Player of the Year? Peers say it's McIlroy

By Rex HoggardSeptember 10, 2014, 8:44 pm

ATLANTA – Normally the master of self-deprecation, even Rory McIlroy had a hard time playing this one straight.

“Hopefully by the end of this week there shouldn’t be any doubt about the Player of the Year Award . . . but depending on who wins this, you never know,” the world No. 1 allowed with only the beginnings of a smirk etched into his face.

The ballots for the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award will be sent out on Sunday night but if an informal poll of players on Wednesday at the Tour Championship is any indication the circuit may as well forgo the formality and ship the hardware to McIlroy’s South Florida digs right now.

While the world No. 1 successfully choked back a laugh when asked about the year-end award, his frat brothers couldn’t muster the same detached discipline.

“It’s a no-brainer. It’s about as easy a decision as they come,” Hunter Mahan said.


Tour Championship: Articles, videos and photos


There are 10 million reasons to respect the FedEx Cup and what it means to the players, but many players, including Mahan, figured the Tour could already start engraving McIlroy’s name into the Jack Nicklaus Award regardless of what transpires this week at East Lake after the year he’s had.

“I think everyone knows who it’s going to be,” Jason Day said. “Everyone is 99.9 percent sure it will be Rory.”

Considering the Northern Irishman’s resume this year it’s hard to argue with Day and Mahan. McIlroy won the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship in consecutive weeks.

McIlroy – who won the Player of the Year Award in 2012 – wrested the top ranking from Adam Scott in July, hasn’t missed a cut, has finished in the top 10 in 11 of his 16 starts and moved to within a green jacket of the career Grand Slam with his victory at Royal Liverpool.

Yet while the Player of the Year voting seems like a forgone conclusion, an argument – however farfetched – could be made for Martin Kaymer or Jimmy Walker.

Kaymer won The Players and U.S. Open by eight strokes and in theory could claim the FedEx Cup with a victory this week at East Lake; while Walker would be the season’s only four-time winner if he were to win the Tour Championship and would also likely cash the $10 million bonus.

“It would be Rory, but I’d probably wait until after this week to make my decision,” Ryan Palmer said.

Chris Kirk, who also would become a three-time Tour winner with a victory this week, conceded that this week’s big finish could make the vote for Player of the Year a little more interesting, but it probably wouldn’t change his mind.

“Possibly, I guess. But still, unlikely. To win three of the biggest tournaments of the year and to win all of them pretty comfortably, 11 top 10s, his whole body of work is still going to be better than whoever wins this week,” Kirk said.

It’s more a testament to McIroy’s dominance than the current relevance of the FedEx Cup, but to most players this week’s scramble for $10 million will not factor into the Player of the Year balloting.

“I appreciate the FedEx Cup and the importance to win this. Jimmy Walker winning four times and a FedEx Cup is a big deal, but two majors and a World Golf Championship, especially in the time he did it means a lot,” Mahan said.

It’s a much different scenario than what occurred last year, when Tiger Woods (who won the award), Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott all had legitimate chances to win the Nicklaus hardware depending on how things played out in Atlanta. In fact, this may be one of the most straightforward POY votes in recent years.

“The way (McIlroy) played during the summer is pretty spectacular. To do that at such a young age, you don’t like to compare but it’s Tiger-like,” Day said. “Since Tiger hasn’t been playing his best, this is pretty convincing.”

As for McIlroy, he had more immediate concerns this week with the FedEx Cup hanging in the balance, which along with a Masters title is the only thing he hasn’t accomplished in his young career.

“It’s been a good season for me,” he said. “It’s been consistent. I’ve had big wins. Like I said, I’d love to finish it off.”

Of course, “finish it off” is a reference to winning this week’s Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup, because it seems the Player of the Year race has already been decided.

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

Getty Images

Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

Getty Images

Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

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.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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."

Getty Images

Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

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.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

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.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.