by Jeff Skinner
The PGA Tour has released its five nominees for the 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year. Previously this was nothing but a mere formality as Tiger Woods had won the award ten of the last thirteen years. But with Tiger playing distracted golf this year the award is up for grabs for these five golfers.
The five nominees all had very respectable seasons but none of them are enough to warrant a landslide in the voting. With Tiger having made multiple wins during the same season appear almost mediocre, there is no clear cut winner.
Ernie Els had two wins and contended in some majors but his year is more of a “min-comeback” than it is a grand accomplishment.
Dustin Johnson could easily have been a unanimous selection if he had hung on to his lead at the US Open and not bunkered himself at The PGA. As it is his two wins were a nice, acceptable consolation for missing out on a pair of life changing wins.
Matt Kuchar earned The Vardon Trophy and the money title and that is great but one win during the playoffs doesn’t make a Player of the Year, no matter how nice Kuch is.
If Phil Mickelson could have won one regular season event to go with his emotional Masters victory he’d be clearing a spot in his trophy case for this year’s award. Unfortunately for Phil he peaked in April and was never able to add another win to his total. As exciting and touching as his Masters win was, it is not enough to earn Phil his first Player of the Year trophy.
Jim Furyk won in March for the first time since 2008, picked up another win in April and finished the season with a bang by winning The Tour Championship and The FedEx Cup. It’s the first time Furyk has won three times in a season and offers the most compelling case for Player of the Year. Three wins trumps two wins. It trumps a money title and it probably trumps one major, at least in terms of a single season. Furyk had a great season. He’s The 2010 Player of the Year and he can’t wait to get to Hawaii to defend his title.
by Jeff Skinner
In a golf season that saw too many rules infractions affect the outcome of tournaments the strangeness continued at the Dubai World Championship. Ian Poulter was poised to win his second straight tournament but he let Robert Karlsson tie him and the two went to a playoff. On the second hole of the playoff Poulter accidently dropped his ball on his coin that he used to mark his golf ball. The coin flipped over and moved and therefore violated another rule of the rules of golf. Poulter’s par on the hole became a five and the championship went to Karlsson.
Poulter immediately called over the rules official and called the penalty on himself. What a lousy time to be a fumble fingers. Poulter has played excellent golf of late; this is his third straight top ten. Poulter had a chance at winning in regulation but his birdie putt on eighteen missed. He took the situation in stride. “The coin was one way and the next minute facing the other way,” Poulter said. “It’s pitched right on the front and flipped over. If it pitches in the middle, the coin doesn’t move and it’s fine.”
by Jeff Skinner
Years from now we will look back at the 2010 golf season will and remember it as the year Tiger Woods finally went winless. For the first time in his career Woods failed to visit the winners circle but that didn’t mean he wasn’t the focus of every media outlet in the world. Woods’ decline opened the door for many a golfer to make their mark and a few very young golfers did just that.
Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishakawa all garnered headlines throughout the year. Fowler, 21, was the “it boy” on the PGA tour this season. With his pop star looks and old school game he contended in many tournaments and was the first player ever selected as a Ryder Cup Captain’s pick that hadn’t won a tournament. His performance in The Ryder Cup proved his selection valid.
Rory McIlroy, 21, was hailed as “the Next Tiger” when he won on the European tour last year. The Irish phenom excited crowds on both continents with his stellar play and validated his reputation with a win on The PGA Tour this season.
Ryo Ishakawa, 18, already has seven wins on the Japanese tour and shot a record setting, final round 58 in one of them. While his foray into the United States met with limited success this year, Ryo has the game and the appeal to be around for a long time. He has elected to stay and play in Japan again next season so he can refine his game before he makes the move to a worldwide golfer.
Perhaps the most intriguing of all the “baby faces” hitting the pro ranks this year was the young Italian, Matteo Manassero. At sixteen he was the youngest ever British Amateur Champion. That win got him into the Open Championship where he won the silver Medal as low amateur and tied for 13th. It also got him invited to The Masters where he became the youngest ever to make the cut at 16. He turned professional at 17 has hasn’t looked back since.
In his first professional tournament he tied for 29th at The BMW Italian Open. Five months later he shocked the golfing world when he became the youngest winner in the history of the European Tour. He won the Castello Masters and beat his hero Seve Ballesteros as the youngest European Tour winner ever. With less than a dozen professional starts he has climbed to 86th in the world golf rankings. His Sunday charge of 62 at The Hong Kong Open left him one back of winner Ian Poulter and tied for second place.
He may have gotten off to a late start this season but this young man is set to be a force on the European Tour. With a little luck we’ll see him on this side of the Atlantic along with the rest of the great young golfers that are ready to claim the PGA Tour as theirs.
by Jeff Skinner
Ian Poulter is finally showing that he has the game to back up that boastful mouth of his. In 2008 Poulter said that he was the only one with enough talent to challenge Tiger Woods. While Poulter has been a good player he failed to play up to his swagger and a Woods/Poulter showdown never materialized.
Things may be about to change. Woods has come down to the level of a mere mortal and Poulter has refined his game and hardened his will of late. His win at the Hong Kong Open is his tenth career win on The European Tour. Combine that performance with his Ryder Cup record and his 2010 WGC Match Play Championship and you have a player to be reckoned with on both tours.
Poulter had an amazing week in Hong Kong. He flirted with the magical 59 in the second round and ended up with a sizzling 60. He followed that with a 67 in the third round and was able to hold off the assault by Simon Dyson and Matteo Manaserro.
Having learned his lesson, Poulter chose not to talk of being the world number one. “I’m not playing the game saying, ‘I’m going to get to No 1′. I tried that once before and it didn’t work. I think I’ll just try winning next week and see how high I can go. Tiger has dropped a lot of points. (Lee) Westwood is world No 1. If I keep playing well, then who knows?”
This former pro shop professional may be ready to make his move into the upper elite of professional golf. We all know his has the ego, now it looks like he just might have the game.
By Jeff Skinner
Just because the players on The PGA Tour have put their clubs in the garage for a few weeks doesn’t mean there isn’t any great golf to watch. The European Tour has an exciting tournament with plenty of big names taking place at The Hong Kong Open. Ian Poulter leads Graeme McDowell by two and Rory McIlroy by four going into the final round. The European Tour is heading to its big finale, The Dubai World Championship next week. You can catch the action live Sunday on The Golf Channel at 1200am EST. It is worth losing a few hours sleep, great golf and Renton Laidlaw calling the action. It doesn’t get much better than that.
by Jeff Skinner
We golfers will do anything for a few extra yards. You always suspected that cold balls will fly shorter than a nice warm ball and you’re right. The guys at Sport Science put the theory to the test. Check out the video…it gets to the golf ball testing about the three minute mark and it’s worth a watch. They prove that warm balls are better than cold balls anytime. Sounds like words to live by.
by Jeff Skinner
Story of the Year: What else can it be but Tiger-Gate! Tiger and his Escalade and escapades dominated the news on and off the course all season. Beware…Tiger’s game is coming around and 2011 will have little in common with is 2010 season.
Shot of the Year: With all due respect to Philly Mick’s magical play off the pine straw, Jonathan Byrd tops Phil on this one. Byrd’s ace on the fourth playoff hole of the Timberlake takes top honors. A hole in one to win a tournament will win that one every time.
Comeback Player of the Year: I have to split this one between two golfers that may argue that they had even gone anywhere to comeback from. Ernie Els found his form and won twice on tour this year and finished third on the money list. David Duval earned enough to finish 106th on the money list and get his card back for 2011. With Double D able to pick his spots now he’ll soon be back where he says he wants to be: winning on the PGA Tour.
Tough Luck Player of the Year: Who else can it be but Dustin Johnson? He imploded during the final round of The US Open and then got grounded in that bunker at The PGA. All was not lost for DJ though; he had already won at Pebble and found enough inner strength to pocket the BMW Championship.
Most Amazing Win of The Year: Forty eight year old Rocco Mediate eagled his way to a win at The Frys.com Open. Roc hadn’t won in eight years and was hoping for a bridge to The Champions Tour and he got it. Rocco got just what he needed: a two year exemption on the PGA Tour.
Personality of The Year: This one could have gone to “Smiling Matt Kuchar” or “You Tube Phenom Bubba Watson” or the “Celtic Tiger, Rory McIlroy” all are deserving but they all tie for second place here. Rickie Fowler may not have won on tour this year but he certainly made his mark. Fowler plays with the soul of Trevino, fast and loose. He shapes the ball like few guys can today and takes no time to play his shot. On top of that he’s the most recognizable golfer since Payne Stewart, we won’t include John Daly as a golfer in this case. Fowler enjoys life on the course and has fun off it. He can take the PGA Tour a long way for years to come.
Quote of the Year: If you can forget all that Tiger crap it’s easy. Jeff Overton let loose with it at The Ryder Cup, “Boom Baby!”