Before Tiger Woods ruled the earth, pro golf’s competitive landscape looked a lot like it does in 2010 – flat and nondescript. For the first time in 15 years, nobody won more than two events on the PGA Tour, so Player of the Year voting has turned into the dice roll at the halfway house. My personal POY favorite is the guy who dropped a U.S. Open in the Pacific Ocean and lost the PGA Championship in the scoring trailer.
Hey, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you cash the check. For all the talented young players who collect a ton of prize money, hoist a trophy or two and check out of every major championship by Saturday afternoon, Dustin Johnson has a big-game knack, and that has to count for something. Especially while Eldrick Almighty pauses to change his boots five miles below the summit of Mt. Nicklaus.
Honestly? Whether you like Johnson or Ernie Els, Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar or Phil Mickelson, POY balloting packs no more a punch than the election for student council president at Deep Pockets High. The Tour doesn’t release results of the voting, which is done by the players themselves, and it doesn't make much sense. All I know is, Woods has won the award 10 times since he turned pro and lost just three – another one of those sentences you write about Tiger, then stare at for 90 seconds, just shaking your head.
Dude can play.
Seriously, how can one guy be that much better than everybody else? Here we are, sitting in the front row and watching the greatest career in golf history, all of us witnesses, even LeBron, and the Red Shirt Express finally has a flat tire. Player of the Year? There isn’t one. Go ahead, give the prize to whoever gets the most votes. Post it on the Web site, put it in the media guide and see if I care. See if anyone cares.
Ten out of 13. That’s Player of the Year citations, not free throws or putts inside six feet. I hope everyone who subscribed to I'msickofEarlandTida’skid.com is a happy camper. When Woods made his post-hydrant return to competitive golf with a T-4 at the Masters, 2010 was looking better than my daughter’s report card. Philly Mick slashed one between the tree trunks to claim his fourth major. Els already had won twice and Furyk was about to pick up his second victory. Young stars Camilo Villegas (Honda) and Anthony Kim (Houston) quickly rebounded from winless 2009s. Steve Stricker (Los Angeles) picked up right where he left off.
Five months later, only Stricker has won again. Woods has played like just another tour pro, failing to qualify for this week’s Tour Championship, and the game appears stuck in a strained relationship with the public. The biggest story of the summer was about a guy who missed a playoff because he grounded his club in a bunker that wasn’t a bunker. And you thought Tom Watson missing that putt to win the 2009 British Open was the king of anticlimaxes.
Golf needs its stars to shine, and for now, all the light bulbs have been removed from the sockets. Maybe the Ryder Cup can brighten things up a bit with some high-wattage drama. Maybe Woods will get that fresh pair of boots laced up and continue his climb up the mountain, or maybe we’ve seen his best. As my friend Jamie recently said, we’ve gotten 13 remarkable years and dozens of indelible memories from the guy. Sooner or later, the party has to end.
It is what it is, or so they say, but this was the Year That Wasn’t. The storyline business can be a moody one, especially in golf, which got its name because all the other four-letter words were taken.