Maginnes: Race for Player of the Year wide open
Monday, September 19, 2011
PGA Tour players don’t usually check their own mail. For one thing they are rarely home. Furthermore there is very rarely good news in the mail these days.
Checks are directly deposited, contracts are scanned or faxed and everything else is handled by e-mail. There is no reason to check the ol' mailbox except in late October or early November.
While every golf fan, member of the media and the folks in Ponte Vedra have opinions about who should win Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year - none of those folks have a say. Each fall, every voting member of the PGA Tour will receive a ballot. The nominees for these three categories are listed on the anonymous ballot.
The ballot is returned in an envelope to an independent accounting firm where the votes are tallied. By the way, this is the only thing that most players vote on throughout their careers.
Rookie of the Year
The only predictable category this year is the Rookie of the Year race. For whatever reason the PGA Tour considers guys like Charl Schwartzel and Robert Karlsson rookies, but the players don’t and they vote accordingly.
Schwartzel had played 37 PGA Tour events before taking up membership. The average Tour player plays between 26 and 28 events per year. In other words, Schwartzel had played more than a full season on the PGA Tour before he became a member.
Karlsson had played 68 events in his career on the PGA Tour and made over $2 million dating back to 1995. Not exactly your average rookie.
Last year the players snubbed Rory McIlroy even though he was technically a rookie. But he had made it clear that he was not going to maintain his membership, so the award went to Rickie Fowler.
This year Keegan Bradley has made the decision easy for the players. He is a real rookie. When he teed it up in Hawaii this year, he was playing in his first ever PGA Tour event. He has parlayed that into two victories, including a major championship. Bradley is the top rookie.
But when it comes to the other two awards it is anyone’s guess.
Comeback Player of the Year
The PGA Tour doesn’t give the Comeback Player of the Year award every year. If the powers-that-be don’t think that it is warranted then no ballot goes out.
That happened in 2009, even though Michael Bradley won the third PGA Tour event of his career and finished in the top 125 on the money list for the first time in a decade. Last year, the award went to Stuart Appleby and was certainly well-deserved. This year, David Toms may be a candidate although he really wasn't that far gon,e but he did win for the first time in five years. Aaron Baddeley finished 110th on the money list last year and came back to win early this year at Riviera. If Chez Reavie had pulled out the playoff victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship he would have probably been the favorite, but this is a year that seems to lack the huge comeback story.
And before you start screaming that Darren Clarke is the obvious choice…he is not eligible because he is not a member of the PGA Tour.
Part of the reason that there is no clear choice for Comeback Player of the Year is that those darn kids have dominated the PGA Tour this year.
And as murky as those waters are they are nothing compared to the quagmire that is the Player of the Year race.
Player of the Year
Jim Furyk sealed the honor a year ago with the Tour Championship and the Fed Ex Cup. His third win of the season separated him from rest of the multiple winners last year. Furyk was the clear favorite and although tallies are not released, he probably won in a landslide. That won’t be the case this year. There are a handful of multiple winners including Steve Stricker, but Stricker doesn’t have a top 10 in the majors this year. He is also questionable for the Tour Championship after withdrawing from the BMW Championship with a neck injury. Bubba Watson has won twice, but only has one other top-10 finish. Mark Wilson won twice early, but after a disaster on Saturday at the BMW he would need a win in Atlanta to even re-enter the conversation.
Webb Simpson is the hottest player on the planet and has two wins, and a pair of runner-up finishes. From start-to-finish this year, he has played as well as anyone on the PGA Tour. But Simpson didn't play in the Masters, nor does he have a top 10 in any of the majors.
That brings us back to Bradley, who won twice and is the only multiple winner with a major championship. It would be quite a story if the Rookie of the Year and the Player of the Year were the same kid.
A side note is that the PGA of America also awards a Player of the Year award and for the last 20 years it has mirrored the PGA Tour's selection. The last time there was a discrepancy was 1991. The PGA of America uses a point system to determine their player of the year. That race has to be tight as well.
A win by any of the multiple winners this week in Atlanta would probably clinch not only the FedEx Cup, but higher honors as well. But it hasn’t been that kind of year. More likely we will see someone who has one win this year take down the Tour Championship and win the FedEx Cup and confuse the issue that much more.