This year’s ceremony was lightly attended with most of the American recipients still on the team charter flying home from Australia, but like all award gatherings the show must go on.
POY (Point of the Year) award. In 2008 when Padraig Harrington was voted the Tour’s Player of the Year, Tiger Woods famously made his point that it’s a player’s performance in major championships that matter when dissecting great seasons.
Q. Did you vote for Paddy?
TW: I did actually.
TW: He won two [majors].
Q. Is that all it comes down to?
That long-held logic was put to the test this season, however, when Tour players voted Rory McIlroy the Jack Nicklaus Award winner, despite the fact that Brooks Koepka had a better record in the majors (a victory, two runner-up finishes and a tie for fourth).
Perhaps McIlroy’s victory in the POY voting is an anomaly based on the Northern Irishman’s consistency in 2019, or perhaps it’s a fundamental shift in how the rank and file are starting to distinguish between great seasons and even greater seasons.
Comeback Player of the Year award. Although the Tour stopped doling this out after Steve Stricker started filling up his trophy case with them, 2019 provided the perfect opportunity to resurrect the recognition.
Maybe after everything Tiger Woods has endured and accomplished the comeback hardware is trivial, but considering the highs of April and his first major triumph in more than a decade, followed by the dog days of summer and his victorious return to competition in Japan, and then his flawless performance as both player and captain at the Presidents Cup, the Comeback Award seems like the perfect way to celebrate Tiger’s eventful year.
Left(y)Out medal. For the first time since 1994, Phil Mickelson was not a member of a U.S. team.
It was a testament to how much Lefty struggled that he wasn’t even in the conversation for a captain’s pick to make Woods’ Presidents Cup squad, and he failed to qualify for the Tour Championship for the fourth time since 2013.
Although he added his 44th Tour title at Pebble Beach, Mickelson spent more time creating his social media “Phireside with Phil” chats than contending for titles 2019.
Mickelson turns 50 in June and while he contends his best competitive days are still ahead of him, 2020 is starting to feel like a Pharewell tour for the game’s greatest southpaw.
Flying His Flag chalice. Bryson DeChambeau made clear his thoughts on this year’s rule change regarding putting with the flag in the hole. Well, he made his thoughts as clear as he could for those without advanced degrees in physics.
“It depends on the COR, the coefficient of restitution of the flagstick,” DeChambeau explained. “In U.S. Opens, I'll take it out. And every other Tour event, when [the flagstick] is fiberglass, I'll leave it in and bounce against the flagstick if I need to.”
True to his word, DeChambeau putted with the flag in the hole almost exclusively at the ’19 opener in Maui and led the field in strokes gained: putting, and he finished the season 30th in that category. Maybe there is a method to DeChambeau’s mathematical madness.
GOAT or Goat goblet. Two years ago at Liberty National, Patrick Reed went undefeated teamed with Jordan Spieth to help lead the U.S. to a commanding victory in the Presidents Cup and solidified his status as Captain America.
Since then Reed hasn’t won another foursomes or four-ball match, publicly criticized 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk and Spieth, and was dubbed a “cancer” by one member of the team room earlier this month at the Presidents Cup in Australia, where he went 0-3-1 and proved to be a distraction both on and off the course.
Fame is often fleeting in the sports universe, but Reed’s plunge from the U.S. team’s GOAT (greatest of all time) to simply a “goat” was downright breakneck.
Tale of Two Seasons cup. You know the deal: best of times, worst of times. That was certainly the case for Matt Kuchar.
The veteran began the year on a high note winning the Sony Open for his second victory of the 2018-19 season and he would add a pair of runner-up showings before the season was over. With $6.2 million in earnings it was statistically his best campaign on Tour.
It was also his most trying. In February, it was reported that Kuchar’s replacement caddie at the Mayakoba Golf Classic wasn’t happy with his payment ($5,000) following Kuchar’s victory last fall.
Kuchar later apologized to the caddie and paid him an additional $45,000, but the episode left a mark. His season became even more complicated in March when he found himself entangled with Sergio Garcia in an odd ruling at the WGC-Match Play and again in June at the Memorial when he didn’t like, not one but two rulings on a potential embedded ball.
Earlier this month at Royal Melbourne Kuchar was greeted with a chorus of “Kooch” from the fans, or maybe it was “boos.” In 2019 it was hard to tell the difference.
Bottoms Up bowl. Rickie Fowler wasn’t the only player to speak out against the rule makers’ decision to change the method of a drop to knee-height, but he was the most creative in his distaste.
“We have been making fun of the knee drop for so long that it was ingrained, my first drop was going to be from knee. Like, this is an iconic moment. I get to drop from my knee and look stupid. I think it’s a terrible change,” Fowler said in February in Mexico City, where he was penalized for taking an incorrect drop (from shoulder height).
A week later Fowler mocked the new rule when he took, um, a knee-adjacent drop from his backside at the Honda Classic. “I still don't think anyone has found out a way to make it look cool, athletic or good," Fowler said.
If anyone can make a knee-height drop look cool, it’s Rickie.