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Five Names on POY Ballot

Used to be Player of the Year was a by-product more than it was a full-time news beat. Like in 1996, when Tom Lehman fired a 64 on Sunday in the season-ending Tour Championship to spread-eagle the field. It was only Lehmans second victory of a season in which he also captured the British Open championship.
But it propelled him to first place on the money list. And that was good enough, when all the ballots were counted, to gain him enough respect from his peers to finish first in the P.O.Y. balloting.
All of which brings us to this weeks Tour Championship. It has been learned that the nominations are in from the PGA Tours 15-man Player Advisory Council and its four playing members from the Policy Board. Two PAC members confirmed for me Tuesday that the names of Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Mike Weir and Davis Love III are the ones the tours rank and file will find on the ballots that go out Monday.
Thus will begin a process that will take most of the rest of the month. When the players receive their ballots they will be able to vote either by E-mail, snail mail or phone. A source at the tour said Tuesday that typical participation response is about 75 percent. That number is expected to rise this year because of the heated nature of the P.O.Y. race and the media attention it has attracted for months now.
Players will have until the end of the month to submit their ballots. (Write in votes are allowed but not expected). The tour is expected to announce the 2003 Player of the Year in early December. Whats interesting is that, like the Oscars, the tour will not announce who finishes second. Just the winner.
What has fueled interest among the players and the public is the closeness of this years race. Tiger Woods enters the Tour Championship that begins Thursday with five victories and the No. 2 slot on the money list. Vijay Singh sits atop the money list but has won one less tournament that Woods. They are the two favorites.
Woods has won the award four straight years and five of the last six. His best season was 2000, when he won nine tournaments, three of them major championships. Neither he nor Singh won a major in 2003. Which leaves the door open for Weir, who has won three times including the Masters. A victory by Weir in Houston Sunday will influence many voters who wouldnt mind seeing the award get spread around a little more.
Thats the beauty (or the flaw if you dont like subjectivity) of the P.O.Y. balloting. Players vote. They dont have to give their reasons why. Many thought the reason Wayne Levi won the inaugural P.O.Y. in 1990 was because many players voted against Greg Norman, who finished first on the money list that year. The P.O.Y.s critics say the voting is a popularity contest.
That may be. But the interest it has generated has been nothing but good for the tour. This is the kind of controversy it welcomes.
May the best man win. That man very well will be the one who wins Sunday.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt