Five Names on POY Ballot
But it propelled him to first place on the money list. And that was good enough, when all the ballots were counted, to gain him enough respect from his peers to finish first in the P.O.Y. balloting.
All of which brings us to this weeks Tour Championship. It has been learned that the nominations are in from the PGA Tours 15-man Player Advisory Council and its four playing members from the Policy Board. Two PAC members confirmed for me Tuesday that the names of Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Mike Weir and Davis Love III are the ones the tours rank and file will find on the ballots that go out Monday.
Thus will begin a process that will take most of the rest of the month. When the players receive their ballots they will be able to vote either by E-mail, snail mail or phone. A source at the tour said Tuesday that typical participation response is about 75 percent. That number is expected to rise this year because of the heated nature of the P.O.Y. race and the media attention it has attracted for months now.
Players will have until the end of the month to submit their ballots. (Write in votes are allowed but not expected). The tour is expected to announce the 2003 Player of the Year in early December. Whats interesting is that, like the Oscars, the tour will not announce who finishes second. Just the winner.
What has fueled interest among the players and the public is the closeness of this years race. Tiger Woods enters the Tour Championship that begins Thursday with five victories and the No. 2 slot on the money list. Vijay Singh sits atop the money list but has won one less tournament that Woods. They are the two favorites.
Woods has won the award four straight years and five of the last six. His best season was 2000, when he won nine tournaments, three of them major championships. Neither he nor Singh won a major in 2003. Which leaves the door open for Weir, who has won three times including the Masters. A victory by Weir in Houston Sunday will influence many voters who wouldnt mind seeing the award get spread around a little more.
Thats the beauty (or the flaw if you dont like subjectivity) of the P.O.Y. balloting. Players vote. They dont have to give their reasons why. Many thought the reason Wayne Levi won the inaugural P.O.Y. in 1990 was because many players voted against Greg Norman, who finished first on the money list that year. The P.O.Y.s critics say the voting is a popularity contest.
That may be. But the interest it has generated has been nothing but good for the tour. This is the kind of controversy it welcomes.
May the best man win. That man very well will be the one who wins Sunday.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.
The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.
It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.
"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."
Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.
"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."
Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder
After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.
La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.
"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."
Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.
The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.
"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."