NAPLES, Fla. (AP) – Tiger Woods was on the ballot when the PGA Tour began voting on its annual awards, but only in one category.
Even though Woods missed four months with an Achilles heel injury last season, failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs and finished out of the top 125 on the money list for the first time in his career, he is not under consideration as PGA Tour comeback player of the year.
(Related Photos: Classic pictures of Tiger Woods)
Neither is anyone else, for that matter.
The tour has changed the definition of the award, which began in 1991 and over the years had been given to players who came back from injury (Steve Jones, Steve Pate), a life-threatening illness (Paul Azinger) and bad play (long list, but notably Steve Stricker – twice).
Now it will be awarded to a player “who through courage and perseverance has overcome extraordinary adversity, such as a personal tragedy or debilitating illness, to make a significant and meaningful contribution to the game of golf.''
The award will be determined by PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and the four players on the policy board, assuming there is a candidate.
It is not unprecedented for no one to win the award: There was no one on the ballot in 2009 and 2011. That's partly due to what now has become a running joke, with Stricker becoming the only player to win the comeback award in consecutive years – in 2006 after he started the year with limited status and was considered for the Ryder Cup team, and in 2007 when he won a FedEx Cup playoff event and was No. 4 on the money list.
(Related Photos: Tiger's Major Championship victories)
Andy Pazder, the tour's chief of operations, said potential candidates down the road could include Jarrod Lyle, who is in Australia recovering from a recurrence of leukemia, or even someone like Chris Smith, whose life suffered a crushing setback when his wife was killed in a car crash.
For Woods – and J.B. Holmes, who had brain surgery last year – there was little doubt they were going to return to play.
Rory McIlroy is virtually a lock to be voted PGA Tour player of the year after winning four times, including an eight-shot victory at the PGA Championship and back-to-back wins in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He also won the money title (in the U.S. and in Europe) and the Vardon Trophy.
John Huh is the leading candidate for rookie of the year. He won in Mexico in an opposite-field event, which wasn't nearly as impressive as Ted Potter Jr. winning The Greenbrier Classic. What is in Huh's favor is that he started the FedEx Cup playoffs at No. 25 and was the only the rookie to make it to the Tour Championship.
RYDER CUP: The PGA of America has a new chief executive and a new president, and it might not be long before it picks a new Ryder Cup captain. Davis Love III has some insight on the selection, at least one aspect of it.
“I can guarantee you it won't be me,'' Love said after he finished his final round of the year at Disney.
Love's name surfaced not long after Europe's amazing rally at Medinah. The Americans have not had a captain serve more than once since Jack Nicklaus in 1987, and the last U.S. captain to do it twice in a row was Ben Hogan in 1947 and 1949. Love said he hadn't been asked, and he wouldn't be interested.
At least not for 2014.
“I love my team; I love the way they played, everything they did,'' he said. “If I had another chance, the only thing I'd change is winning. It would almost be wrong for the guys who played for me and played so hard and so well … to try to make up for it. I don't think it would be good. Maybe down the road if they had a gap.''
Love doesn't understand why the PGA of America is hung up on a captain being in his late 40s, or having won a major. He has yet to figure out how winning a major translates into being a good captain. He said players argued for Jay Haas immediately after the 2004 Ryder Cup. Love figures with the Champions Tour, television and news coverage, the older players still know what's going on.
David Toms, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson appeared to be logical candidates for the next several years. After that?
“If there's a gap where they don't have anybody who fits, and they asked me to do it 10 years from now, I'd do it – maybe,'' Love said. “Back to back? I don't think so.''
Q-SCHOOL: Scott Brown was a lonely figure on the putting green at Disney for the last two days after he missed the cut. He saw no point in going home. Brown was No. 144 on the money list, and if he dropped out of the top 150, he would have to go to the second stage of Q-school.
His projected number fell as low as No. 149, and he wound up at No. 148. He could go home for two weeks before heading out to the California desert for the final stage of the last Q-school that awards PGA Tour cards.
So many others were not so fortunate. Billy Hurley finished at No. 151 by $165. Mark Anderson was tied for the lead at one point Friday, but he fell back and didn't make up enough ground to avoid the second stage, which starts this week at six locations and is a critical step in getting back to the tour.
Those who don't make it have no status anywhere on tour, unless they are a past champion.
Among those entered in the 72-hole stage are major champions Todd Hamilton, Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel and Lee Janzen. Also entered are a pair of Europeans ranked in the top 50 (Jamie Donaldson and Alex Noren), a former Ryder Cup player from England (Ross Fisher), and K.T. Kim, who played in the Presidents Cup last year.
JOE DEY AWARD: The USGA has selected Taizo Kawata of Japan for its Joe Dey Award, making him the first non-American to win the annual award that recognizes volunteer service to golf.
Kawata first got involved with the USGA in 1981 as the color commentator for the Japanese television broadcast of the U.S. Open at Merion. He later joined the USGA Rules Committee and has been a rules official at the U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open for most of the last decade. He also helped establish the U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Japan in 2005. Kawata has been a member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club since 1990.
Kawata, who played baseball at Ohio State, will be honored Feb. 2 at the USGA annual meeting in San Diego.
DIVOTS: Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium and Peter Hanson of Sweden were among four international players who earned enough money to get full PGA Tour cards for next year. The others were David Lynn of England, the runner-up by eight shots at the PGA Championship, and Ryo Ishikawa. … The top 26 players in the world ranking are all PGA Tour members. … Steve Stricker says he struggled with his putter over the second half of the year, and one statistic shows that. In the “strokes gained'' category, Stricker fell to No. 67. He was No. 2 last year. … Justin Leonard (No. 9) and Jerry Kelly (No. 25) will be using one-time exemptions for being in the top 25 in career money to have a full PGA Tour card for 2013.
STAT OF THE WEEK: There were 67 tee shots of at least 400 yards on the PGA Tour this year, with 65 occurring at either Kapalua or Firestone. The exceptions were Retief Goosen on the seventh hole at Doral, and Kevin Kisner on the 18th hole at Sedgefield CC in the Wyndham Championship.
FINAL WORD: “I still have a lot of years ahead of me. I just don't want to be burned out. I don't want to get to the stage where I'm 30 years old or 35 years old and … I don't want to say, `Fed up with the game.' But it's a long time to be playing a sport. And I just want to pace myself.'' – Rory McIlroy.