By Dennis de Jesus Jr.
Tomorrow, the PGA Tour will announce the winner of the Jack Nicklaus Award, which is given to the Tour Player of the Year and determined by the PGA Tour Player Directors and the Players Advisory Council. And if you paid any attention to the Tour in 2012, the list is of players who were considered was familiar and not unusual.
- Rory McIlroy had a brilliant season with four PGA Tour wins that included another major championship.
- Tiger Woods rebounded from a lackluster 2011 season to win three times thanks in part to a swing renovation that seems closer to its intended goal.
- Brandt Snedeker used his consistent fast-paced play to earn two Tour wins that culminated with his name on the FedExCup.
- Jason Dufner impressed a lot of analysts with his steady play from tee to green that allowed him to also capture two Tour wins and a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
- Finally, Bubba Watson captured three top three finishes using a dazzling array of shot making that only Watson can do. Watson was able to silence critics of his unique game by winning the Masters, arguably the biggest and most important tournament on the schedule.
Looking at the list of nominees for 2012, there appears to be a direct correlation between the nominees and the top five of the Tour money list:
PGA Tour Money Leaders 2012
- Rory McIlroy - $8,047,952
- Tiger Woods - $6,133,158
- Brandt Snedeker - $4,989,739
- Jason Dufner - $4,869,303
- Bubba Watson - $4,644,996
I'm not convinced that this should be the main criterion in considering the nominees for the Player of the Year. I'm sure other factors were part of the evaluation, but it is eyebrow raising to see the parallel of these two lists. Here, we look at three of the best players on the 2012 PGA Tour who didn't make the nominees list but easily could have.
In 2012, Rose nestled himself into seventh place overall on the money list, but looking at his per event earnings ($225,838) and he jumps into fifth place, ahead of Jason Dufner ($221,331) and barely behind Tour Champion Brandt Snedeker ($226,806). I would argue that this is a better benchmark if we were to use money as a key criterion to success on the Tour in a given season. Rose also finished with eight top 10 finishes in 2012, two less than McIlroy and one less than Tiger Woods. Clearly, Rose had a great season and should be recognized as one of the top players for this year.
If we were to take the value of money away from the argument, we are left with statistics and overall, no one did it better than Keegan Bradley. The 2011 PGA Championship winner followed up his freshman season with another solid showing which saw him in the top 10 five times and also earn a coveted spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. The more compelling statistic is that Bradley ranked first on the PGA Tour All Around Ranking list, which takes an overall score for each pro based on his ranking on key categories -- scoring, putting, birdies, eagles, sand saves, greens in regulation, driving distance and driving accuracy. It's a telling statistic in that it measures the overall game of the individual and is not dependent the size of the purse of the given tournament or who is or isn't in the field. Bradley's success in his sophomore season proves that he isn't a one hit wonder and is perhaps one of the other key figures to keep an eye on in the post-Tiger era of the PGA Tour.
Bo Van Pelt
I'm sure this one would catch many readers off guard, but in looking at some of the various ranking lists for 2012, Bo Van Pelt is a name that shows up high amongst and sometimes ahead of the superstars of the Tour. Consider this: Rory McIlroy shared the No. 1 spot of top 10 finishes this year with 10. Who did he share it with? You guessed it -- Bo Van Pelt. Though he is ranked 23rd in the world, Bo Van Pelt has quietly put together a season that was statistically better than Snedeker, Watson and Woods. This is based on the All Around Ranking List mentioned above, where Van Pelt hold the fourth spot behind Bradley, McIlroy and Dufner. Van Pelt is a model of consistency and will certainly be a sleeper pick to win one of next year’s major tournaments.
There is no argument that this year’s class of nominees aren't worthy -- each player had significant success on the Tour this past season and each are very deserving of the nomination. These three players merely represent a handful of their colleagues that also deserve special recognition of a noteworthy season and shouldn't be overlooked when looking back at the PGA Tour in 2012. With four victories this season including one major, it’s inevitable that Rory McIlroy will win the Jack Nickalus Award as this year’s standout, but there is no harm in giving credit to the supporting cast that made McIlroy the poster child of professional golf in 2012.