Player of the Year to Name Only Winner

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The deadline for PGA Tour players to submit their player-of-the-year ballots is Friday, and the results will be announced Monday.

The leading candidates are Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh, although most players would love to have three victories and the green jacket hanging in Mike Weir's closet.

It should be the closest vote since Mark O'Meara and his two majors trumped David Duval and his four victories, the money title and Vardon Trophy.

How close?

No one will know. The PGA Tour only says who won, not by how many.

'Our intention is not to release the vote total, but to declare the winner,' PGA Tour spokesman Bob Combs said. 'Just as the Oscars don't tell you who finished second or fifth, neither does the tour.'

Combs said the tour might one day announce final tallies -- just not this year.

'We started the balloting process under one set of guidelines, and changing that at this point doesn't seem the appropriate action,' he said. 'We may well review that for future years.'

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MICKELSON'S MISERY: Phil Mickelson's miserable season ended at the Skins Game, where he missed a 3-foot birdie putt that eventually allowed Fred Couples to capture the final skin worth $200,000.

'It was a tough year,' Mickelson said.

Lefty's take from the Skins Game -- $170,000, third place behind Annika Sorenstam -- was his fourth-highest check of the season. This was the first time in his career that he failed to make the Tour Championship (38th on the money list), and the first time he failed to at least finish second on the PGA Tour.

He also went 0-5 in the Presidents Cup.

Mickelson will not play again until the Bob Hope Classic, about a two-month break.

'That will give me an opportunity to evaluate where I need to go with my game,' Mickelson said. 'Driving is pretty obvious, but there are some other areas, too.'

Mickelson averaged 306 yards off the tee -- more than 17 yards better than last year -- but hit only 49 percent of his fairways (189th on tour) and only 64.8 percent of his greens (102nd). One year after leading the tour in the all-around statistical ranking, he slipped to 17th.

The most glaring drop: His final-round scoring average was 71.72, which put him 144th on tour.

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BRUIN POWER: Jay Delsing is trying to get back to the PGA Tour for the first time since 2000, and he had some strong support getting through the second stage of Q-school.

His caddie was former U.S. Open champion and UCLA teammate Corey Pavin.

'He called me and said, 'Man, I want to caddie for you in the finals,'' Delsing said. 'I told him I had to get through the second stage.'

Pavin was on the bag as Delsing made it through at Black Horse in Monterey, traditionally the toughest course on the qualifying rotation.

'To be where he was and want to do this shows what kind of guys he is,' Delsing said.

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PORTABLE TEST: The U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club have approved a portable test to measure the trampoline effect in drivers.

The test requires only a low-speed strike to the clubface by a small weight on a pendulum, which measures the contact time of the collision.

The PGA Tour plans to make the test available to players who want to check the coefficient of restitution (COR) and to rules official in case there is a need to test a driver, but commissioner Tim Finchem said last month there will not be mandatory testing.

'This is a game of honor and integrity. It will continue to be that way,' Finchem said. 'When you're dealing with your ability to stay eligible to play in a golf tournament, you're not going to fool around with whether your driver is above or below a COR limit.
 
You're going to test your drive.

'There's no doubt in my mind that every player is going to get their driver tested,' he said. 'And in about four weeks after we start this procedure, it's going to be a non-issue.'

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DIVOTS: Wendy's has taken over sponsorship of the Champions Skins Game, to be played Jan. 31 at Wailea Resort on Maui with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino. ... Charles Howell III and his former agent, Rocky Hambric, reached a settlement over a breach-of-contract lawsuit over Howell leaving for IMG, Golfweek magazine reported. 'I want to start 2004 with a clean slate and want to be No. 1 in the world. Having a lawsuit hang over your head is not the best way to do that,' Howell said. ... The Gaelic Athletic Association has agreed to switch the date of the All Ireland Football Final in 2006 so that it won't conflict with the Ryder Cup, to be played Sept. 22-24 that year at The K Club near Dublin.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Fifteen of the 171 players in the finals of Q-school are past champions on the PGA Tour. A year ago, there were 14 former winners.

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FINAL WORD: 'The trophy is going to sit in Ponte Vedra Beach either way.' -- U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus after the Presidents Cup ended in a tie.
 
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