SAN FRANCISCO – If two is company and three is a crowd, what does that make four and five?
The race for 2013 Rookie of the Year on the Champions Tour.
Esteban Toledo and Rocco Mediate, two-time winners this year, are the clear favorites entering the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, which begins Thursday at TPC Harding Park. But the equation is subject to change based on the outcome of the season-ending event.
Bart Bryant and John Riegger are rookies who have won this year. A victory would give them each a pair, matching Toledo and Mediate, plus a victory in the season-long competition. Will that carry enough weight?
Then there is Duffy Waldorf. He hasn’t won this year but his body of work is impressive. Waldorf is No. 4 on the Charles Schwab Cup points list, behind only Kenny Perry, Bernhard Langer and David Frost.
Waldorf is also No. 8 on the Money List with more than $1.3 million in earnings. A victory at TPC Harding Park – with its $440,000 first prize – would likely move Waldorf into the top four. The question then becomes: Does all the money and all the points, the potential of cashing in on one of the five bonus annuities and victory in the Charles Schwab Cup, trump two victories?
That’s two front-runners and the three outsiders – five at the starting gate.
It’s been a good year for rookies. Steve Elkington and Gene Sauers didn’t win but they earned enough points to play this week. Japan’s Kohki Idoki won a major championship, the Senior PGA Championship, and narrowly missed qualifying. Idoki finished No. 32 on the Money List. The top 30 qualify for the Charles Schwab Cup.
Toledo and Mediate are Nos. 11 and 12, respectively, on the Money List. Each has won over $1 million. The difference is a sliver – Toledo has $1,144 more.
Flip the page to the Charles Schwab Cup points. Toledo is No. 12. Mediate is No. 13. The spread is 72 points. That’s how close they are and, obviously, it all could change with one swing at TPC Harding Park. A victory by either Toledo or Mediate would tip the scales decidedly.
“Someone can knock it out this week and that’s the end of that,” Mediate said.
To win rookie honors, Mediate said, “would be cool,” but he hasn’t dwelled on it.
“I'm not even realizing that's going on,” said Mediate, who won the Allianz Championship in his debut and the Shaw Charity Classic in Calgary. “Whatever the guys think, that's what they'll vote. I couldn't even tell you (who is in contention), I know Esteban's there. I don't know who else is. Duffy, too? I don't know.
“It’s been a lot of fun this year. I would like to have competed more often instead of just a few times, but maybe next year -- that's the plan to be just a little better. I get to go home this year for the first time, be home for like a month, month-and-a-half, which I haven't done for years and years and years, so get myself back in shape here and get rolling. I'm looking forward to next year already.”
Waldorf said handicapping the Toledo-Mediate matchup “is a tough call.
“I would give it to Esteban only because -- it's probably not really a valid reason -- but how far he's come,” Waldorf said. “I think he's playing the best golf of his career. Rocco's an established winner on the TOUR, he's less of a surprise you could say. I haven't really looked hard at the numbers as far as number of Top 10s or all the stats. They both have two wins, that's obviously, they’re kind of even in that so you need to go maybe farther down money and Schwab Cub points, measure it in those ways.
“One of them should do well here and that will probably tip the scales.”
Waldorf has 12 top 10s, including four straight top-four finishes in mid-summer. He finished in the top 10 in four of the five major championships.
“I’ve had some close calls,” said Waldorf, a Los Angeles native who won the 1984 California State Amateur at Pebble Beach. “It hasn’t worked out for me yet. I have to keep giving myself a chance and at some point it will happen.”
Toledo started the year with conditional status on the Champions Tour. He set three goals:
“It's going to be a lot of fun this week,” Toledo said. “I think we are in the race for the Rookie of the Year at the moment and I think we put up a good fight all year. I’m pretty sure everybody’s excited about who's going to win or not.”
Toledo won playoffs in both Houston and Montreal.
“I'm surprised I'm in the running for Rookie of the Year, which is tough, but at the same time I believe I can win this or I wouldn't be here,” Toledo said. “I'm not afraid to finish second. If Rocco wins, I think it's a good man, good for the Champions Tour, good image, good role model for young guys coming up here and playing. So is Duffy. If I win, great. If I don't, I still gave it my best shot, so I will be very happy.”