Luke Donald left miffed after PGA Tour moves POY finish line

Jonathan Wall

Luke Donald thought he had the PGA Tour's top-player award wrapped following an incredible Sunday charge at Disney that saw him come from behind to capture the tournament title and season-long money list in one of the best final round performances of the year.

Based on the season Donald just had, you couldn't blame the guy if he voted for himself when the PGA Tour handed out Player of the Year ballots. With two wins and 14 top 10 finishes in 19 events, it's hard to argue anybody's had a better year than the current No. 1-ranked player in the world.

Even Donald figured he was a near-lock for the award. After all, he won the final event of the year ... or so he thought. In a shocking move that left Donald shaking his head, the tour decided to postpone sending out POY ballots this week, deciding instead to wait a month and, wait for it, allow the HSBC  Champions event in China to count towards the tour's top honor.

As CBSSports.com golf columnist Steve Elling pointed out, the tour decided to make the bizarre move after a reporter told tour officials that the tour's season-ending event at Disney World really wasn't the official end of the 2011 season.

At that point, the tour realized that the HSBC Champions event set to begin in two weeks in Shanghai, China, is quasi-official and should be included in the Player of the Year discussion, too. The HSBC money doesn't count, but if a member of the PGA Tour wins, it is considered an official career victory and the winner gets the customary multi-year exemption.

So instead of preparing his Player of the Year acceptance speech, Luke Donald now has to wait around for another month before casting his official ballot. The best part of all is that Keegan Bradley just happens to be in the field at the HSBC, and should he win in China, that would give him three official wins, which would be more than any other player this season. Talk about muddying the waters.

Now, I don't know about you, but I have a problem with this decision. It's like watching a great battle for the Wild Card spot in baseball (hello, Braves and Cardinals) and then hearing before the end of the season that Bud Selig wants to play a couple more games, despite one team having a two-game lead over its nearest competitor.

Sure, it would add some extra drama, but the move certainly doesn't seem fair. Luke Donald has a right to feel miffed. While a number of European players have passed on membership on the PGA Tour in recent years, Donald has been a loyal member and has never once complained about the tour's minimum event requirement.

If anything, this move is the kind that could really sour Donald's view of the tour as a whole. I could understand Tim Finchem making this decision months ago, but to pull the rug out from under Donald after his incredible win? Well, it's the kind of move that could backfire on the tour down the road.

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