Harrington voted PGA Tour player of the year

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif.(AP) Winning back-to-back majors was the highlight of Padraig Harrington’s career. He felt winning the PGA Tour player of the year award Tuesday was just as significant.

Harrington, only the fourth player to win the British Open and PGA Championship in the same season, became the first European player to win the PGA Tour award since it began in 1990.

“It has been a fantastic season individually out there, winning a couple of majors,” Harrington said in a conference call from Ireland. “At the time you win them, you certainly feel that nothing could compare to it. But to be honest, there is no greater accolade than to receive an award from your peers.

“Because it’s the players, because it’s my peers, because they’re people that I care and am concerned about their opinions deeply, for them to choose me as their player of the year is very special,” he said. “It compares equally to winning a major championship.”

Andres Romero of Argentina was voted rookie of the year, while Dudley Hart received comeback player of the year. In other awards, Bernhard Langer was Champions Tour player of the year, with Brendan de Jonge winning the Nationwide Tour award.

Harrington presumably beat out Tiger Woods, who won four times and didn’t finish worse than fifth in his six tournaments before season-ending knee surgery in June. Woods won the U.S. Open and still finished second on the money list.

The PGA Tour does not disclose vote totals. Vijay Singh, Camilo Villegas and Kenny Perry also were on the ballot for player of the year.

Harrington said he abstained from voting, because he didn’t think it was proper to vote for himself, yet wanted to win the award badly enough that he didn’t want to vote for anyone else.

He felt Woods has set such a high standard that voting worked in Harrington’s favor.

“If I had done what Tiger had done this year, I would have won player of the year, if you can understand what I’m saying,” Harrington said. “It’s the baggage he brought into the year and the fact that he is as talented as he is and has done as well as he has that would lead players to look to somebody like myself, who has had an exceptional year.

“I think in some ways, the fact that I had an exceptional year has swayed the vote toward me, whereas Tiger’s phenomenal year is just what we’re used to with Tiger Woods.”

Romero was among four rookies who won PGA Tour events this year, but he exceeded the others on many fronts. Romero, who won in New Orleans, was the only rookie to play in the Tour Championship. And he was among only 11 players to make the cut in all four majors, finishing in the top 10 twice.

“This year helped me realize that I can play at the same level as the best players in the world,” Romero said. “And hopefully, I can continue on that path.”

Hart missed most of 2007 when doctors found a softball-sized lump in his wife’s lung that had cancer cells. He tended to their triplets during her surgery and recovery, and while he didn’t win this year, did well enough to finish 29th on the money list, matching his highest ranking since 1999.

“It’s nice to be voted by your peers,” Hart said. “But there’s two sides to this. It means I didn’t do very well the previous year. Hopefully, this is the last time I get this award.”

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