No, maybe it is Larry Nelson. Oops, I mean Allen Doyle. That is, if it's not Bruce Fleisher.
Well, okay, it's one of those four. Hope and pray that one of the four emerges as the winner of the Senior Tour Championship. If someone else wins - Tom Kite or Jim Thorpe or Tom Watson, for example - this thing is totally, completely fragmented.
Some semblance of a Player of the Year is suggested by a win here. A victory by last year's champion, Watson, or Kite or Thorpe means it comes down strictly to a popularity contest. And that isn't the way the Senior Tour players, the top brass at Ponte Vedra Beach, or the general populace wants it.
What does 'Player of the Year' mean, exactly? How do you figure the best player? Nelson has won the most tournaments this year, five, but he stands no better than fourth in the over-all money rankings. Do you go by most wins? If that's your criteria, then consider the case closed. He has two more than anybody else, so even a victory in the season-ender this week is meaningless.
That Nelson hasn't been particularly effective when he hasn't won is borne out by the fact that he hasn't been able to climb over the other three. But how do you rate Player of the Year if not by wins?
Well, Doyle is No. 1 in money won. That means something to a lot of people. He is about $150,000 ahead of Fleisher. He has 25 top-10s. I mean, 25 is nothing to turn your back on. He has won $2,520,582. And he has won a major championship. Surely that will give him Player of the Year, you might say.
Except - except that Irwin has won more money than anybody if you break it down to cash-per-start. Irwin, who is actively involved in off-course business, has played in only 25 events this year. His average take-home per tournament is a gawd-awmighty $82,334. That is almost $6,000 per event more than the leading money-winner, Doyle, who cashed in at a rate of nearly $76,400, per start. It tops Fleisher by more than $3,000 per event. And it is well in excess of Nelson, whose per-outing figure is only $73,385 - $9,000 less than Irwin.
Irwin leads the top four in scoring average. He leads the Senior Tour in putting. But - he has only two wins, none of them majors.
So, how do you figure the year's top player? This week can be a decider. On the other hand, it can make the Player of the Year a complete mess.