Player of the Year shouldn't even be in question

By Doug FergusonSeptember 23, 2013, 11:22 pm

ATLANTA – Tiger Woods always has been measured against Jack Nicklaus and his 18 majors, and most recently Sam Snead and his 82 PGA Tour victories.

Now he's being measured against himself.

And it's not a fair fight.

The PGA Tour sent out its awards ballot Monday to those players eligible to vote. The winners are to be announced Friday.

Woods should be a lock for Player of the Year, provided he is measured against the other four names on the ballot instead of the previous seasons when he won the award.

He won five times this year, and the only tournament that could be classified as a medium-strength field was at Torrey Pines. Woods won two World Golf Championships, at Doral and Firestone. He won The Players Championship on perhaps his least favorite course on tour. And he won Bay Hill. The world ranking points he earned from those five wins alone were more than any player has earned all year except for Henrik Stenson.

But he didn't win a major, the very standard by which Woods measures a great season. And there was nothing particularly memorable about his wins, except that two of them were on a Monday and all of them were on courses where he had won before. In fact, Woods couldn't even remember where he won. It was a harmless oversight, but no less amusing, when Woods last week at East Lake put himself down for winning Memorial instead of Torrey Pines. Nice problem to have.

Woods already has won the award 10 times. His record this year is worse than every season he won the award except 2003. So this has been a great season by any other comparison except with himself.

Photos: History of the PGA Tour Players of the Year

Three of the last four winners did not win a major.

Luke Donald won in 2011 with only two victories, one of them at Disney. He also won the money title and the Vardon Trophy, and his win at Disney was one of clutch performances. Needing nothing short of a win to be the first player with money titles on both sides of the Atlantic in the same year, he birdied the first six holes on the back nine and shot 64 to do just that.

Jim Furyk won in 2010 with only three victories and one other significant trophy – the FedEx Cup. Phil Mickelson won the Masters that year, but the other majors went to players who weren't even PGA Tour members at the time (Graeme McDowellLouis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer).

Woods won in 2009 with seven wins and a sweep of all the other awards (Vardon, money title).

To be sure, Mickelson and Adam Scott could have made a convincing case by winning the Tour Championship. That would have given either of them three wins, including a major and the FedEx Cup (Mickelson would have needed some help for the latter).

But they didn't.

One of the more famous sayings in golf is that the scorecard has only a number, not pictures.

These are the numbers:

- Woods led the league with five wins. He won the money title by over $2 million. He won the Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average.

- Scott won the Masters and The Barclays, which arguably has the strongest field in golf. He finished in the top 5 at two other majors.

- Mickelson won the British Open and the Phoenix Open. He was runner-up in the U.S. Open.

Stenson also is on the ballot with two FedEx Cup playoff wins and the trophy itself (along with the $10 million bonus). He finished in the top 3 at two other majors. Two great wins and zero majors don't cut it. Matt Kuchar is also on the ballot, but only for balance. He had his best year ever with two wins. That will have to do.

Adding pictures to the scorecard is the only thing that could change the vote.

Mickelson came within in a dimple of 59 in the Phoenix Open. He had the lead on the back nine at Merion and was runner-up at the U.S. Open for the sixth time. He bounced back to win the British Open – the major not even Mickelson thought he could win – with what his peers consider one of the greatest closing rounds in a major. It left him one leg short of the Grand Slam, though winning on a links course already defines him as a complete player even without a U.S. Open.

Scott became the first Aussie in a green jacket and he was leading the British Open on the back nine until making four straight bogeys. He was poised for a run at the Tour Championship until getting sick at the wrong time.

Both are great stories. But did they have better years?

Here are a few things to keep in mind. This is a vote of the players, and there's no telling how they define the award. Best player or best year? Do they have an agenda? Is it a popularity contest? Still baffling is Rickie Fowler winning rookie of the year in 2010 over Rory McIlroy, even though McIlroy won at Quail Hollow, Fowler didn't win at all and neither reached the Tour Championship.

Is it a sentimental pick for Mickelson, the greatest to have never won Player of the Year? Is there resentment toward Woods for how he handled the penalty given to him at Conway Farms for his ball moving?

The Tour won't release results, only a winner. And it won't reveal voter turnout. Most of these guys only pay attention to their tee times.

One final thought as it relates to Woods: If his record this year belonged to any other player, would this even be a debate?

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.