LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Paul Azinger’s name is etched into it, as is John Daly’s and Peter Jacobsen’s. Steve Stricker’s on there too, twice, in consecutive years no less.
The circuit’s “Comeback Player of the Year” award dates back to 1991, hardly hallowed ground in a sport that keeps time in eons, but it is enough history to prompt a double take when news surfaced this week that there will be no engraving in 2009 barring a miracle performance by the game’s walking miracle on a corner of central Florida turf that bills itself the place “where dreams come true.”
But before we put too much pressure on Erik Compton, the double heart transplant recipient and perhaps the only player that could prompt the circuit to revive the honor in ’09, the curious case of the missing miracle must be examined.
According to a Tour official, the 16-member Player Advisory Council “has the discretion to determine that the Comeback POY not be awarded in a given year if they feel there are no viable candidates.”
Barring a Compton “W” at WDW, the ballots for Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year will be finalized next week without a CPOY option and there are no plans to “provide a space on the ballot for write in votes.”
While we agree there may not be an obvious choice – say, like, Stricker in 2007 after he’d already won the award in 2006 – but count the PAC some kind of tough crowd if six victories in 17 starts (Tiger Woods) following ACL surgery doesn’t rate at least a nomination. Or two titles and a major keepsake after failing to keep your Tour card (Y.E. Yang) can’t move the needle, or the pen.
The Woods nomination for CPOY seemed to run into a filibuster early, with the logic being that it’s hard to come back from a historic victory at the U.S. Open, to say nothing of that victory-victory-victory start that prefaced his Torrey Pines brilliance.
“He doesn’t care (about CPOY),” Heath Slocum said. “He cares about the Vardon Trophy and the Player of the Year (award).”
Truth is Woods is likely more concerned about tonight’s dinner plans in Australia than he is his dwindling CPOY chances, but that logic misses the distance travelled by the world No. 1 since Torrey Pines. ACL surgery, recovery from a broken leg and a reworked action aimed at taking pressure off that battered left knee and Woods himself has admitted he didn’t know what to expect in 2009 add up to one compelling comeback, if not an original HBO production.
He may not be the leading candidate for the Waterford crystal, but excluding his name from the conversation dismisses how hard Woods had to work to return to his world-beating form.
For most players, however, Woods’ name on the CPOY crystal seems to stretch the definition of the award, if not the bounds of logic.
“It’s not like he was hurting, at least competitively, when he went down,” said Brad Faxon, a member of the Tour’s Policy Board. “He was the No. 1 player in the world at the time and didn’t drop out of that spot.”
But all of this does little to explain Yang’s snub. In 2008 the Korean finished 157th in earnings and needed five of six rounds in the 60s to finish tied for 18th at Q-School to secure his job. His Honda Classic victory should have been enough to put Yang’s name on a CPOY ballot, but that mano a mano masterpiece at Hazeltine National with Woods should have made this year’s award a non-story – box it up and send it to Dallas via Seoul.
A sampling of PAC members on Tuesday at Disney would indicate many agree.
“I nominated Y.E. Yang,” said PAC member Ted Purdy. “He went from losing his card to winning a tournament and a major. That’s pretty good.”
D.A. Points, another member of the PAC, also said he nominated at least two players for the CPOY award, himself and David Duval, but was aware of the resistance by some members not to nominate a candidate.
“I saw (one PAC member) write down on his ballot, ‘This is a meaningless category,” Points said. “I understand that, sometimes names just don’t jump out at you, but I just didn’t feel like I should make that call not to give out the award.”
Davis Love III, a PAC member this year who will join the three other player directors on the Policy Board next year, said he was called by a Tour official last week to nominate a Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year candidate, but wasn’t asked about the CPOY ballot.
“That’s weird,” Love said.
Weird, and wrong. Woods and Yang may somehow miss the CPOY mold, but removing them from the conversation altogether cheapens their accomplishments. And that’s not right.