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    • TOUR Insider: Handing out awards as weird year reaches its halfway point

      New winner, unpredictable finishes dominate first 20 tournaments of 2013-14

    • Is Rory McIlroy due for a monster second half of the season? (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)Is Rory McIlroy due for a monster second half of the season? (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

    SHELL HOUSTON OPEN: Tee times | Featured Groups | Top 10 shots | Expert Picks | Power Rankings

    As the calendar turns to April, the PGA TOUR regular season hits the halfway mark. Yes, the year’s first major is still a week away, but the Shell Houston Open will be the 21st tournament of the 2013-14 season.

    Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have zero top-10s, three withdrawals and boundless questions about the varying states of their games between them. Both have had back issues, though Woods’ is far more serious after his announcement Tuesday that he be out for “several weeks” following surgery to repair a pinched nerve.

    Jimmy Walker, who had gone 187 starts and nearly a decade without winning, already has three victories and leads the FedExCup standings.

    Right behind him is Patrick Reed, who at 23 years old has three wins, including two this season to go with the one he got last year at the Wyndham Championship.

    Of the top 10 players in the world, just three of them -- Jason Day, Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson -- have wins.  At this rate, it might not be long until Reed really is a top 5 player in the world.

    Adam Scott has had two opportunities to take over the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking -- and failed in grand fashion both times. He is trending in the right direction, though, and again has a chance to move to No. 1 at the Masters, where he will be defending his title.

    Steve Stricker has played just twice in the new wraparound season, while Scott Brown has already made 16 starts.

    If the Ryder Cup were to be held this week, Walker, Reed and Harris English would all be on the team. Woods, off to the worst start of any season in his career, would at best be a Captain’s Pick -- assuming he was healthy.

    Welcome to the year of the weird.

    What has it taught us? That golf is as unpredictable as ever.

    There have been 17 different winners on TOUR this season, beginning with Walker last October at the Frys.com Open, to Webb Simpson the following week in Las Vegas, to Ryan Moore and Dustin Johnson in Malaysia and China, respectively.

    And on and on.

    Nine players in their 20s have won this season, accounting for 10 victories. That would seem to signal a shift in the game’s balance of power, except for the fact that seven players in their 30s have won nine times.

    Perhaps the oddest detail so far? Only Americans and Australians have won on TOUR this season.

    There, is of course, so much more golf to be played in what has truly become a year-round, global game. As we cross into the second half of the schedule, here is a look at some mid-season awards and what to expect over the next five months.

    Halfway Player of the Year: Jimmy Walker. He had a 62 en route to winning at CordeValle and followed by making birdie on four of his last five holes to win by one at Waialae. His final round at the AT&T wasn’t as pretty as the Pebble Beach coastline, but the 5-footer he sank for par on the final hole to avoid a playoff showed some steely nerves on a day when he shot 74 and nearly blew a six-shot lead.

    Halfway Rookie of the Year: Chesson Hadley. He’s the only rookie with a win, which came in Puerto Rico at an opposite-field event, and he’s the only one in the top 100 in the FedExCup standings (24th). Hadley has been the low rookie seven times already this season and he has three top-10s in 14 starts. No other rookie has more than one top 10 this season.

    Halfway Most Improved Player(s) of the Year: Will MacKenzie and Pat Perez. MacKenzie wasn’t even on the PGA TOUR last season but in 13 starts this year has already racked up five top-10s, most coming on tough tracks. He tied for sixth at Torrey Pines and PGA National before tying for fourth in Tampa and eventually a runner-up last week at TPC San Antonio. Perez, meanwhile, already has nearly as many top-10s (three) as he had all of last year (four). Last season marked just the second time in the last seven years Perez failed to top the $1 million mark in earnings. This year he has already banked more than $1.1 million in a little more than half as many starts. Much of that success can be attributed to some changes in his personal life and a better understanding of what he’s doing with his swing.

    Halfway Biggest Surprise of the Year: Woods’ announcement that he will miss the Masters. It’s the first time that Woods will not play in the year’s first major. It also completes a dubious slam of sorts: The Masters was the only major Woods had not missed -- until now. A year ago, he won five times and was named PGA TOUR Player of the Year by his peers. This year, he’s off to the worst start of his career, hasn’t sniffed contention and has been plagued by a balky back almost from the beginning. Still, no one could have predicted Woods wouldn’t be in the field at Augusta National.

    Player I Expect To Break Out In The Second Half Of The Season: Rory McIlroy. All is finally well in McIlroy’s world -- on and off the course -- after what was easily the most tumultuous season of the 25-year-old’s young career. Yes, he blew it at The Honda Classic last month, but he has that bounce-back gene in him and should start to find the first page of leaderboards the way he did in 2011 and 2012. His swing and head are in a much better place than they were a year ago at this time, and he has been at his best once he is into the meat of the season.

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