Tiger Woods – Is he really POY?
Nominations for Player of the Year: Mickelson, Scott, Woods, Stenson and Kuchar
On Friday 27 September, the PGA Tour announced that Tiger Woods’s fellow players had just voted him their player of the year (POY). This was as a result of Tour players voting (electronically) for their chosen preference from one of the five players nominated. The Tour does not release other details such as what percentage of the vote went to whom, or who finished runner-up.
As is often the case, this year’s POY contest was not without controversy. Sure, Tiger won five times on the PGA Tour, three more than any other nominee. He also won the Vardon Trophy (lowest adjusted scoring average), the money title, and regained the world number one ranking.
But he did not win a major.
Are majors that important? In a word, yes. Whilst there’s no formulae that states one major equates to five tour wins, the reality is that it does, and more. A major guarantees endorsements and appearance fees for sometime thereafter, but of greater significance is it cements the player’s name into golf history.
Put another way, would Tiger swap his five wins for one major? Or, if any player could swap their year with anyone else’s, would they choose Tiger’s?
This is a ballot by the players, and there is no telling how they will vote, or how they define what it takes to win. Best player, best year, or is it simply a popularity contest? They have certainly come up with some baffling results in previous years.
Rather than be regarded as another year when he won POY, Tiger’s 2013 could well be remembered for his inexplicably bad weekend play at the majors (Masters aside), along with four rules infractions. The most public of these infringements occurred when Masters Officials offered Woods what amounted to a highly questionable excuse to continue playing, after he had signed an incorrect scorecard on the second day. Woods missed a golden opportunity to join a pantheon of sporting greats, and do what many others would have done – withdraw.
More revealing than this was Woods’s behaviour at the BMW Championship. After being confronted by the head rules official, who showed Woods a video depicting his ball moving (as he attempted to remove surrounding debris), Woods stubbornly insisted the ball had only oscillated, and had returned to its exact same spot.
Anyone who has viewed this video – http://thegolfnewsnet.com/ryan_ballengee/2013/09/14/tiger-woods-penalized-shots-moving-ball-punches-wall-4665/ – can see that the ball moved; it came to rest in a different place. Yet even after seeing the same evidence, Tiger still insisted the ball merely oscillated. Despite his protests, Tiger was penalised two shots. Journalists who follow the Tour started reporting many new in-jokes involving the punch-line “oscillate” emanating from the locker room.
Add these two events to the penalty in Abu Dhabi and the much-debated drop at the Players, and Tiger’s year with rules infringements becomes a big deal. But not, it appears, big enough to cost him POY.
Of the other four contenders, the two strongest would probably be Scott and Mickelson. Adam Scott won the Masters and The Barclays, which some argue has the strongest field in golf. He also finished in the top five at two other majors.
Phil Mickelson, like Scott, had no such problems with the Rules of Golf. What he did have was the round of the year – a fantastic finishing 66 that enabled him to overcome a sizeable deficit and capture his first claret jug. This round is widely considered as one of the greatest closing rounds in major golf. The win, played on one of the toughest links courses on the Open rota, announced Mickelson’s completeness as a player, even though he is still one major shy of winning all four. The missing major is of course the US Open, an event where he again finished runner-up, for the sixth time.
Mickelson also had the best four-round total of the year – a 256 in Phoenix that tied for the second lowest in Tour history – and he won the Scottish Open, which probably doesn’t count as it’s not part of the PGA Tour. But if the players are judging who had the best year, then performance on other tours should count, surely.
The winner of the Tour’s POY title is presented with the Jack Nicklaus Award. This is the third time Woods has won it despite not winning a major. In acknowledgment Woods thanked his peers. “It’s been just a fantastic year all around. It’s also an incredible feeling to be voted by your peers, and to have that type of respect is something that’s very humbling.”
That respect may well be tested if Tiger’s 2013 battles with the Rules of Golf continue. Despite being the great player he is, it could even cost him the locker room.