When it comes to measuring candidates for player of the year, one should focus on the tournaments that mean the most and have the strongest fields. To some, Tiger Woods falls short because he failed to win any of the major championships, but to be fair – and a lot of folks aren’t when it concerns Woods – you need to throw the net out a little wider.
The Official World Golf Ranking assigns what it calls an “event rating” to all the professional tournaments, which measures the strength of field. When you use the OWGR rating system to select the 10 deepest fields of the year, it offers a clear indication that Woods would have to be considered the leading candidate for player of the year honors.
The PGA Championship will have the highest rating of any 2013 event, at 915, following in order by the Open Championship, the U.S. Open, The Players Championship, the Masters, the Bridgestone Invitational, the WGC Cadillac Championship, the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship, then each of the first two FedEx Cup playoffs, The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Forget for a minute that Woods has won five times this year; consider that three of them came in tournaments that ranked in the top 10 for toughest and deepest fields. He won The Players, which ranked fourth, and a pair of WGCs, the Bridgestone (sixth) and Cadillac (seventh). Only Adam Scott (Masters, which ranked fifth; Barclays, ninth) won more than once from these select events.
The other winners of tournaments that featured the 10 deepest fields were Phil Mickelson, Open Championship; Jason Dufner, PGA; Justin Rose, U.S. Open; Matt Kuchar, Accenture; and Henrik Stenson, Deutsche Bank.
If you take those seven players and consider how each of them did in these 10 marquee tournaments, you will find some stretches of excellence, but again, the edge goes to Woods. He played in all 10 of those tournaments and besides his three wins, he was top five five times and top 10 six times. Scott and Stenson – who, like Woods, played in all 10 – were both top five in five of these tournaments, while Kuchar and Mickelson had three each.
Of these seven players, only Mickelson (who skipped the match-play party) and Stenson (he wasn’t eligible for the Cadillac) missed one of these tournaments and clearly they were the seven most consistent and successful players of the year.
Curiously, of this elite group, only Kuchar, who won, did well in the Accenture Match Play Championship. Woods, Scott, Dufner and Stenson lost in Round 1, Rose bowed out in Round 2, and Mickelson was on vacation.
They had a show of force in the Open Championship, however, because coming in behind Mickelson’s win were Stenson in second, Scott a T-3 and Woods in a share of sixth.
The Barclays, too, was impressive, with Scott winning, Woods and Rose sharing a piece of second, and Mickelson making that charge to finish joint sixth.
Let the final two FEC playoff tournaments play out. If Scott or Mickelson win another one and capture the top prize, then give them your vote and let your conscience be clear. But Woods’ excellence in the 10 top tournaments makes him the present frontrunner.