If Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy can unseat current Deutsche Bank Championship 2012 leader Louis Oosthuizen, he will have made a strong argument for the PGA Player of the Year award.
Both players have had successful years on the tour. The Player of the Year award distinguishes the top performer of the season and the honor will ultimately come down to the American or the Northern Irishman.
At the TPC Boston in Norton, MA, McIlroy (-16) sits in second place and three shots off the lead while Woods (-13) is tied for third and six shots behind the leader, Oosthuizen.
A win in Boston or at either of the next two FedEx Cup tournaments, the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indiana or the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, GA, would certainly lock in the Player of the Year award for one of the two golfers.
How they stack up relative to each other will also likely have an impact in deciding who will display the award from their mantle in the offseason.
Woods and McIlroy are first and second, respectively, on the money list for the 2012 season, separated by a mere $17K.
Rory has taken home seven top-10 finishes to Tiger's six, and he has done it in three less events. They both have placed within the top-3 five times.
Tiger has Rory's number in first place finishes this season with three, while Rory has only topped the leaderboard twice. However, one of McIlroy's two wins was his compelling and downright dominant eight-stroke victory at the PGA Championship.
With a major under his belt, one has to give Rory the current edge for the Player of the Year award.
That being said, if Tiger can harness his focus and grind out a fourth tournament win, he will make a defining claim at the prize.
We all know it can be done. Remember the 2008 U.S. Open when Tiger beat Rocco Mediate on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff after an 18-hole playoff for his 14th major title—and all on one leg?
If that's not a case of Tiger's perseverance and will to win, I don't know what is.
In comparing important statistics from the 2012 Tour season, Tiger holds the edge over Rory in most categories.
Through the end of the Barclays last weekend, Woods ranked 34th in greens hit in regulation. He finds the carpet in regulation 66.77 percent of the time, while Rory ranked a bit lower at 50th (66.01 percent).
Rory is sixth on the Tour in driving distance, ripping the ball 310 yards on average. Woods has expressed his recent lack of distance on drives and sits tied for 38th, averaging 297 yards per drive.
However, there is a payoff. Many golfers would rather have accuracy than distance on their drives and Tiger bests Rory in this statistic. Woods has hit 64.89 percent (41st) of fairways off the tee, which is significantly better than 56.63 percent (155th) for McIlroy.
Finally, a fairly new metric is the strokes gained putting number, which was designed to more accurately portray a player's putting efficiency.
A somewhat complicated number to compute, the PGA Tour Staff at PGATour.com describe it as:
Strokes Gained-Putting, however, takes into account putting proficiency from various distances and computes the difference between a player's performance on every green—the number of strokes needed to hole out—against the performance of the other players for each round. This ultimately shows how many strokes are gained or lost due to putting for a particular round, for a tournament and over the course of a year.
Tiger fares better in this category as well, recording a .317 average (41st) to Rory's -.078 (120th).
The Player of the Year award is very important for both Tiger and Rory at this point in each of their careers.
Tiger's 10th award would reestablish his name on the Tour and rekindle his confidence as he chases Jack Nicklaus' 18 major championships.
For Rory, the distinction would solidify himself as one of the top golfers in world, accompanied by his current No. 1 world ranking. The honor would also depict his consistent play and earn him the respect of veteran golfers, if he hasn't earned it already.
Both golfers would obviously love the recognition of being named the Player of the Year. With one more win for either player, that honor will become a reality.
If neither golfer wins another tournament, expect Rory to be crowned. Sure, Tiger looks like the better player based off of statistics, but a major title for McIlroy and his reemergence in 2012 should be enough to take the cake.
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