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Inside the Ropes: Woods the front-runner for Player of Year

The SportsXchange

The FedEx Cup is not the only thing on the line this week at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

Because Tiger Woods did not claim a major championship among his five victories, there has been quite a lively debate lately about who might win the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award, voted on by the players.

It probably started when Adam Scott, who in April became the first Aussie to win the Masters, said he would rather have what he had in 2013 than what Woods had.

And that was even before Scott inserted himself deeper into the conversation for Player of the Year by winning the Barclays, the first event of the PGA Tour playoffs, where Woods finished one stroke back despite fighting back spasms.

"I'd rather have mine, that's for sure," Scott said before the Barclays.

Woods, who won the last of his 14 major titles in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, basically agreed.

But that's not how things work.

The PGA Tour Player of the Year award is supposed to go to the golfer who has had the best season, and it's hard to argue with what Woods has done.

You certainly wouldn't confuse any of his victories with winning the Podunk Open.

Woods captured the Players Championship, the so-called fifth major, in addition to the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, all against some of the strongest fields of the year. Those tournaments rank right behind the majors, definitely among the top 10 events in world golf.

Woods, who regained the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Rankings with his strong season, also won two other top-flight events, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Farmers Insurance Open.

Bill Haas, for one, didn't hesitate when asked about his choice.

"Tiger Woods, he's won five times, pretty easy answer there," said Haas, who captured the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup in 2011. "Majors are hyped up. Over the years they have become a big deal and a status measure among us pros is that, (if) he's won a major, he's next level. I do think that's warranted. ...

"(But) Woods' lack of winning a major is the only thing talked about, which I think is sad. I think it's ignorant, but that's what we are basing his year on."

Phil Mickelson, who claimed an epic victory in the Open Championship at Muirfield and also won the Waste Management Phoenix Open, also has been part of the discussion.

In addition, there has been talk that if Justin Rose, whose only victory came in the U.S. Open at Merion, or Jason Dufner, who turned around a disappointing season by winning the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, captured the FedEx Cup, either could be Player of the Year.

Nonsense.

To this point, nobody has had a season close to the one Woods has put together.

In 15 starts on the PGA Tour, he has eight top-10 finishes, including a tie for fourth in the Masters and a tie for sixth in the Open Championship.

Not only that, Woods led the FedEx Cup point standings through the regular season and will take the lead into the Tour Championship. He leads the circuit in scoring average, in the all-around statistical ranking and is on top of the money list.

"It would mean a lot," Woods said of the Player of the Year award. "That's voted on by the players, so when you get the respect and the hats off by your peers, that's something that we don't take lightly. We take that as pretty prideful, and any time you get the respect and honor of your peers, it means something even more special.

"My standards, it's a great year. I think the overall package is how I look at it. This year's been a great year so far. I've won at two of my favorite venues (Torrey Pines and Bay Hill), plus winning two World Golf Championships and a Players in there, it's been pretty good."

It could be that people are getting tired of Woods winning the award, which he has done a record 10 times, including with five victories and no major titles in 2003.

Right now, the award should be his, unless a majority of the players would simply like to see it go to someone else for a change.

However, if Scott or Mickelson could win the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup this week at East Lake, that could certainly change things.
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