Tiger Woods may be absent from this week’s kickoff to the 2014 portion of the PGA Tour’s wrap-around schedule, but the world No. 1 was, as always, a frequent topic of conversation in the broadcast booth as Brandel Chamblee predicted the target of his frequent criticism would repeat as player of the year.
"Tiger Woods has won player of the year 11 times," Chamblee, Golf Channel’s lead analyst, said as the network aired the opening round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua on Friday. "In history, next closest player is Tom Watson with six, so Tiger Woods, at 38 years old, the odds are Tiger Woods is going to be player of the year."
That the 14-time major champion, who qualified five times for the winners-only start to the Hawaiian leg of the 2014 campaign that began officially in October, was a no-show was hardly a surprise. The last time Woods made his season debut at Kapalua was in 2005, at the former Mercedes Championship, where he finished in a tie for third.
Perhaps because of his truancy, Woods’ name did not leap to the lips of a smattering of competitors Golf Channel asked to forecast who would accept the year-end award for the golfer his peers believe has earned the accolade. Maybe even more stunning, given his presence and standing as the Golf Writers Association of America’s PoY choice, reigning Masters champ Adam Scott got no love from those doing their best Golfstradamus impressions.
Bill Haas, 2011 FedExCup champion, was the only one of seven players polled who foresaw Woods going back-to-back and winning PoY kudos for the 12th time. For Jonas Blixt, it was new Callaway pitchman Harris English, while Matt Kuchar envisioned current FEC and Race to Dubai titleholder Henrik Stenson as 2014 king of the hill.
Kuchar, who won twice on tour in 2013 but has yet to triumph at a grand slam event, was the choice of Kevin Streelman, who believes this is the year Woods’ Presidents Cup partner will cadge one of those elite trophies.
"I think Kuchar’s going to break through," said Streelman, who was T5 at 11-under, three shots back of co-leaders Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth, and defending champion Dustin Johnson, heading into Monday’s ToC finale. "I put Matt Kuchar winning a major and PGA player of the year 2014."
A couple of guys strutted their stuff, confidently looking forward to their own PoY coronations.
"I hope it’s me. That’s why I’m here," proclaimed Gary Woodland, also at 11-under with Streelman, Jason Dufner, and Brandt Snedeker at the end of play on Sunday. "Hopefully I have a good year and win player of the year."
Billy Horschel, he of the octopus pants and T19 standing after three rounds in Hawaii, was in full swagger.
"If I don’t put myself in that category, I’m not doing myself enough justice," said the 2013 Zurich Classic victor. "I’m just going to say, myself. I’m not going to put anybody else in there; I hope it’s me."
Zach Johnson, who bested Woods in the last month's Northwestern Mutual World Challenge and was one shot off the pace ahead of the final round at Kapalua, had the best riposte to the GC query.
"2014 player of the year?" Johnson deadpanned. "LeBron James."
In case you missed why Chamblee’s broadcasting partner, Kelly Tilghman, reminded us that, though James may be the AP’s Male Athlete of the Year, he "is not a very good golfer at all," here’s video proof: