In tight race, watch for Tiger to pull ahead

Originally Published: September 30, 2003
By Andy North | ESPN.com

The PGA Tour's Player of the Year race is coming down to the wire, which makes these final few weeks of the season an exciting time to be a golf fan.

Tiger Woods
AP PhotoTiger Woods will have something to say about the Player of the Year race before all is said and done.

For the first time since 1998, the race isn't a Tiger Woods landslide. The top five guys on the money list -- Vijay Singh, Davis Love III, Woods, Jim Furyk and Mike Weir -- all have a realistic chance of winning the award, and it will likely come down to the final two big events of the season: this week's American Express Championship and the Tour Championship next month.

Winning the Jack Nicklaus Trophy means getting the vote of your peers, which is a big reason why it's so important to these guys. So who's going to win it?

You could sit down and argue this 18 different ways, which makes it a lot of fun. Most of the guys mentioned above are pretty well rested going into this final stretch, and I think at least one is going to win again before the end of the year, and the race will shake itself out that way.

Hypothetically, if none of the five played another event this year, I think the award would go to Mike Weir. He has three wins, including The Masters, and had two other top-10s in the majors.

More realistically, the award will go to the player who can make a lasting impression in this final stretch. I think that guy will be Tiger, who may be playing with added motivation after all the slump talk he's endured this summer.

There's been so much written about his so-called slump this year, and it's all completely bogus. Sure, he hasn't played as well as he had liked to, but he's not in a slump -- trust me. A slump is going 0-for-42 when you're a .300 hitter, and he isn't even in that ballpark.

Woods hasn't played in more than a month, and I suspect he's been home working on a few things for the stretch run. He'll show up in Atlanta fired up, and that's usually bad news for everybody else.

Two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North serves as an analyst for ESPN, and will be in Atlanta this week for the American Express Championship.

Andy North joined ESPN as an on-course golf reporter in September, 1992. He serves as both an analyst and a reporter in ESPN's championship golf coverage as well as analyst for ESPN's preview shows and SportsCenter reports from major tournaments.

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