Yesterday, the PGA TOUR released the nominations for both Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year. The nomination process was conducted by the PGA TOUR Player Directors and members of the Players Advisory Council. For players to be eligible to vote, he must have played in 15 official money events.
Here’s a look at the nominees…
Player of the Year
1. Jason Dufner – After the heartbreak at the 2011 PGA Championship, a bounce back of some sorts seemed in order for Dufner. DId he ever bounce back from that. Dufner earned two wins this past season (Zurich Classic and HP Byron Nelson) and added eight top-10 finishes. He was in contention Colonial before giving way to Zach Johnson. Dufner was also a member of the 2012 Ryder Cup team.
2. Rory McIlroy – Four wins including a major. That’s not all. Rors has been awarded the Byron Nelson Award and Vardon Trophy as he led the tour in adjusted stroke average (68.87). Two of McIlroy’s wins came during the Fed/Ex Cup playoffs where he sat atop the standings heading to East Lake. He was also awarded the Arnold Palmer Award for leading the TOUR in money earned and tied with Bo Van Pelt for most top-10 finishes with 10. All of that in 16 events.
3. Brandt Snedeker – Recorded two wins (Farmers Insurance Open and TOUR Championship) and won the Fed/Ex Cup. Sneds was third on the money list and was in contention at The Open Championship heading into the final round. He would finish T3. Snedeker also recorded seven top-10 finishes including a second at The Barclays. He would finish third on the TOUR’s money list.
4. Bubba Watson – The excitement surrounding Watson’s win at Augusta was a popular one. Leading up to that, Bubba had finished second at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and T4 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Watson finished the season with seven top-10s and was fifth on the money list.
5. Tiger Woods – Is it even possible for Tiger to have a bounce back season? If so, 2012 was it. Woods had no top-three finishes or wins in 2011. That tide changes this season as Tiger won three times (Arnold Palmer Invitational, The Memorial and AT&T National). Quite a trio of wins: Arnie’s, Jack’s, his own. Could have netted at least one major had the weekends not bitten him. Finished second on the TOUR money list while amassing nine top-10s.
Before I give you my pick, I let’s look over this final five. I am a bit shocked Zach Johnson is not among these five. He did have two wins and six top-10s. He was also sixth on the money list. Granted, the other fiver were ahead of him in money, but wins are important, too. Also, Johnson only missed one cut. Just one. Of the five nominees, only Dufner can stake that same claim.
Of course, the pick is obvious. It has to be Rory McIlroy. And to think he could have possibly had a fifth win if not for some tremendous shot-making by Rickie Fowler at the Wells Fargo. You cannot consciously argue for any other player despite the fact three of the other nominees had multiple victories.
Think about this. In his sixteen events in which he entered, Rors made the cut in thirteen of those. While that percentage won’t blow you away, his average finish for the thirteen in which he did make the cut is…12th. That includes a T40 at The Masters and a T60 at The Open Championship. His only other finish outside the top 10 was a T24 at The Barclays.
Rookie of the Year
1. Charlie Beljan – Can anyone seriously forget what Beljan just endured at Disney? Doubt it. And the “mini-tour legend” continues his walk on the PGA TOUR by scoring the victory. Beljan was also in contention at The Greenbrier where he eventually finished T3.
2. Jonas Blixt – Recorded his 2012 at the Frys.com Open, the second event of the Fall Series. Blixt notched five top-10 finishes and led all rookies in adjusted scoring average. He was second among rookies on the money list.
3. Bud Cauley – While Cauley did not win any tournaments in 2012, he did lead all rookies in top-10 finishes with six. Cauley’s best finish was third at the Wyndham Championship.
4. John Huh – Huh was the only rookie to make it to the TOUR Championship this season. He recorded his win at the Mayakoba and was in contention at the Farmers Insurance where he notched a T6. Huh added a T2 finish at the Valero Texas Open. Huh was also tops among rookies on the money list, finishing 28th.
5. Ted Potter, Jr. – Won the Greenbrier, a filed that included Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Impressed yet? No? That was the only field that included both Tiger and Lefty in which any of these rookie wins occurred.
This is a tough selection. Cauley was my pre-season pick, but with no wins (despite having the most top-10s), I cannot justify selecting a guy with no wins over four others that had one. I honestly believe he will get a win soon, as in next season.
Of the remaining four, Potter, Jr. only posted one top-10. Beljan had the next least with three. Beljan may get a few tabs because of what he endured this past weekend, but, well, every once in a while, I’m just not that nice.
That leaves Blixt and Huh. It would be easy to take Blixt because he had the best adjusted stroke average for all rookies and he notched more top-10s (5) than Huh (4).
But I’m going with “Johnny Question Mark”. He was the only rookie to make the field for the TOUR Championship at East Lake. Only 30 players make that field. Rookie or not, that is impressive. In fact, he was the highest rookie on the money list. For this year, that will account for something, maybe not so much for next year as things go crazy.