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Who is the front-runner for Player of the Year

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Who gets your vote for Player of the Year honors at this point of the season? Senior writers Rex Hoggard and Randall Mell offer up their opinions.

By REX HOGGARD

It is a measure of golf’s parity, and the void left by Tiger Woods’ post-Nov. 27 slide, that any conversation about potential Player of the Year candidates is both premature and utterly subjective three-quarters of the way through the Grand Slam calendar.

The year’s three Grand Slam winners – Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen – can count 2010 as a success but other than their major moments their seasons have been anything but grand.

Which leaves a foursome of two-time winners to dominate the PoY conversation. Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, Ernie Els and Steve Stricker all have two victories apiece and have earned roughly the same amount of prize money.

Stricker seemed poised for a career year before an injury cost him some bench time in the spring, while Furyk was solid early but both his victories came before Memorial Day and he missed the cut in two of three majors.

Which brings the conversation to Rose, who may be the hottest player right now, and Els, who ultimately gets the early PoY nod based on his consistency (14 top 10s) and his play in the majors (T-18 Masters, third U.S. Open).

With a major and the Playoffs looming, however, the conversation is far from over.

By RANDALL MELL

Phil Mickelson gets my Player of the Year vote in this yet incomplete season.

I’m cringing as I write this in anticipation of the sound of readers’ gaskets blowing.

How can I give it to Mickelson when he’s disappointed in some manner in virtually every outing except his Masters win? Because his Masters’ victory is enough to trump anything anyone else who’s eligible has done.

Professional golf is all about the majors. In my mind, they count double. That takes Mickelson over the top. I can’t give the honor to someone who hasn’t won a major unless the fellow has dominated outside the majors. I don’t see it.

I’d love to say Ernie Els is my pick. He’s there with Jim Furyk, Justin Rose and Steve Stricker as the only other two-time PGA Tour winners this year, but he’s major-less despite a terrific chance at the U.S. Open.

U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell only recently claimed PGA Tour membership, but he’s got just one other top 10 in the states this year. Louis Oosthuizen, the British Open winner, isn’t a PGA Tour member.

Mickelson gets my vote with his Masters victory and his second at Quail Hollow, T-4 at the U.S. Open and T-5 at Memorial, enough to edge out Els.