POY contenders don't answer call

Originally Published: November 3, 2003
By Bob Harig | Special to ESPN.com

The ballots are in the mail, but filling them out will not be the tap-in birdie putt of the past for PGA Tour players. Many of them will have to size it up from every angle, give it some serious thought before putting pen to paper.

Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh
Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh -- recognized by most as the leading contenders -- couldn't pull away in the POY race this weekend.

This PGA Tour Player of the Year vote will be anything but unanimous.

The season-ending Tour Championship was supposed to settle the debate once and for all, but all it did was affirm what everyone already knew: that Chad Campbell is one of the game's up-and-coming players, someone who is likely to be heard from for years to come.

Campbell became the first player to make the Tour Championship his first PGA Tour victory. The runner-up at the PGA Championship to Shaun Micheel was the highest player on the money list, ninth, without a victory, so it was only fitting that he got a win on such a stage.

Meanwhile, the Player of the Year honor remains a mystery, a battle that will seemingly be decided between Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Mike Weir and Davis Love III.

Any of those players could have declared victory with a win at the Tour Championship, the place where such honors were meant to be decided.

But none of the foursome was a threat on Sunday. In fact, they were all pretty much out of the tournament on Saturday.

Woods, who has five victories and locked up the PGA of America's Player of the Year award -- given based on a points system -- finished 26th in a 31-player field, just the second time this season he was outside the top 20. His score of 285 (1-over) was his first tournament over par in a non-major since the 1999 Players Championship.

Still, Woods is a strong candidate to win the Jack Nicklaus Trophy for the fifth straight year. His five wins include two World Golf Championship events. He won his fifth straight Vardon Trophy with an adjusted scoring average of 68.41 -- the second-lowest average in history. No player won as many tournaments on the PGA Tour as Woods.

Afterward, Woods did a little stumping. "Number of wins. Two World Golf Championships in there, with my stroke average being as low as it is. And on top of that, never missing a cut.''

Indeed, that went overlooked at an event that doesn't have one. But Woods did break Byron Nelson's long-time record by finishing in the money for the 114th consecutive tournament on the PGA Tour.

But he was unable to overtake Singh for the money title. Singh, 40, won his first PGA Tour money title with just over $7.5 million, about $900,000 more than Woods, although he played nine more tournaments than Woods. He finished second in the Vardon Trophy race and won four times, missing just one cut. Singh was the highest finisher among the Player of the Year candidates at the Tour Championship, tied for fifth (Love tied for fifth, too).

Player of the Year breakdown
Nothing was settled at the Tour Championship, so the tightest Player of the Year race in a long time will be settled at the voting booth. ESPN.com breaks down the candidates and their chances.

"He's got my vote for Player of the Year, regardless of what happens,'' PGA Tour player Tim Petrovic said going into the tournament. "He's just been the most consistent guy. Every time he tees it up he's in the top five or 10. He's there every single week. Even when he starts out bad, he's there. He's tough.''

Singh had just one finish outside of the top-10 since early July and ended the season with eight consecutive top-6 finishes. He contended at the British Open and won two tournaments in that stretch. His last five tournaments on the PGA Tour were 1-2-1-2-5. Without Woods winning Sunday, Singh had the money title clinched.

"It's probably the biggest accomplishment that I've had in my career, especially at my age,'' said Singh, who may have momentarily forgotten about the PGA Championship and Masters he won. "As the year got long and I started playing better and better, that was my goal. And I accomplished that.''

Woods had said going into the tournament that Weir would get his vote if he won the Tour Championship. The only major championship winner among the four remaining candidates, Weir captured The Masters, along with the Bob Hope Classic and the Nissan Open. But he hasn't won since April, and although he posted top-10 finishes at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, he was never really a serious threat to win those tournaments. He also did not contend much over the past three months.

Love would have also been tough to ignore had he won the Tour Championship. His four victories include the Players Championship, as close to a major as there is. And he made a late push to try and win the money title, posting a couple of top-10s at the Funai Classic and Chrysler Championship, only to be overshadowed by Singh.

So the vote will likely come down to Woods and Singh, although Weir and Love will undoubtedly have their supporters.

"He's played very consistently, so you've got to look at that strongly,'' said Ernie Els of Singh. "Then you look at Tiger. He has five wins out of 18 events. That's pretty strong. So at the moment, I'm on the fence.''

He's probably not alone.

Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times, and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

ALSO SEE