McIlroy, Mickelson and the Top 20 Favorites for PGA Player of the Year

John BurkeContributor IAugust 3, 2011

McIlroy, Mickelson and the Top 20 Favorites for PGA Player of the Year

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    With only one Major remaining, it's pretty easy to say that the golf season is just about over for the PGA Tour. After the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club, the tour heads for the FedEx Cup playoffs before the 2011 campaign is in the rear-view mirror. 

    So far, in 2011, we have watched some very exciting golf.

    We have had numerous first-time winners on tour, we have had multiple players win two tournaments and we have seen some players from the past make a resurgence.

    Even with all this action, there is still a lot of golf left to be played. And while it is too early to name a PGA Tour Player of the Year (POY), a number of names are already being tossed about in the conversation. 

    Here are 20 players who have a chance to win the 2011 Player of the Year title!

1. Rory McIlroy

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    It should be no surprise to see Rory McIlroy's name tossed about as the PGA Tour Player of the Year. 

    If it not for an epic Sunday collapse at Augusta, McIlroy would own two Major trophies this year. As it sits now, McIlroy is already the proud owner of the U.S. Open trophy. 

    But it is not just that McIlroy won the U.S. Open—it is more about how he won the tournament. McIlroy did so in record fashion, making sure that a Masters repeat would not occur. 

    On top of that, McIlroy seems to be very well respected by his peers. And since the PGA Tour Player of the Year is peer voted, that will only help his chances. 

2. Phil Mickelson

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    If Phil Mickelson stepped up the way many expected in Tiger's absence, this article would be about how he has already secured the POY honors. 

    While he has struggled in the big tournaments, Phil has notched five Top 10 finishes this year, including one victory and two second-place finishes. 

    Not exactly fantastic, but Phil is not getting any younger and is putting together an impressive year. 

3. Mark Wilson

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    If Mark Wilson can find a way to grab another victory late this season, there is no doubt he will be the POY. 

    Already winning twice this year, Wilson is having the type of year that helps solid golfers make President and Ryder Cup teams.

    Both of his victories came very early in the season, and although he nabbed Top 10s at both Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer's tournaments, another victory this season would nearly secure POY honors. 

4. Bubba Watson

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    Bubba Watson seems to have garnered more attention for behavior off the course than his play on the course. That is a shame because, if you have been paying attention, Bubba is playing some darn good golf this season. 

    Watson also owns two victories this year to add to his five Top 25 finishes on the season. 

5. Luke Donald

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    Although Luke Donald has only one victory on the PGA Tour this year at the WGC-World Match Play Championships, the world's No. 1 player definitely deserves to be mentioned on this list. 

    While he will struggle to win POY with his current stats, if he grabs a victory late in the FedEx Cup, or even at the PGA Championship, we could easily see Donald win the title. 

6. Gary Woodland

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    Since 2009, Gary Woodland has seen his World Golf Ranking fall from 959th to 36th. When someone improves that greatly over such a short period, you know they are playing some very good golf.

    This season, Woodland has one victory to complement six Top 10 finishes. Early in 2011, it was almost guaranteed that Woodland would be in the Top 10 on almost every leaderboard. 

    If he keeps notching Top 10s, Woodland could surprise many and win POY.

7. Nick Watney

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    One of the top American golfers, Watney is showing the potential that made him a Top 10 golfer. 

    Watney has already won two big tournaments this year—at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the AT&T National. Those wins contribute to his eight Top 10s in just 12 made cuts. 

    If his good play continues, another victory is easily within reach for the young American. And with another victory, he may become the 2011 POY.

8. Steve Stricker

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    It was only a few years ago that Steve Stricker won Come-back Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons. I have no idea how a player can win that award two years in a row and, frankly, neither does Stricker. 

    In 13 made cuts this year, Stricker has five Top 10s, including two victories. 

    His first victory came at the Memorial Tournament, which was definitely a big win considering the tournament is hosted by golf-great Jack Nicklaus. Then, Stricker grabbed a three-peat just a few weeks ago, winning the John Deere Classic for the third-straight time. 

9. K.J. Choi

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    Many expected K.J. Choi to be the first Asian golfer to win a Major. That did not occur, however, when Y.E. Yang won the 2009 PGA Championship. 

    Regardless, Choi is not letting that stop him. 

    Thus far in 2011, Choi has grabbed a first-, second- and third-place finish, as well as three other Top 10 finishes. Another win and a few more high finishes and Choi may come from behind to win POY. 

10. David Toms

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    David Toms may be the most compelling story in golf this year. 

    For a few years, it looked as if Toms' career was over. Then he came storming out of the gates this year, saying his love for the game had been rekindled by playing with his teenage son. 

    After missing a short putt that could have won him the Players Championship, Toms bounced back nicely to win the Crowne Plaza Invitational. 

    Unfortunately, injuries have impaired Toms' ability to play as often as he would like, and may also hurt his chances at winning POY.

11. Charl Schwartzel

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    It goes without saying that if Charl Schwartzel didn't win the Masters, he would not be in the conversation for POY.

    While he has made the cut in all 11 tournaments he has played in during the 2011 season, he only has three Top 10 finishes to show. 

    Two of the three Top 10s came in Majors, with a tie for ninth in the British Open adding to his win at Augusta.

12. Jhonattan Vegas

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    Starting with Jhonattan Vegas, the rest of the players found on this list are long-shots to win POY honors. 

    Vegas played well early in the season, even winning his first tournament at the Bob Hope Classic. Since then, Vegas has only finished in the Top 10 two more times and has been struggling to climb leaderboards. 

13. Matt Kuchar

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    Matt Kuchar is the PGA Tour's Mr. Consistent.

    He is always very good, but rarely great.

    In 15 made cuts, Kuchar has 12 Top 25 finishes. Unfortunately, his best finish this year is a second-place showing at the Memorial Tournament. If Kuchar is able to win a tournament down the stretch, his name could be added to the short list to win the award.

14. Bill Haas

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    Bill Haas has the tough position of following in father Jay's footsteps. 

    Jay was a very good tour player and, while Bill is too, he will always be compared to his father. 

    With six Top 10s this season, including two second-place finishes, Bill has shown he has the talent to compete on the PGA Tour. 

    A victory down the stretch will further cement that thought and will always add him to the POY conversation.

15. Jason Day

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    I have always said that if Rory McIlroy ends up being a Tiger-like player, it will be Day to play the Phil Mickelson role. 

    Day has the talent to win a handful of Majors before his time is done. He always steps up when the lights are brightest, he just can't seem to get over the hump.

    Not surprising, Day's best showings came in the Masters and U.S. Open this season, where he finished second in both. A Top Five in one Major makes for a good season, but a Top Five in at least two makes for a very good season. 

    So how does Day make his season better?

    By going out and winning the PGA Championship.

    That will almost guarantee him the POY title.

16. Martin Laird

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    A relatively young player, Martin Laird is starting to make a name for himself on the tour at the age of 28. 

    The Scottish player has finished in the Top 10 in half of the events in which he has made the cut. This includes a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, as well as a 10th place finish at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. 

17. Webb Simpson

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    For Webb Simpson to have any shot at POY honors, he will need to win at least one event this season. 

    So far this year, his best finishes have been second-place showings at the Zurich Classic and the Transitions Championship. While that is good, he only has four other Top 10 finishes. That simply won't be enough to win POY. 

    On another note, if this award was based on fashion, Simpson would win my vote hands down!

18. Dustin Johnson

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    Of all the players on this list, Dustin Johnson is probably the most dangerous player, with the exception of Rory McIlroy. 

    While he has not performed as well in the Majors this season, last season Johnson showed he had the skills to put himself in the mix in the big tournaments. Unfortunately, he was never able to show he had the mental fortitude required to win any. 

    This season Johnson's game has been good, but not overwhelming. In the 12 events he has made the cut in, Johnson has five Top 10 finishes, with his best finishes coming at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the British Open. He ended up second in both tournaments. 

    Once again, a victory or two will knock Johnson on to the short list of candidates for POY.

19. Brandt Snedeker

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    The story of Snedeker's season has been inconsistency. When he is on, his game is very good. But when he is off, he is WAY off.

    Snedeker has played in 18 events this season, making the cut in only 10. Out of those 10, he has one victory at The Heritage, but not much else to show. 

20. Tiger Woods

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    You may be thinking to yourself, "Wow, this writer either has no idea what he is talking about or is crazy. Actually, it may be both."

    But hear me out for a moment. 

    In six events this year, Woods has made five cuts. His best finish came at the Masters, where he made an impressive run on the front side on Sunday to finish tied for fourth. 

    But as I have said before, that is clearly not enough to win POY. 

    This week Tiger entered the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational claiming that he is finally healthy. If that is true, Tiger is still one of the greatest golfers in the world. It would honestly not shock me at all to see him win a couple of tournaments in the remainder of 2011. 

    If he accomplishes that, I would almost guarantee that he will win POY. Granted, that is a big if, but it is a possibility. And it is a possibility that I like very much.