Rory McIlroy, 23, on Tuesday became the youngest player in 15 years to be named the PGA Tour Player of the Year.
The Northern Irishman won four times in 2012, including the PGA Championship, and also earned the Arnold Palmer Award (leading money winner, with $8.04 million) and Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average (68.87).
“It’s always nice to get recognition from your peers, the guys you’re trying to beat week-in and week-out,” McIlroy said in a teleconference with reporters. “It’s a nice feeling, very rewarding. And it’s just a great way to end what has been a great year and my best season so far.”
John Huh, 22, was named the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year after an impressive freshman campaign in which he won the Mayakoba Classic, finished 28th on the money list and became the only rookie to qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship. He became the first player of Korean descent to be voted Rookie of the Year.
McIlroy won The Honda Classic in March to take over the top spot in the Official World Ranking for the first time. (He has since been ranked No. 1 for a total of 24 weeks, including 17 consecutive.) After an eight-stroke victory at the PGA Championship, he also captured back-to-back titles at the Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship before finishing second in the yearlong FedEx Cup. He also joined Luke Donald as the only players to win the money title on both the PGA and European tours in the same season.
Said Tour commissioner Tim Finchem: “He has been a significant contributor to what the PGA Tour is all about outside the ropes. He has handled himself in terrific fashion. He has been very direct with the media and entertaining to the fans inside and outside the ropes. He is at a very young age already making a very solid contribution to what is the most important asset of the PGA Tour, and that is the image of its players.”
McIlroy is the third European to win the Jack Nicklaus Award, following Donald (2011) and Padraig Harrington (2008), while becoming the youngest to be named Player of the Year since Woods in 1997.
What can he do for an encore in 2013?
“It’s just trying to become a better golfer and player, add more variety to my game, add a few more shots here and there,” McIlroy said. “I feel like I can improve in all aspects of my game. If my focus is on that then the tournament wins and success will come.
“We’re judged on wins ultimately, and this year has been a great year.”