Breaking Down the Top Candidates for 2013 Golfer of the Year

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2013

Breaking Down the Top Candidates for 2013 Golfer of the Year

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    Jason Dufner has joined the club.

    With his victory in the PGA Championship last weekend, Dufner took the last of the four major championships in 2013 and put his name into contention for Golfer of the Year honors.

    From our perspective, there are seven candidates who can be mentioned in the conversation. While some observers believe that Phil Mickelson has clinched the title based on his stellar British Open final-round performance—he shot a stellar 66—the award could end up going to the FedEx Cup winner.

    Here's our current ranking for the honor.

7. Brandt Snedeker

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    Brandt Snedeker continues to be one of the most consistent players on the tour. After earning nearly $5 million last year and winning two tournaments, he has nearly won the exact same amount this year, and he has won two tournaments again.

    Snedeker seems to have an easy-going, move-on-to-the-next-shot approach that works well for him in every tournament that he plays—except the majors.

    The only thing keeping Snedeker from having a higher ranking on this list is the noticeable drop in play at each of the four biggest tournaments of the year.

    Snedeker tied for sixth in the Masters, but he did not make the top 10 in any of the other majors. He tied for 66th in the PGA.

    Snedeker hits 67.23 percent of all greens in regulation and is seventh on the tour with an average of 3.98 birdies per round.

6. Justin Rose

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    Justin Rose got off to a very solid start this year, with three top-10 performances in his first four tournaments, including a second-place finish in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March.

    His signature performance came in the U.S. Open, when he recorded a one-over-par 281 and came away with his first major championship. Rose took advantage of mistakes by Phil Mickelson and made the most of his opportunities.

    Since winning the U.S. Open, Rose has not been near the top of his game. He has not finished better than 13th and he failed to make the cut at the British Open. He was not much of a factor in the PGA Championship, either.

    Rose would need a stellar run in the FedEx Cup playoffs to have a legitimate chance at Player of the Year honors.

5. Jason Dufner

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    Jason Dufner had the highlight moment of his year—and his career—when he shot a 68 in the final round and earned his first major in last weekend's PGA Championship.

    Dufner set the tone for winning the Wanamaker Trophy when he fired a 63 in the second round and was one putt on the 18th hole from having the best scoring round in a major championship. While he did not get that, he was thrilled with his rock-solid win in the season's fourth major.

    Dufner showed signs that he was starting to improve when he tied for fourth in the U.S. Open. He also tied for fourth in the Bridgestone Invitational, the week before his win at Oak Hill.

    However, prior to the U.S. Open, Dufner was struggling. He had three top-20 performances in 15 tournaments and failed to make the cut twice.

    He has a long way to go to become Player of the Year, but if he can pick up a win in the FedEx Cup playoffs, he will increase his chances.

4. Matt Kuchar

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    It's been a sensational year for Matt Kuchar. He is second in FedEx points to Tiger Woods, he has earned more than $5 million and he has won two tournaments.

    Kuchar has risen to the occasion when he has had the opportunity, and he has played consistently as well. Kuchar has made the cut in all 19 of the tournaments he has entered.

    Kuchar made a run at winning the Masters, but a final round of 73 left him in a tie for eighth place. He was mediocre in the U.S. Open, British Open and the PGA Championship.

    Kuchar may be the best player on the tour who does not have a major title to his credit. He certainly has the game to win one. He is an excellent putter who dominates from the greenside bunkers. With just a bit more accuracy off the tee, he would have every chance to win his first major.

    Look out for Kuchar in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

3. Tiger Woods

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    Let's just put this out there from the start. If Tiger Woods had found a way to win one of the four majors this year, he would be running away with the Player of the Year honors.

    He has won five tournaments, and he has seven top-10 finishes in the 12 events he has played. He is the leader in FedEx Cup points and money earned on the tour with nearly $7.7 million. He has made the cut in every event he has played.

    But Tiger's standard is all about winning majors. Not coming close or playing well in them, but winning. He has not done so since the 2008 U.S. Open, and although he won't acknowledge it, the pressure in the big events has been getting to him recently, especially this year.

    He tied for fourth in the Masters and sixth in the British Open. When he had a chance to climb the ladder on the weekends of both of those events, he stumbled. He was not a factor in the U.S. Open or PGA Championship.

    While he could still come away with Player of the Year honors, he won't be overly pleased at the conclusion of 2013 because he did not win a major.

2. Adam Scott

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    Adam Scott has had a tremendous year on the PGA Tour.

    He won the Masters with a dramatic birdie putt on the second playoff hole against Angel Cabrera. He has made the cut in all 12 events he has played, and he has made the top 25 in eight of those events.

    No golfer has done better in the majors than Scott. The 33-year-old Aussie tied for third in the British Open and tied for fifth in the PGA Championship. He was a sluggish 45th in the U.S. Open, but no other golfer came close to a win and two other top-five performances in the majors.

    Scott is one of the best and most consistent ball strikers on the tour. He gets distance and accuracy off the tee and from the fairways. With just a bit of an upgrade in his putting (ranks 95th in strokes gained putting), Scott could become one of the most intimidating players on the tour.

1. Phil Mickelson

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    Phil Mickelson had hoped to make it two majors in one year when he arrived at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., for the PGA Championship, but his game never got into gear.

    Still, that doesn't take away from the fantastic show he has put on in 2013. In addition to his stellar victory in the British Open, Mickelson has one other tour win, two second-place finishes and two third-place finishes.

    That does not include his victory in the Scottish Open the week prior to his memorable triumph in the British Open.

    Mickelson has always had a wide array of shots and skills on the golf course, but he seems to have tempered his go-for-broke mentality with some good judgement. He seemed a bit more conservative (through Golf Channel) in the British Open triumph than he has in the past, and that led to his final round 66 that earned him the title at challenging Muirfield.

    Mickelson should be in an excellent position to assert himself in the FedEx Cup playoffs. If he can put on a solid performance, he appears to be the front runner for player of the year honors.