Tiger Woods faces battle with himself for US PGA player-of-the-year award
Tiger faces not only this season's nominees, but his past performances may stack up against him when players cast their ballots
Tiger Woods has long been measured against Jack Nicklaus and his 18 majors, and most recently Sam Snead and his 82 PGA Tour victories. Now he is being measured against himself and it is not a fair fight.
The PGA Tour has just sent out its awards ballot to players eligible to vote. The winners are to be named on Friday.
Woods should be a sure thing for player of the year, provided he is measured against the other four names on the ballot instead of the previous seasons when also he took the award.
He won five times this year, and the only tournament that could be classified as a medium-strength field was at Torrey Pines. Woods won two World Golf Championships, at Doral and Firestone.
He won The Players Championship on perhaps his least favourite course on tour. And he won Bay Hill. The world ranking points he earned from those five wins alone were more than any player has earned all year, except for Henrik Stenson. But he did not win a major, the standard by which Woods measures a great season. He already has been named player of the year 10 times. His record this year is worse than every season he won the award, except for 2003. So this has been a great season by any other comparison except with himself.
Three of the past four winners - Luke Donald (2011), Jim Furyk (2010) and Woods (2009) did not win a major.
Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott could have made a convincing case by winning the Tour Championship. That would have given either of them three wins, including a major and the FedEx Cup. But they didn't.
One of the more famous sayings in golf is that the score card has only a number, not pictures.
These are the numbers:
Woods led the field with five wins. He won the money title by more than US$2 million. He won the Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average.
Scott won the Masters and The Barclays, which arguably has the strongest field in golf. He finished in the top five at two other majors.
- Mickelson won the British Open and the Phoenix Open. He was runner-up in the US Open.
Stenson also is on the ballot with two FedEx Cup play-off wins and the trophy (along with the US$10 million bonus). He finished in the top three at two other majors.
Two great wins and zero majors don't cut it. Matt Kuchar is also on the ballot, but only for balance. He had his best year with two wins. That will have to do.
Adding pictures to the scorecard is the only thing that could change the vote.
Mickelson came within a dimple of 59 in the Phoenix Open. He had the lead on the back nine at Merion and was runner-up at the US Open for the sixth time.
He bounced back to win the British Open - the major not even Mickelson thought he could win - with what his peers consider one of the greatest closing rounds in a major. It left him one leg short of the grand slam, though winning on a links course already defines him as a complete player even without a US Open.
Scott became the first Australian in a green jacket and he was leading the British Open on the back nine until making four straight bogeys. He was up there at the Tour Championship until falling ill at the wrong time.
Both are great stories. But did they have better years?
Here are a few things to keep in mind. This is a vote of the players, and there is no telling how they define the trophy. Best player or best year? Do they have an agenda? Is it a popularity contest? One final thought as it relates to Woods: If his record this year belonged to any other player, would this even be a debate?