Tiger Would Win Popularity Contest


This torrid Player of the Year race that has become the focal point of the 2003 season would have turned into a great excuse for Tiger Woods to divert attention from the fact that he hasnt won a major championship this year.
Except Woods doesnt look for excuses. He doesnt operate that way.
What the Player of the Year race does give Woods is a legitimate reason to focus on the rest of a season. He has won five times but didnt play as well as he wanted in the tournaments that counted the most.
The Masters is still six months away, which means its a little early for Woods or anybody else to start getting their game faces on for Augusta. So Woods has set his late-season sights on Player of the Year, an award the rank and file of the PGA Tour didnt start voting on until 1990.
Woods has won the last four POY awards and five of the last six. But how many people other than Wayne Levi remember that the players voted Levi in over Greg Norman way back in 1990?
It was quite a year, Levi said of a campaign that produced four victories and helped him earn a Ryder Cup berth. Norman won three events that same year and beat Levi out for the No. 1 spot on the money list. Moreover, Levi missed the cut in six of his first nine events in 1990. Neither player won a major championship that year. Levi only had one other top 10 to go with his four wins.
When its close, Levi said of the POY, I dont think you have to win a major.
When its close, Levi added, it can boil down to a popularity contest.
Levi doesnt think thats the way it ought to be. Its just his opinion. The odd thing about 1990 is there are players who will tell you that Norman wasnt popular. There are others who will tell you Levi wasnt the friendliest guy on the range or in the clubhouse. So much for the popularity contest theory.
For his part, Levi finds it hard to believe that Norman, ranked No. 1 in the world for 332 weeks in the late '80s and '90s, only won Player of the Year once (1995). He really came out on the short end, Levi said of Norman.
Levi said if he had to vote today, he would cast his ballot for Woods. Winning, Levi said, is the main criterion. The next closest player in victory count after Woods is Davis Love III with four. Mike Weir, Kenny Perry and Vijay Singh all have three. Weir and Furyk are the only players still in the running for POY to have captured a major championship in 2003.
Anyway, getting back to Tiger, he should be all right if it does, indeed, get down to a popularity contest. Early in his professional career Woods engendered a lot of jealousy from the other players. For the most part he has won them over on that score. Besides, his record in the years he won POY was clearly superior.
Meanwhile Levi, for his part, cant help but wonder how Norman didnt salt away more POYs. I cant believe he didnt win five or 10 tournaments a year, Levi said. He hit it so far and so straight.
Woods hits it farther, if not straighter, than Norman. Stuart Appleby called Woods a shoo-in for Player of the Year after Woods victory Sunday at the WGC-American Express Championship in Atlanta.
I cant say as I disagree.
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