Tiger Woods should wrap a satisfying five-win PGA Tour season by capturing the votes of his peers and topping the 2013 Player of the Year ballot.
The Tour will name this season's top player and rookie on Friday, after tabulating electronic ballots submitted by Woods and his colleagues, and it says here that Tiger deserves to add an 11th such award to his bulging trophy room.
Golf’s No. 1, who reclaimed his perch atop the world rankings in March after compiling his Tour-record eighth triumph at Bay Hill, faltered down the stretch drive of his fifth consecutive major-less campaign. He also entered the season-ending Tour Championship as the top seed in the FedExCup playoff series but closed the year worn out and in a tie for 22nd in the 30-player field.
Tiger did, however, win three more times on tour than his closest competitors, reigning Masters champ Adam Scott and first-time British Open victor Phil Mickelson. And the $3 million he banked by finishing as runner-up in the standings to FedExCup champion Henrik Stenson added to a hefty bankroll just north of $8.5 million, which earned him his 10th money title.
Also the Tour gamer with the lowest adjusted scoring average (68.98), Woods began his trophy-collecting week by taking down the PGA of America’s PoY honor. Unlike that points-based award, however, the Tour hands out its year-ending individual trophies according to the personal preferences of the players themselves, so an upset could be in the offing.
After all, as the Associated Press’ Doug Ferguson pointed out recently, voters, in a head-scratching move, gave the 2010 Rookie of the Year honors to a winless Rickie Fowler instead of Rory McIlroy, who picked up his first Tour victory that year at Quail Hollow.
Ferguson also noted that Mickelson, after his spectacular final round at Muirfield, could be the sentimental favorite to cadge the first PoY recognition of his career. And Woods may have engendered antipathy among some voters for his eyebrow-raising denial, in the face of convincing video evidence, that his ball moved during the BMW Championship.
The Tour, by the way, does not announce details of the voting, just the winners' names, so members are free to diss the notoriously thin-skinned frontrunner under cover of anonymity.
Barring such intangibles, however, Woods remains the odds-on favorite to seize top player honors for the first time since 2009, the year he smashed his SUV into that fire hydrant and his formerly extremely private life came gushing out. While the Woods of yore would have considered any season without compiling at least one major title hardly worthy of notice, the 37-year-old who complained of fatigue during the FEC finale and battled a bad back for the last few events of the season deemed 2013 a smash.
"This year's been a great year so far," Woods said ahead of The Barclays in August. "I've won at two of my favorite venues [Torrey Pines and Bay Hill], plus winning two World Golf Championships and a Players [Championship] in there. It's been pretty good."
Though Woods has redefined success, as Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18 majors appears increasingly difficult to match or surpass, many Tiger critics won’t be satisfied that the 14-time major champion has climbed all the way "back" from injuries, personal issues, and another complete swing overhaul until/unless he can chisel away at the Golden Bear’s record.
Earning the official approval of his colleagues, however, would likely mean a great deal more to Woods than appeasing his many detractors, and Friday the owner of 79 PGA Tour titles should do just that.