PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida (AP) — Tiger Woods was half-joking a few months ago when he suggested that Steve Stricker would be his pick as U.S. PGA Tour comeback player of the year, even though Stricker won the award last year.
It could happen.
The tour award ballots went in the mail last week to players, and Stricker is one of three candidates as comeback player of the year. The other two are Rocco Mediate, who finished 82nd on the money list after starting the season with a minor medical exemption; and Brian Bateman, who earned the final card out of Q-school and won the Buick Open.
Stricker won the award last year by starting 2006 with limited status and finishing 34th on the money list. He followed that by winning The Barclays for his first victory in more than six years, finishing second to Woods in the FedEx Cup, and moving to No. 4 in the world when his season ended.
Woods and Phil Mickelson were the two choices for U.S. PGA Tour player of the year, while the candidates for rookie of the year were Greensboro winner Brandt Snedeker, Las Vegas winner George McNeill, and Anthony Kim, who was 60th on the money list.
Players have 30 days to cast their votes, and the winners are expected to be announced on Dec. 11.
One U.S. PGA Tour policy board decision came two weeks too late for players who languished through a long weekend at Disney, where 89 players made the cut.
The board approved a change in 36-hole cuts to avoid such a large field on the weekend. Starting next year, the cut after two rounds will remain the top 70 professionals and ties. But if more than 78 players make the cut, only the closest number to 70 will make it to the weekend, and the others would be paid official, last-place money.
The board first discussed this policy in change in May, and two names that came up during the discussion were Brad Faxon and Jose Maria Olazabal. Both have made the cut on the number and went on to win the tournament – Faxon in 2005 at Hartford, Connecticut, and Olazabal in 2002 at Torrey Pines.
At Hartford, 77 players made the cut so Faxon would have kept playing on his way to a 65-61 weekend. In Olazabal’s case, however, 89 players made the cut. He would have gone home with last-place money instead of shooting 67-65.
Fred Couples was entitled to a major medical exemption for 2008, but instead elected to take his one-time exemption for being in the top 25 in U.S. tour career money. Couples is at No. 20, and might not be in the top 25 much longer. … The Golf Coaches Association of America has selected Arnold Palmer for its Lifetime Achievement Award. Palmer will be only the third non-coach inducted into the GCAA Hall of Fame, joining Karsten Solheim and Byron Nelson. … The 2011 U.S. Senior Open will be held at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.