A different ballot for the PGA Tour

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - The PGA Tour was going to send its postseason awards ballot to the players on Tuesday until realizing the World Golf Championship in Shanghai counts as official if a PGA Tour member wins.

So it will wait until after the HSBC Champions next week.

On a slow news day, this became a controversy, and in some corners a conspiracy against Luke Donald. Now players will have only a month, instead of six weeks, to decide which box to check. They might need longer than that to find someone who had a better year than Donald. If what Donald did at Disney was that special - and it was - then it won't be forgotten.

Would it not have been worse if the tour became aware of an oversight and chose to do nothing at all?

Of course, this could have been avoided if the PGA Tour treated the HSBC Champions like the other three WGC events. It's still a "world" event, even though it's not held in global communities such as Marana, Ariz., and Akron, Ohio.

Now that's a controversy.

That also can wait. In the two weeks that players will be on pins and needles waiting for those PGA Tour ballots, here are some other awards worth mulling over.


It was the first time since 2003 that four players captured their first major, and all were compelling for reasons beyond that. Darren Clarke scores sentimental points, a popular champion whose best golf appeared to be behind him. Rory McIlroy represented the youth movement and smashed scoring records at the U.S. Open. The PGA Championship gets credit for being the only major to go overtime, but that only meant more TV commercials.

There simply was no topping Charl Schwartzel at Augusta National. Eight players had a share of the lead at some point in the final round, and the South African became the first Masters champion to birdie the last four holes. So spectacular was the finish that it overshadowed his 60-foot chip for birdie on No. 1 and holing out from the fairway for eagle on No. 3.


This award typically goes to a player who returned from some sort of injury, or barring any candidates, a player who really stunk it up the year before.

In this case, the vote is for McIlroy.

The lasting image from the Masters is the 22-year-old burying his head in the crook of his arm when he finished four-putting the 12th hole from 12 feet on his way to blowing a four-shot lead with an 80 in the final round. Yes, he's young and resilient. But to bounce back two months later and win the U.S. Open by eight shots with a record score was remarkable.

By the way, if Steve Stricker goes 5-0 at the Presidents Cup after sitting out nearly two months with a neck injury, does the PGA Tour put him back on the ballot?


The best shots come from the biggest moments, and it's hard to argue with Bill Haas splashing out of the water from left of the 17th hole in a playoff at East Lake to save par and stay in the hunt for the $10 million FedEx Cup, which he won. It was a great shot. It was a greater moment. And because of the water level, it was a great break.

For a pure golf shot that not many saw? Go back to Honolulu at the start of the season, when Steve Marino needed an eagle on the last hole to tie for the lead. With his feet in the bunker and the ball chest-high on the side of a hill, Marino hit fairway metal from 234 yards that landed on the front of the green and stopped 40 feet away. He missed the putt.

Another consideration would be Stricker, tied for the lead at the John Deere Classic on the 18th hole, his feet pressed against the back of the bunker, the ball below his feet and water between him and the green. From 182 yards, he hit 6-iron just through the green and made the putt to win.


In a peculiar year, this gets plenty of candidates.

Start with Tiger Woods and Steve Williams, his caddie for 12 years and 13 majors. It started with Williams going to work for Adam Scott at the U.S. Open, featured a nasty departure a month later, and culminated with Williams' television interview at Firestone calling it the "best win I've ever had."

And then there was McIlroy's abrupt departure from agent Chubby Chandler, a surprising turn of events after a summer filled with talk about the "Chubby Slam."

The award, however, goes to Mark Steinberg and IMG.

Steinberg for so many years was seen primarily as Woods' agent and known in some quarters as "Dr. No" for his propensity to rarely say "Yes." However, he also was the head of the powerful IMG golf division and a major player when it came to creating new tournaments around the world and finding a spot for them on the schedule.


Donald wins under any definition.

He turned in the best year, no matter what happens in Shanghai, with two wins, the most money and the lowest scoring average. If that's not enough, his top 10 finishes - 14 of 19 - was the highest rate this side of Woods.

Under the circumstances, was there a better performance than his six straight birdies on the back nine at Disney?

Still, his best performance came in the high desert of Arizona at the Match Play Championship. Donald never trailed in any of his six matches. Even more incredible, he never played the 18th hole except in a practice round.


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