By Ben Alberstadt
The PGA Tour released the list of nominees for Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year on Monday. Members of the Player Advisory Council and Player Directors nominated Charlie Beljan, Jonas Blixt, Bud Cauley, John Huh and Ted Potter Jr. for the Rookie of the Year Award.
Surely, Rory McIlroy is the presumptive winner of the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year Award. However, in determining who they will cast their ballots for, players have more to consider for the Rookie of the Year Award, although I believe John Huh to be the favorite, even given Charlie Beljan’s commendable and widely publicized victory at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic last Sunday.
Without further ado, the nominees are…
Education: University of New Mexico
Hometown: Mesa, Ariz.
Best Finish: 1—CMN Hospital Classic
Top 10’s: 3
Money List: 63
Notable stats: Beljan was second this year in average driving distance (315.5 yards).
The apparent adrenaline junkie (Beljan is a motorcycle enthusiast and aspires to be strapped to the wing of a plane) had more of the hormone than he could handle during his second round at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital Classic. Although convinced he was dying, Beljan persevered on his way to a two-shot victory. If he has any chance of winning this award, it is purely a function of the admiration his colleagues have for him following the performance.
Education: Florida State
Hometown: Jacksonville Beach, Fla.
Best Finish 1--Frys.com Open
Top 10’s: 5
Money List: 34
Notable Stats: Second on tour in Strokes Gained – Putting, First in Sand Save Percentage
Winner of the Frys.com Open, Blixt earned $1.2 million during the Fall Series alone. He was second to only John Huh (22 of 28) in cuts made by a rookie this year. Blixt earned his tour card with a No. 5 finish on the Web.com Tour last year. Finished 71st in the FedEx Cup, thus narrowly missing out on the Playoffs.
Objectively, Blixt had the second best rookie year behind John Huh, who bested him in cuts made and earnings.
Education: University of Alabama
Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.
Best Finish: 3
Top 10’s: 6
Money List: 44
Notable Stats: 6th in sand save percentage. Made 10 of his last 11 cuts.
Cauley, like only a handful of players, earned his Tour card directly out of college (top 125 on the 2011 PGA Tour non-member money list) and secured his first top 10 in only his fourth start. The Daytona Beach native is the only player selected for the Rookie of the Year shortlist without a win; Cauley’s best finish was 3rd at the Wyndham Championship; he finished the season No. 38 in the FedEx Cup standings.
The son of a U.S. Navy officer and Birdies for the Brave supporter finished the season strong and has a promising future in front of him. Without a win, though, there’s no way he gets this award when the other four candidates were all victorious.
Education: University of California-Northridge
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Best Finish: 1--Mayakoba Classic
Top 10’s: 4
Money List: 28
Notable Stats: 11th in Driving Accuracy. 25th in total driving. 7th in total birdies.
Huh made it through Q-School in 2011 having never played an event on the PGA or Web.com tours. His eight-hole playoff with Robert Allenby at the Mayakoba Classic was one of the longest in Tour history. Huh’s win at that tournament came in only his fifth PGA Tour start.
The New York native was the top-earning rookie in 2012 and was the only rookie to make it to the Tour Championship. With a total of four top-10s and a gritty victory, the Rookie of the Year Award is likely his.
Ted Potter Jr.
Education: Turned pro after high school
Hometown: Silver Springs, Fla.
Best Finish: 1--Greenbriar Classic
Top 10’s: 1
Money List: 62
Notable Stats: First in GIR Percentage – 150-175 yards. Eighth in putting from 5-10 feet.
The only left-hander nominated for Rookie of the Year, Potter won in West Virginia at the Greenbrier Classic in a playoff over Troy Kelly. Prior to the win, Potter had missed five consecutive cuts. Potter, who worked in the cart barn at a club in Florida to save up money for the Moonlight Tour, won $1.3 million on Tour this year.
Even with a victory, Potter doesn’t have a chance of winning the Rookie of the Year Award.
Players who competed in 15 or more Tour events in 2012 vote by ballot for the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. The final day for ballot submission is Nov. 30, and the award will be given in early December. Recent winners have included Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler and Brandt Snedeker.