The Player of the Year race is as close as ever

By Rex HoggardAugust 29, 2013, 11:24 pm

NORTON, Mass. – Reactionary types by nature, PGA Tour players seem particularly adverse to the hypothetical.

Such was the scene on a cool, drizzly Thursday at TPC Boston as some in this week’s field at the Deutsche Bank Championship were confronted with the wildly impractical, albeit relevant, “who would get your vote for PGA Tour Player of the Year right now?”

“Uh . . . that’s a tough one,” Brandt Snedeker allowed after a few moments mulling the options.

“It’s a hard one because they both have had phenomenal years . . . it’s a tough one,” Charles Howell III followed moments later.

And so it went, the ultimate game of kick the can with most players polled firmly planted on the fence awaiting the outcome of the next three playoff stops.

It is a measure of how convoluted the current race is that Howell, like many of the frat brothers, not only unsure who he may vote for but not even convinced who is currently in the race.

In Howell’s case, he was referring to Tiger Woods, a five-time winner in 2013, and Adam Scott, who claimed his first major at the Masters in April and his second title of 2013 last week at The Barclays.

Lost in that assessment is Phil Mickelson’s season, a career victory at the Open Championship preceded by his win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February, not to mention his Scottish Open triumph which is a European Tour stop but considered by most a quality win by any measure. It’s also worth noting, that Lefty has never won the Player of the Year Award.

The answers to the hypothetical are as varied as the swings on TPC Boston’s practice tee, with some players weighting major victories above all else.

“Right now, it would be Phil, Adam, then Tiger,” said Bob Estes, in a classic win, place, show assessment. “I’m pretty sure Tiger would take Phil or Adam’s year as well. It’s so hard to vote against a major and another big win.'

Most, however, would rather take a sit-and-watch approach. With three playoff events remaining and the FedEx Cup hanging in the balance any of the three contenders – to say nothing of U.S. Open champion Justin Rose or PGA champion Jason Dufner – could make the voting a formality with a hot few weeks.

“Think you’d have to do a three-way Player of the Year right now,” Snedeker said. “It’s as close as I’ve ever seen it. Whoever has a better run at the end of the year will win it.”

How to weight major victories against standard Tour wins seems to be the primary talking point when rating seasons between 2013’s top 3 and, at least to some extent, the unrealistic expectations placed on Woods every time he tees it up.

“What you are doing is comparing Tiger’s history and what he’s done this year against winning a major and another tournament,” Hunter Mahan said. “With Tiger, we put him on such a pedestal, for what a player of the year does is different for Tiger than for everyone else. We expect more out of him than just winning five times. For someone else to win five times is unheard of.”

Historically the Jack Nicklaus Award has been swung by major championship performance. In 1996, Tom Lehman won the Open Championship and Tour Championship and clipped Mickelson, a four-time winner that season, for Player of the Year.

Conversely, in 2011 Luke Donald hoisted the Nicklaus Award following a two-win season although his best finish in a major that season was a tie for fourth at the Masters.

Still, Grand Slam performance seems to be the tipping point for many when it comes to Player of the Year voting.

“Obviously majors count more. If it wasn’t it would be Tiger hands down,” said Snedeker, who won last year’s FedEx Cup but lost in the Player of the Year voting to Rory McIlroy.

For Scott, who also posted top-10 finishes at the Open Championship (T-3) and PGA (T-5), the math of scale is clearly in play over the next month. Asked, hypothetically, if another playoff victory would pull him clear of Woods in the wildly unscientific voting he could only smile.

“Yeah, I think it does, absolutely, it absolutely does,” he laughed. “I don't know. All I can do is try to go win more. Maybe two wins might do it, I'm not sure. I don't know what the other players are thinking.”

If Thursday’s polling is any indication, players are not thinking about it much at the moment, not with three marquee events and $10 million up for grabs over the next month. But time is running short for all the contenders.

Because of the condensed schedule this season, Player of the Year ballots are scheduled to be sent out after the Tour Championship which ends Sept. 22 and players will vote electronically with the results released before the start of the 2013-14 season at the Open the first week of October. By that time perhaps a singular performance will make all of the conjecture meaningless.

Or maybe, as Snedeker suggested, the Tour considers a co-Player of the Year option.

Getty Images

Furyk tabs Woods, Stricker as Ryder Cup vice captains

By Will GrayFebruary 20, 2018, 9:02 pm

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk has added Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to his stable of vice captains to aid in his quest to win on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

Furyk made the announcement Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., site of this week's Honda Classic. He had previously named Davis Love III as his first vice captain, with a fourth expected to be named before the biennial matches kick off in France this September.

The addition of Woods and Stricker means that the team room will have a familiar feel from two years ago, when Love was the U.S. captain and Furyk, Woods, Stricker and Tom Lehman served as assistants.

This will be the third time as vice captain for Stricker, who last year guided the U.S. to victory as Presidents Cup captain. After compiling a 3-7-1 individual record as a Ryder Cup player from 2008-12, Stricker served as an assistant to Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014 before donning an earpiece two years ago on Love's squad at Hazeltine.

"This is a great honor for me, and I am once again thrilled to be a vice captain,” Stricker said in a statement. “We plan to keep the momentum and the spirit of Hazeltine alive and channel it to our advantage in Paris."

Woods will make his second appearance as a vice captain, having served in 2016 and also on Stricker's Presidents Cup team last year. Woods played on seven Ryder Cup teams from 1997-2012, and last week at the Genesis Open he told reporters he would be open to a dual role as both an assistant and a playing member this fall.

"I am thrilled to once again serve as a Ryder Cup vice captain and I thank Jim for his confidence, friendship and support," Woods said in a statement. "My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do what I can to help us keep the cup."

The Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National in Paris. The U.S. has not won in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry in England.

Getty Images

Watch: Guy wins $75K boat, $25K cash with 120-foot putt

By Grill Room TeamFebruary 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

Making a 120-foot putt in front of a crowd of screaming people would be an award in and of itself for most golfers out there, but one lucky Minnesota man recently got a little something extra for his effort.

The Minnesota Golf Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center has held a $100,000 putting contest for 28 years, and on Sunday, Paul Shadle, a 49-year-old pilot from Rosemount, Minnesota, became the first person ever to sink the putt, winning a pontoon boat valued at $75,000 and $25,000 cash in the process.

But that's not the whole story. Shadle, who describes himself as a "weekend golfer," made separate 100-foot and 50-foot putts to qualify for an attempt at the $100K grand prize – in case you were wondering how it's possible no one had ever made the putt before.

"Closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Shadle said of the attempt(s).

Hard to argue with the result.

Getty Images

Tiger draws Sneds, Kizzire at Honda Classic

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 7:43 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Patton Kizzire and Brandt Snedeker for the first two rounds of the Honda Classic.

The threesome will tee off at 7:45 a.m. ET Thursday off PGA National’s 10th tee, then 12:35 p.m. off the first tee in the second round Friday.

Woods is making his first start at the Honda, his hometown event, since 2014. He tied for second here in 2012, after a final-round 62.

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

This is the first time he has ever played with Kizzire, a two-time winner this season and the FedExCup points leader.

Other notable groups for the first two rounds:

  • Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia, Daniel Berger: 7:35 a.m. Thursday, 12:25 p.m. Friday
  • Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren, Gary Woodland: 7:55 a.m. Thursday, 12:45 p.m. Friday
  • Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner: 12:25 p.m. Thursday, 7:35 a.m. Friday
  • Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington: 12:35 p.m. Thursday, 7:45 a.m. Friday
Getty Images

The Social: In perfect harmony?

By Jason CrookFebruary 20, 2018, 7:00 pm

Bubba Watson re-emerges in the winner's circle but gets exposed on the hardwood, Mark Wahlberg tunes out Tiger Woods and if John Daly wants a drinking partner, he need look no further than ... John Daly?

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Bubba Watson had himself a week.

The two-time Masters champion hung out with Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres, caught a taping of "The Big Bang Theory," played in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and still found some time to notch his first PGA Tour win in two years.

Watson's third victory at Riviera couldn't have come at a better time for the 39-year-old, with an annual trip down Magnolia Lane right around the corner. But don't let that distract you from the only Bubba highlight that mattered from the weekend:

Welcome to the block party, Bubba. Despite his former professional basketball playing wife's advice to stay out of the paint, Watson decided to challenge Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady at the hoop. You could say his challenge was accepted. And then some.

Watson, who picked up a couple of assists but also shot an air ball in the game, said afterwards that he "was just trying not to get hurt" and even poked a little fun at himself, calling out McGrady for committing a foul on social media.

But if these tweets from a couple of his PGA Tour peers are any indication, it will be a while before he lives this one down.

Sports fans probably take Bubba Golf for granted sometimes, no one plays the game like he does. Lets not make the same mistake with Bubba Basketball.

Want to know how far Tiger Woods has fallen? Sure, you could look at his 544th-world ranking or the current state of his game as he returns from injury, but the most telling sign came from his Wednesday pro-am round at the Genesis Open.

Woods was grouped with Mark Wahlberg for the day, and the superstar actor couldn't even be bothered to take the Apple AirPods out his ears – either one – for the entire round, even wearing them for the picture Woods posted on Instagram himself.

Marky Mark, you don't have to be his thunder buddy but at least show the man some common decency. He's still Tiger Freakin' Woods. Who is supposed to fake laugh at one of Tiger's patented hilarious dad jokes if all of his playing partners suddenly start listening to music during their rounds?

On a related note, guess Tigers are the only animals that Wahlberg won't talk to.

Something tells me this whole criminal thing isn't going to work out for these two.

Drinks were on John Daly Sunday after his hole-in-one at the Chubb Classic. But how many drinks? Well, that depends on who he’s drinking with.

If it’s with U.S. Olympian John Daly, the answer is, A LOT.

That's right, there's an American skeleton (headfirst luge for you newbs) racer competing in PyeongChang, South Korea, with the same name as the two-time major champ, and he couldn't help himself when asked about the similarity, jokingly saying he could keep up at the bar.

Of course, Daly (the golfer) wasn't just going to sit idly by while his name was dragged through the mud, tweeting out, basically, be careful what you wish for.

Somehow, someway, sliding headfirst down a frozen patch of ice with very little protection seems like a better idea than challenging Long John to a drinking contest. Just ask Andrew 'Beef' Johnston how it turned out.

If someone quits Twitter but they don't leave a long, drawn-out message on Twitter about why they're quitting Twitter before doing so, then did they even quit Twitter?

That's the riddle surrounding Lydia Ko's disappearance from the social media platform, one that the South Park Police Department would call, "suspicious."

The former LPGA world No. 1 has gone through all kinds of changes over the last couple of seasons, and added this curious move (on top of switching out her swing coach and caddie to start this season) because she said the app was “taking up [too much] storage on my phone.”

Whatever the reason, whether it be the storage issue she mentioned, or Twitter being a giant cesspool of negativity, here's to hoping it brings Ko happiness and a return to the winner's circle for the first time since 2016.

But we're sad to see her go.

After all, if people aren't freaking out on Twitter, what are we going to focus on here in The Social?

Rory McIlroy said last week after playing with Tiger Woods at the Genesis Open that the 14-time major champ gives up two strokes a tournament dealing with the hoopla that comes with being Tiger Woods.

That hasn't deterred John Peterson, who was on Twitter Monday openly recruiting Woods to play on his team for the Zurich Classic.

The April New Orleans PGA Tour stop switched to a team format last year, with Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith joining forces to win the first title.

Peterson followed up his original tweet by asking how many retweets he'd need to make it happen. We're no experts here, but probably more than the 132 it had at the time of this publication.

Peterson's followers had some fun with the request, applauding his effort as a shooter:

And hey, who knows, stranger things have happened. While the two may seem like an unlikely pairing, they have some stuff in common – Peterson won the 2012 Coca-Cola Walmart Open and Tiger, we think, has heard of an establishment known as Walmart.

So yeah, you could say the two are basically best friends at this point.