NEW YORK (AP) — Winning the final PGA Tour event of the year could lead to Davis Love III winning his first award on a vote of the players.
The 16-man Players Advisory Council and four player-directors on the PGA Tour policy board have nominated Love, Rocco Mediate and Dudley Hart as candidates for comeback player of the year.
Limited by back injuries, Mediate lost a 19-hole playoff to Tiger Woods in the U.S. Open and had another top 10 at the Memorial to finish 74th on the money list, his best year since 2003.
Hart missed most of last year during his wife’s illness tending to his triplets, played this year on a family crisis extension and made it to the Tour Championship for the first time since 1999. He had six top-10s, including a runner-up finish at the BMW Championship which enabled him to finish 12th in the FedEx Cup.
Love is the only winner among the candidates, going 64-64 on the weekend at Disney for his 20th career victory. He was recovering from ankle surgery that kept him out of golf for four months and out of contention until the final month of the season. All three of his top 10s came during the Fall Series.
A more compelling vote might be for rookie of the year.
The five candidates are Dustin Johnson, Chez Reavie, Andres Romero, Kevin Streelman and Marc Turnesa, with all but Streelman winning a PGA Tour event. Reavie (Canada) and Romero (New Orleans) won events that awarded full FedEx Cup points.
No rookie had a better season than Romero, the Argentine who made the cut in all four majors (with top 10s in two of them) and finished 36th on the money list, the highest of the rookie nominees. He also was the only rookie at the Tour Championship.
It will be interesting to see whether players regard him as a pure rookie. Romero, 27, has played on the European Tour and nearly won the British Open last year at Carnoustie.
SERGIO’S YEAR: Sergio Garcia won a career-high four times in 2001 (twice each on the PGA and European tours), although this is considered his best season ever. The best evidence comes from the world ranking, and not just because the Spaniard is now No. 2.
Garcia earned 400.62 points this year, second only to Tiger Woods.
His only PGA Tour victory came at The Players Championship, but he also won the Castello Masters on his home course in Spain and the HSBC Champions against a strong field in China. He finished at No. 4 on the PGA Tour money list and No. 9 on the Order of Merit in Europe, and he won the Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average.
But his best golf came in the last three months.
Starting with the PGA Championship, where he tied for second at Oakland Hills, Garcia played eight times and finished out of the top five only once, a tie for 20th at the BMW Championship in St. Louis. He lost in a playoff at The Barclays and at the Tour Championship.
The question now is whether he can resume his pace early next year, starting in Abu Dhabi, and catch the idle Woods at No. 1. Garcia currently has an 8.59 average and is 5.2 points behind – the same gap between Garcia and No. 24 in the ranking.
Woods probably won’t return from his knee surgery before March 1, at which point he will be at 9.38.
“It’s possible, mainly because he’s been injured,” Garcia said after winning in China. “But we know that as soon as he comes out, he’s going to play well and he’s going to become quite tough, and he seems to get away from us a little bit. But I’ve never been this close to No. 1, and it’s exciting to be there.”
DRIVE FOR SHOW: In another example that most players will take a good week of putting over hitting it prodigious lengths, PGA Tour information whiz Dave Lancer came up with the following statistic.
He compiled winners of tournaments on the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour and found that they led the field in putting 16 times. The winner led the field in driving distance only twice.
Meanwhile, 13 players averaged more than 300 yards in driving distance this year, the lowest number since nine players averaged more than 300 yards in 2003. Three years ago, 26 players averaged more than 300 yards off the tee.
TOO GOOD TO MISS: Kevin Sutherland finished a career-best 18th on the PGA Tour money list, the first time he has been in the top 50 since his lone tour victory in 2002 at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
That makes him eligible for another World Golf Championship, and a trip to a course he hasn’t seen his rookie season.
What now is called the CA Championship was played in Ireland the last time Sutherland was eligible. It since has moved to the Blue Monster at Doral. Sutherland rarely plays in Florida, but he’s not about to pass up an $8.5 million purse.
Sutherland missed the cut in 1996 after rounds of 71-74 on a Blue Monster that measured 6,939 yards. Since then, it has gone through a redesign to enhance the bunkers, another redesign after the changes were criticized, and it now is 7,266 yards.
“I played it before the changes,” Sutherland recalls. “Then they did that first redesign, and I remember everyone didn’t like it. I didn’t like it before the changes, so I didn’t see any reason to go back.”
DIVOTS: Bob Tway led the PGA Tour in putts per greens in regulation with a 1.718 average. At age 49, he became the oldest players to lead the tour in any statistical category. … Oskar Henningsson won the final stage of European tour qualifying on Tuesday as 32 players earned their tour cards for 2009. Among those earning a card was former Ryder Cup player Andrew Coltart. … Of the rookies who finished among the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list, four came from Q-school and four came from the Nationwide Tour.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The Masters was the only major that did not finish in the top 10 toughest courses on the PGA Tour this year.
FINAL WORD: “The only person he has ever been unkind to is himself.” – David Feherty, speaking about John Daly.