Tiger Woods won the PGA Tour Player of the Year award for an unprecedented 11th time on Friday.
When asked by USA Today who has had the best 2013, Bill Haas—2011 FedEx Cup champion—said, "Tiger Woods, he's won five times, pretty easy answer there."
There is perhaps no greater feeling than gaining accolades from one’s peers. Just ask Sally Field.
That is how Tiger felt after receiving this award from his.
"It's been an incredible year to have won five times, two of those World Golf Championships and one Players," Tiger told the Associated Press (via ESPN). "It's been just a fantastic year all around. It's also an incredible feeling to be voted by your peers, and to have that type of respect is something that's very humbling."
In a year that featured a number of players playing great, Tiger was rewarded for recording five wins and a return to No. 1 in the world rankings while leading all players with $8.6 million in prize money.
No, he did not win that most coveted 15th major, but he was dominant statistically, played well at the Masters (tied for fourth) and the British Open (tied for sixth) and reclaimed some of the swagger and intimidation that he had seemingly left behind.
By voting him as the year's best, players clearly took note of Tiger returning to form. They know just how tough it is to win on the Tour, and they certainly know how tough it is to play against Tiger.
The players showed their appreciation for Tiger’s five Tour wins, which were three more than Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson, all of whom were contenders for the award.
When viewed in hindsight, Tiger’s year may be likened to the proverbial chocolate sundae without the cherry.Even though he failed to top his year with a major title, he was a threat every time he teed it up.
Tiger's desire to win a major should not preclude him from being the best overall player if he fails to do so.
Tiger’s wins came throughout the year beginning with the Farmer’s Insurance Open in January, two wins in March at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a win in June at the coveted Players Championship and then in August at WGC–Bridgestone Invitational. He then almost won The Barclays where he tied for second.
Entering the FedEx Cup playoffs, he was ranked No. 1, and although he had a relatively mediocre showing, he still could have walked away with the Cup if not for the hot-shooting Stenson. As it was, he finished second.
FedEx Cup champ Stenson may have been the most worthy recipient of the POY next to Tiger, but he will probably receive the Comeback Player of the Year award instead.
For a guy who had virtually disappeared from the world rankings, Stenson—ranked 53rd in January—revived his game with two wins and eight top-10 finishes (including a tie for second at the British Open and a third place finish at the PGA Championship).
The sentimental pick for the POY award was undoubtedly Mickelson who put together one of the great runs of his career.
He finished second for a record sixth time at the U.S. Open then followed that with back-to-back wins at the Scottish Open and the British Open, the latter coming when he shot a magical 66 during the final round to soar past Tiger and Stenson.
Mickelson couldn’t sustain his effort down the stretch, however, and his year, while memorable, was not worthy of the POY award.
Scott, another top contender for the award, redeemed himself with his brilliant Masters win, which elevated him into the top rung of the world’s best players.
His year was the most consistent, including 16 straight tournaments without missing a cut and finishing in the top 25 in 10 of those events. He made an early run at the FedEx Cup by winning The Barclays yet faded in the playoffs after that.
In light of these stellar performances, Tiger’s accomplishments look that much greater. In typical Tiger fashion, his five wins in 16 tournaments amount to a win rate of just about 30 percent, far and away the best on the tour.
Statistically, he was golden, finishing first in all-around ranking and second in scoring average. He also finished in the top 25 in both greens in regulation and strokes gained putting.
Golf’s Player of the Year award can be likened to the MVP in other sports. Michael Jordan won the NBA’s version five times, which pales next to Tiger’s record.
It is amazing that there are some who view the choice of Tiger as suspect. Sure, it would have been nice if one of the other guys won, but no other player dominated the sport like Tiger. And his goal is to dominate it even more next year, per the Golf Channel's Jason Sobel:
Tiger Woods on next season: "The goal is to win each and every event I tee it up in." If he did, that would end any POY debate, I believe.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) September 27, 2013
It has been four long and tumultuous years since Tiger won his last POY award, and it signals something far greater than peer recognition.
Even more profound than his five Tour wins or his consistently sound performance is that Tiger has rediscovered his game and pushed back any questions regarding his ability to win at the highest level.
Going into 2014 and beyond, it should be apparent once again that it is not a question of whether he will win another major but when and how many.