As the PGA Tour caravan pulls into New England this week for the Deutsche Bank Championship, so much from this season has already been decided. The four majors are in the books, winners crowned, and the top 100 on the points list have earned the right to play at TPC Boston.
But a few key pieces to the prize puzzle remain at large. Who wins the final three playoff events? What about the Presidents Cup? And the inaugural system of combining players from the PGA and Web.com tours for four fall tournaments and awarding PGA Tour cards for the 2014 season, which actually begins in 2013?
Then there’s this: Who will be named the PGA Tour Player of the Year?
Adam Scott was a strong candidate, and that was before his one-shot win Sunday at the Barclays. Scott fired a final-round 66, but triumphed at Liberty National Golf Club only when he received some unexpected help.
Leaders faltered on the back nine (Kevin Chappell), and three challengers missed putts on the final few holes that would have at least sent Scott to a playoff. Justin Rose three-putted No. 18 to fall out of a tie for the lead, Tiger Woods missed a birdie putt at the last, and Gary Woodland gave himself close birdie looks on the final two holes, yet missed them both. Rose, Woods, and Woodland all finished one shot back.
“I started today on a wing and a prayer, I thought,” Scott said after his win. “I played a good round of golf, but I didn’t think it was good enough. But the closing holes threw up a challenge on these guys and luck was definitely on my side.”
Maybe, but Scott has routinely put himself in contention to make his own good fortune. He has finished in the top 10 in nearly half his starts (6 of 13), and has now joined Woods, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, and Brandt Snedeker as the players with multiple PGA Tour wins this year.
Would two wins (including a major) be enough to give Scott Player of the Year honors? Some think so.
“I would vote for Adam Scott right now,” Stewart Cink said last Friday, before Scott’s win at the Barclays. “Even though Tiger’s won more, I think when Adam’s played, he’s played great. He’s got a major win, and he just really elevated his game, seems to be a factor every single time he’s teed it up.”
Let’s look at the candidates who should get the most attention in the Player of the Year race.
Case for: Wins at the Masters and the Barclays, six top-10 finishes, no missed cuts, a personal-best world ranking of No. 2. If recent form counts extra, voters would be hard-pressed to ignore the stretch that Scott is on. He tied for third at the British Open, tied for 14th at Firestone, tied for fifth at the PGA Championship, and won the Barclays. Now he’s coming to a TPC Boston venue where he’s had success: His first PGA Tour win came at the 2003 Deutsche Bank Championship.
Case against: Doesn’t have as many wins as Woods, is only fifth on the money list, and plays a limited tour schedule. He has made only 13 starts, same as Woods.
Case for: Nobody can match Woods’s five tour wins (next best is two), and he has reclaimed the top spot in the world rankings with his steady play. One of his wins was at the Players Championship, and Woods also has a tie for fourth at the Masters, a tie for sixth at the British Open, and a tie for second at the Barclays. Like Scott, Woods might not be finished; his record at TPC Boston (one win, two seconds, one third) is quite impressive.
Case against: No majors, no majors, no majors.
Case for: Two PGA Tour wins, including his fifth major, the British Open at Muirfield, in typical Mickelson fashion. He birdied four of the last six holes and closed with a 66 to cap a comeback and win by three. He won the Phoenix Open, and was runner-up at the US Open for a record sixth time. It might not count to some voters, but Mickelson also won his first European Tour event, at the Scottish Open, the week before the British.
Case against: When he’s good, he’s very good, but Mickelson doesn’t have the consistency that either Woods or Scott can claim. He has missed three cuts, and has other finishes of T72, T60, T54, and T51.
Case for: Perhaps someone like Justin Rose, who won the US Open for his first major championship, if he wins two of the final three FedEx Cup events. Or PGA champion Jason Dufner? Would three wins (a major, plus two playoff tournaments) be enough to bring either Rose or Dufner Player of the Year?
Case against: It’s an unlikely scenario.
Ballots won’t be due for some time, giving everybody three more tournaments to make some noise. Scott might hold the slimmest of leads. He’s one of four to win a major this season, and the only one so far to back that up with a playoff win.
“Developed my game into being more consistent, performing in the big ones, and now trying to adapt that to be a winner on a more frequent basis is what I’m working towards,” Scott said. “It’s been a great year for me. I’ve been playing consistently well and trying hard to get another victory this year. Got to keep it going now.
“I need to use this momentum I’ve got and take it up to Boston, a course where I’ve had success before and I like playing. It would be nice to kind of get back in contention again and go back-to-back.”