European TourDecember 4, 2015

Byeong-hun An tops Anirban Lahiri and Matt Fitzpatrick in historic Rookie of the Year race

PGA Tour players had a tough choice between Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas when it came time to pick this season's Rookie of the Year. However, it was nothing compared to the decision faced by those voting for the European Tour's version.

Once again, it was a virtual toss-up, only this time, the race involved three rookies, all of whom had more impressive credentials on their respective tour than those produced by winner Berger and runner-up Thomas. Byeong-hun An wound up winning the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award, which is determined by three votes -- one from the European Tour CEO, one from the R&A CEO, and one from the media -- to become the first Asian to do so and end a two-year run of American winners (Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein).

But did he deserve it? Here's a look at the case for each candidate:

Byeong-hun An: An, 24, made a rookie record 2.2 million pounds. Actually, all three candidates broke the rookie earnings record, but An made the most. He had seven top 10s and one win, which came at one of the tour's premier events, the BMW PGA Championship. An finished strong with three top-four finishes in the four final events of the Race to Dubai to finish seventh in those standings.

Matthew Fitzpatrick: If there was an award for just the second half of the year, the 21-year-old Brit would have won easily. Starting in June, Fitzpatrick rattled off six top-three finishes, including his first win at the British Masters. He also finished T-4 in the season finale at Dubai. After ending 2014 at No. 416 in the world, Fitzpatrick moved into the top 50.

Anirban Lahiri: The oldest of the bunch at 28, Lahiri was technically a rookie on the European Tour despite already having several strong seasons on the Asian Tour under his belt. Perhaps, that hurt him since he didn't win this award despite being the only rookie to win twice this season. Lahiri also finished T-5 at the PGA Championship and played in the Presidents Cup. In other words, he's a lot more than "that guy who did that press conference with Tiger Woods."

As you can see, the Euro Tour boasted a fine crop of players, made even more impressive by the fact that An and Fitzpatrick are also former U.S. Amateur champs. The future looks bright for all three, and you really could have flipped a coin to determine the winner of this award. Well, if a coin had three sides. You get the point.


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