POY vote about more than just Spieth vs. Day

By Doug FergusonSeptember 22, 2015, 11:04 pm

ATLANTA – PGA Tour players might be voting on more than just their player of the year.

Depending on how the Tour Championship unfolds this week at East Lake, the vote could also be a referendum on how they view the FedEx Cup.

No one thought this would even be a contest a month ago when the most significant part of the golf schedule ended at the PGA Championship. Even with Jason Day finally breaking through for his first major title, this year was all about Jordan Spieth.

The 22-year-old Texan won the Masters and U.S. Open among his four PGA Tour titles. He missed the British Open playoff by one shot and played in the final group at Whistling Straits, where he was unable to make up a two-shot deficit against Day at the PGA Championship.

The only debate was where Spieth's season ranked in PGA Tour history.

But that was the last great moment for Spieth. And it was just the start for the 27-year-old Australian.

Day began to overpower players and courses. He set a major championship record to par (20 under) at Whistling Straits. He followed that with a six-shot victory at The Barclays, and then opened with rounds of 63-61 to blow away the field at Conway Farms for a six-shot victory in the BMW Championship.

That was his fifth win of the year - one more than Spieth - and Day went to No. 1 in the world ranking.

''I still think it's him,'' Day said on Sunday. ''But I'm hoping that I can go and win next week and get people talking about it a lot more.''

The ballots will be emailed to PGA Tour players on Sunday night after the Tour Championship following what amounts to the last campaign stop at East Lake.

A victory for Day would give him six wins and a major. To put that into context, only four other players over the last 40 years have won six times in one season on the PGA Tour - Tom Watson (1980),Nick Price (1994), Vijay Singh (2004) and Tiger Woods (six times).

If he were to win, then it really would be a tale of two seasons.

Spieth dominated the important part of the year. Day thrived during the bonus time of the year.

The FedEx Cup is not hit-and-giggle. It starts with the top 125 players on the PGA Tour and, with the value of points quadrupled, whittles the field down to the top 30 at the Tour Championship who all have a mathematical shot at the $10 million bonus. A vote for Day might indicate how much importance players put on the Tour's postseason.

The whole debate starts with the assumption Day will win the Tour Championship, and the rate he's been going, that's not a stretch.

Rickie Fowler said his main criteria would be victories, though not just any title. ''Majors. Majors are big,'' he said. ''With what Jordan's done this year, it's pretty amazing. Jason is making his late charge, so he's not making it any easier on the voting side of it.''

Henrik Stenson won't decide until after the Tour Championship, although the Swede did make one prediction that was fairly safe.

''Someone with the first letter of 'J' will win it,'' he said.

More than just the 30 players gathered at East Lake are voting. Ballots go to 200-plus members, some of whom didn't even keep their cards, much less find their way to New Jersey for the start of the FedEx Cup. Do they look at how Day closed the gap during the most lucrative time of the year - $8.5 million purses against some of the strongest fields of the year in a chase for a $10 million bonus - or what Spieth did during the four events that are the fabric of golf history?

Spieth was only the fourth player to capture the first two legs of the modern Grand Slam, and he was tied for the lead through 70 holes at St. Andrews until a bogey on No. 17. Only three other players in 58 years of stroke play at the PGA Championship finished more under par than Spieth at Whistling Straits. One of them happened to be Day.

Spieth already has clinched the money title even if Day were to win the Tour Championship. And while Day is not far behind, Spieth still has the lead in the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average.

History would seem to favor Spieth.

Since the Jack Nicklaus Award for the player of the year began in 1990, only one player won two majors in the same season without getting the award. That was Nick Faldo in 1990 and he wasn't on the ballot because he wasn't a PGA Tour member.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.