Among all the possible stories at the season-ending Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, there is one that garners the most attention.
Sound the ring bell. The world's No. 1 player, Luke Donald, and PGA Tour money leader Webb Simpson tee off in Thursday's opening round, in a head-to-head battle for the PGA Tour's money list title.
Donald is trying to become the first player in history to win the money title on both the PGA Tour and European Tour. So it's no wonder why, after Simpson past him on the money list with his second-place finish last week, that Donald decided to enter the tournament this week.
So did Simpson, once he learned that Donald would be playing. If one of them is going down, it won't be without a fight first. And to make it easier for us, we have them paired together for at least the first two rounds. Very thoughtful of the tournament organizers.
Simpson enters the tournament, leading Donald by $363,029. That means that for Donald to win the title, one the following must happen:
1. Donald wins, and then Simpson finishes tied for second-place or worse.
2. Donald finishes a solo second-place, and Simpson finishes tied for eighth or worse.
3. Donald finishes in a two-way tie for second-place, and Simpson finishes in a five-way tie for 21st or worse.
Simple stuff, right? We will all be with our calculators on Sunday if it comes down to a finish near the ones I just described.
The Arnold Palmer Award (Money List) and the five-year PGA Tour exemption that comes with it is really a great accomplishment.
But let's add the icing to the cake. The possibility that the Jack Nicklaus Trophy (PGA Tour Player of the Year) could be at stake as well. That is a whole different debate, but that is tightly linked to the money list title.
To be the Player of the Year, is to be recognized by your peers as the best player that particular year. And certainly, makes it a subjective one, but it comes from the point-of-view of the players that were around the winner for the whole year.
For us on the outside, all that is left is to debate on who should be the winner this year. Donald or Simpson? And how about PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley, Steve Stricker, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson or Mark Wilson? All of them are worthy of being in contention for the award.
From that group, maybe Bradley would be the one with the best chance. He has two wins—one of them a major—to go along with four Top 10s. And by the way, he just won the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.
Donald has two wins overseas, and there is no question that Donald is the most consistent player over the past 12 months. In 18 events on the PGA Tour, he has two second-place finishes, two thirds, and 15 Top 10s. Amazing would be the word for his consistency.
He is also the only one in that group mentioned before, without two victories on the PGA Tour this year—he has one, but that could change with a win this week.
On the other hand, Simpson has played in more events and has two wins. He also has three second places—two because of playoff losses.
What should be rewarded, wins or consistency? The money title winner? How about all of the above? The jury is still out on this decision.
This week's finish will definitely crown a money title winner. It will also go a long way towards determining who will be the PGA Tour Player of the Year. But no matter who wins it, both will have given us plenty of reasons of why they should win it.
And for sure, we will see plenty more to come this weekend.
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