational. And the Green Jacket that Scott wears so well? Woods would give up his eighth win at Torrey Pines, his eighth win at Bay Hill, and his eighth win at Firestone for that.
That’s why methinks that neither Mickelson nor Scott are wasting any time this morning being disheartened, disappointed, or dismayed. They won what matters to players at this level; Woods merely reaffirmed old news.
(And along those lines, if the PGA Tour had a Super Bowl MVP, Henrik Stenson would be a runaway winner, which is why it’s doubtful he’s upset this morning, either. Heck, he’s probably too consumed with moving the wheelbarrows filled with cash from his $10 million prize into the bank, or maybe he’s connecting his new Coca-Cola machine.)
When 20-year-old Spieth conceded that his stellar season did have some bumps, specifically “the majors left a bad taste in my mouth,” you could feel the coldness at the other end of the conference call. “Same for me,” said Woods, who is becoming “Mr. T-4” at Augusta National (three times in the last four Aprils) and too accustomed to getting into contention, then stumbling on major weekends. He had Saturday-Sunday chances in the Masters and Open Championship in 2013, but was AWOL at both the U.S. Open and PGA, and now that his dry spell in the majors has reached 18 chances and five-plus years, there seems to be a school of thought that he’s not worthy of POY consideration.
In many ways, the landscape has become “major-centric,” and as much as we in the media are to blame for that, so, too, is Woods and so many of his world-class peers, for they go on and on and on about how important the majors are. It’s still about winning and the fact is, in eight of his player-of-the-year-winning seasons, Woods has had a major victory, so it’s not like he backs into these things. And if you want to hold the on-course spat with Sergio Garcia and the series of rules mishaps against him, and especially how that BMW transgression unfolded, fine. Deny him the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy.
But the MVP? For 2013, it’s his.
Deservedly so, too.