OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. – Early last week, Rory McIlroy was asked his thoughts on the current PGA Tour Player of the Year race and his answer left no room for ambiguity.
“If we were to announce the Player of the Year today, I would say it would be Justin Thomas,” said McIlroy, noting that the race was down to Thomas and Spieth.
On Sunday at The Northern Trust, Dustin Johnson may have created a third option. By defeating Spieth in a playoff at the post-season opener, Johnson secured his fourth title of the season and moved to first on the playoff points list.
Thomas also has four Tour victories, including a major (PGA Championship), while Spieth has three victories and a major (Open Championship). Depending on what transpires over the final three events of the season, Johnson could make it difficult not to vote for him even if he doesn’t have a major on his 2017 resume.
Asked if he thought he could win the Jack Nicklaus Award even if he didn’t win a major this season, Johnson made a compelling case.
“Yeah, I think so. Especially, if I can win one, two or three of the next ones,” he said.
Last Wednesday, however, McIlroy offered a different theory.
“This is no disrespect to any PGA Tour event or even the World Golf Championships, but I would give back three of my PGA Tour wins for another major,” McIlroy said.
The Player of the Year Award has not gone to the FedExCup champion six times in the playoff era, which began in 2007, including last year when Dustin Johnson won the Nicklaus Award and McIlroy won the season-long race.