Kicking Off The Awards Season
From Tim Finchem's overseeing a new television contract to Paul Goydos' critical tweet about his teetering game, 2011 was a year to celebrate on tour
The ballot is in. I've tallied up my votes. Each selection was carefully assessed in the place where I do most of my best thinking. Herewith are the unofficial Golf World PGA Tour Year-End Awards, presented by Charmin Ultra-Soft.
Yeah, that's right, the season is over. The Fall Finish is mere raspberry sorbet after the main course called the FedEx Cup season.
Complaints can be submitted to youropinionmattersverylittle.com.
Player of the Year: Tim Finchem. We ask you, who had a better season than this guy? The PGA Tour commissioner signed up Humana and former President Bill Clinton for Hope and change, golf edition, and also saved the popular Hilton Head Island stop. But the big dig came when Finchem mined television gold one more time, negotiating deals with the networks through 2021 and proving yet again that he is one of the most clutch major performers in all of sports.
Golfer of the Year: Webb Simpson. You can make an argument for Luke Donald or Keegan Bradley, but Simpson was a nearly imperceptible dimple turn away from three victories in his breakout season. We are referring to the penalty he called on himself at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans after gusting winds moved his ball about a quarter of an inch as he was addressing it on the 15th green the final day. He held a one-stroke lead over Bubba Watson at the time and ended up losing in a playoff. Aside from a missed cut at the PGA Championship, Simpson's worst finish in his last 12 starts was 22nd at the Tour Championship, and he was only out of the top 25 five times all season. And he led the tour in actual scoring average at 69.31.
Guru of the Year: Chubby Chandler. Phil Mickelson has taken young players under his wing, including Dustin Johnson, Brendan Steele and PGA champion Bradley, and given them some tools to succeed. And they have. But super agent Chandler is as much a coach, cheerleader and psychologist as he is an advisor. He oversees the affairs of the men who claimed the first three major championships of the year: Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke.
Rookie of the Year: Bradley. Don't want to hear about no Schwartzel, who won the Masters in his 17th major championship start.
Tournament of the Year: The Masters. Eight players held at least a share of the lead on the back nine Sunday. McIlroy suffered an epic meltdown while showing television viewers a portion of the Augusta National property they hadn't seen before. Tiger Woods had a cameo role as Tiger Woods with a front-nine surge before watching his hopes drown in a puddle of short putts. Finally, Schwartzel emerged from the pack by closing with four straight birdies, a historic flourish.
Performance of the Year: McIlroy, U.S. Open, Congressional CC. The Ulsterman set more than a dozen records in his wire-to-wire win, including his mind-boggling 16-under 268 aggregate score. At 22, he became the youngest champion in the event since Bobby Jones in 1923. It took McIlroy only 26 holes to reach double digits under par, fastest ever, and he was only the seventh winner to own sole possession of the lead after every round. Say what you want about a softened and vulnerable Blue course abetting McIlroy's assault, but the next best score was eight strokes in arrears.
Comeback Player of the Year: David Toms. He even pulled off a comeback within his comeback season, winning at Colonial the week after blowing the Players with an ill-advised shot on the 70th hole. Shot of the Year: People tend to favor that which is freshest in their minds, so Bill Haas' chip shot from the edge of the water on the second playoff hole at the Tour Championship will receive kudos from the short-attention-span crowd. But our choice for SOTY is Schwartzel's 75-foot chip-in on the first hole at Augusta National GC, which ignited a final round that included a hole-out for eagle at the third and that remarkable surge to the finish line.
Schlock of the Year: McIlroy's attempt on the third hole of the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club to uproot a tree with his 7-iron.
Putt of the Year: Bradley, 71st hole, PGA Championship. His 40-foot birdie at AAC was the kind of destiny-making stroke that defines a champion. The son of a PGA professional, Bradley rallied from a triple bogey two holes earlier and reeled in Jason Dufner. He eventually won in a playoff. Oh, by the way, it also was the signature moment of the year for the belly putter, which, like Bradley, became a first-time major winner.
Old Tom Watson Award: Tom Watson. First, he won the Senior PGA Championship, the oldest player to win a major on the Champions Tour. But so what? We know he can beat the geezers. What impressed was that Watson, 61, once again was a viable competitor at the British Open two years after his heart-breaking but amazing runner-up finish at Turnberry. An ace at the sixth in the second round at windswept Royal St. George's -- "Old guys hit 4-irons 160 yards into the wind," he chided -- spurred him to a 70 and on the fringe of contention. He finished T-22 and beat the reigning U.S. Open champ McIlroy by a stroke.
Round of the Year: Patrick Cantlay's 60 in the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands, the lowest for an amateur in a tour event. Cantlay, 19, a sophomore at UCLA, ended up T-24, one of his four straight top-25s in as many tour starts. At one juncture this year, he led the tour in scoring, unofficially, of course.
Save of the year: Royal Bank of Canada. The players were universal in their pleas to save the event at Harbour Town GL on Hilton Head Island, and RBC stepped up with a three-year deal.
Quote of the Year: "I've caddied for 33 years -- 145 wins now -- and that's the best win I've ever had." -- Steve Williams, former caddie for Woods, after his new boss, Adam Scott, won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Tweet of the Year: "Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad! Pretty much sums up my game." -- @PaulGoydosPGA.