Congrats, Luke, for winning at Disney and the money title! Oh, wait. Sorry, Luke, the PGA Tour season isn’t actually over yet. Even though you were told it was and you put on a ridiculously clutch performance on Sunday to gain an edge in the Player of the Year race, there’s actually another tournament left: The HSBC Champions, a World Golf Championship event, in Shanghai, China, next week, which counts as an official PGA Tour event if a Tour player wins it.
Tour officials originally told the media that since the money title had been clinched and the season had ended, they would be mailing out POY ballots to players either Monday or Tuesday. Not so fast! Apparently the Tour itself isn’t aware when its season is actually over.
A reporter had to point out that there were still two semi-official events in Asia left, prompting the Tour to delay the delivery of the ballots by two weeks, according to CBSSports.com’s Steve Elling:
The gaffe apparently was pointed out to the tour by a beat reporter on Monday who noted that because two quasi-official Asian events set for the next two weeks were moved back after Disney on this season’s lineup card, a handful of players still in the mix for top-player and top-rookie honors should be given the opportunity to make a last splash before ballots were mailed. A tour communications official said he could not speak to “the timing or what prompted the change.”
So now we get two more weeks of the season that never ends, a full fortnight of more hype, last-ditch Hail Marys and potentially ballot-bending accomplishments. Against fields that are one-half and one-third the size of a regular-season event.
This week’s event in Malaysia and next week’s HSBC Champions event in China are sanctioned by the PGA Tour, but fall into weird classification cracks. The money on the two limited-field cash grabs is unofficial, but the tour last year designated the HSBC as counting as an official tournament victory … if it’s claimed by a member of the PGA Tour.
That means that for entrants like Keegan Bradley, one of seven players tied with a tour-high two wins this season, will get another chance to become the first player to collect a trio of titles. Masters winner Charl Schwartzel is also expected to play, and a victory could mean he gets a few PoY votes, too, or closes in on Bradley for the tour’s top-rookie honors.
Nothing wrong with that – though it should have been noticed and noted before Monday.
“It’s important because it’s an official win for a member, and that should hold the ballot open,” said Andy Pazder, the Tour’s chief of operations. “When we send out the ballot, we have a brief summary of the player’s year on the PGA Tour. It would be a glaring omission if someone won the tournament and that wasn’t on there.”
“It could affect who’s on the ballot, and it could affect someone’s resume who is on the ballot,” Pazder said.
Keegan Bradley, who won twice in his rookie season, including the PGA Championship, is playing in China. So is Masters champ Charl Schwartzel. Donald has said he’d probably play if his wife Diane had given birth to their second child.
Point is, the outcome of Shanghai could possibly influence the ballot if Keegan or Charl wins.
Well, if I’m Luke Donald, I’m a tad annoyed by the situation, especially if I don’t win POY after skipping my off week to try to win the money title and then doing it until I was told that I actually hadn’t officially clinched it yet.
Funny — there seem to have been more mix-ups lately than usual (like the Justin Leonard 2012 status incident). Maybe that’s a testament to how darn complicated Ponte Vedra has to make everything. Or we can just chalk it up to the changing world of golf and the regulations that go along with it (but there’s no excuse for not knowing why Leonard was exempt).
Several veteran Tour pros told me that delaying the ballot won’t change their vote because most of them have their minds made up already. And their opinions have stayed consistent for quite a while.
From the pros I’ve spoken to, Luke seems to have the edge, but Keegan has a strong group of supporters and Webb Simpson has his fair share, too.
“It is two horse race and Keegan isn’t one of the horses,” said veteran Tour pro Joe Ogilvie. “Great year, but not close to Webb’s or Luke’s.”
Since Luke’s incredible rally Sunday is fresh in our minds, I’m guessing most of you would vote for him. So, what say you?
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)