By Alex Myers
Tiger Woods' valiant effort at the Barclays came up just short on Sunday at Liberty National. It could wind up being the difference in the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award race as well.
Adam Scott's win has made the Aussie a serious contender with three playoff events left to play. Here's a rundown of where the top candidates stand right now.
In his favor: Five wins, including the Players and two World Golf Championships. Woods also leads the PGA Tour in scoring average and his victory total is more than double his nearest competitor.
__Knock against him:__While Woods has had by far his best season since 2009, he still wasn't able to end his drought in major championships. That goose egg has left the door open for others.
Needs to happen: Not much, which is a good thing for Woods, who was clearly bothered by a bad back down the stretch at Liberty National. Instead, his fate rests more in what others around him do. Specifically, Woods probably can't afford any of 2013's major winners walking away with the FedEx Cup. Despite no major titles, Woods is still the favorite at this point to pick up an 11th Player of the Year Award. Another win would make it a lock.
In his favor: A green jacket and a win to start the FedEx Cup Playoffs at the Barclays, in which he topped Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Gary Woodland and Graham DeLaet by one thanks to a Sunday 66 at Liberty National. Scott also played the four major championships better overall than anyone else. Of the 13 players who made the cut in all four, he tied with Jason Day with the best aggregate score (Two-over-par total). He also became the first player since Padraig Harrington in 2008 to have three top-five finishes in golf's marquee events in the same year.
Knock against him: He only has two wins, perhaps in part due to a sparse schedule.
Needs to happen: If Scott wins another playoff event and/or claims the FedEx Cup trophy, he would be tough to catch. Cue the "Steve Williams has won the most FedEx Cups" jokes if that happens.
In his favor: A claret jug and a win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Knock against him: It's tough to criticize anyone for finishing runner-up at the U.S. Open, but had Mickelson come through at Merion like he did at Muirfield, then we wouldn't even be having this discussion. Also, while his Scottish Open win was impressive, it wasn't a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
Needs to happen: Mickelson might not need to win his first FedEx Cup title to claim his first POY, but he'd have to pick up at least another victory to overtake Woods or Scott. Winning the Tour Championship like he did four years ago would probably accomplish both goals.
In his favor: Rose broke through for his first major championship at the U.S. Open in June. He also has two runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour this year.
Knock against him: One of those runner-up finishes came at the Barclays when he three-putted the final hole to miss out on a playoff with Scott by one shot. Had that gone a little differently, we'd be talking about him as the strongest challenger to Woods.
Needs to happen: Rose has to win at least one of the final three events and walk away with the FedEx Cup trophy to keep Europe's streak of two straight POYs (Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy) going.
In his favor: A Wanamaker Trophy that he won thanks to arguably the best ball-striking performance of the year.
Knock against him: The beginning of the season. It took Dufner awhile to regain the form that made him a breakout star in 2012, but since June he has T-4s at the U.S. Open and the Bridgestone Invitational to go with his victory at Oak Hill. But that first major of his career is also his lone win in 2013, meaning he has a lot of catching up to do.
Needs to happen: Dufner needs to win two of the final three playoff events and claim the FedEx Cup. Like his fellow major winners in 2013, he'd also need Woods to not win again.
In his favor: Wins at the WGC-Match Play and the Memorial. Runner-ups at Colonial and the Canadian Open. A perfect 20-for-20 in cuts made and sixth on tour in scoring average
Knock against him: Although Kuchar's two wins came in big events, he failed to win a major. He also hurt his case with a final-round 78 at the Barclays after being a 54-hole co-leader.
Needs to happen: A lot. Kuchar is a longshot, but what happens if he wins the last three events? Five wins, plus the FedEx Cup, might just be enough for his fellow players to vote for him instead of Woods. Some campaign buttons couldn't hurt, either.