PGA TOUR Champions season produced a tight race for Rookie of the Year
November 17, 2021
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- November 17, 2021
- Mickelson won four times in six outings this season on PGA TOUR Champions. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)
The elongated 2020-21 super season on PGA TOUR Champions produced a rookie of the year race like no other.
It had to, really, because in theory it produced twice as many rookies given that the season extended over two years.
And it was a star-studded class, too, with the likes of Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els and Mike Weir.
It also had a couple of surprises, as most classes do. No one figured on the impact Alex Cejka and Steven Alker would have, but each came off playing on the Korn Ferry Tour and excelled.
The rookie of the year is decided by voting from the members of PGA TOUR Champions. And it’s going to be interesting. There are a lot of ways to vote depending on what a player prefers in a fellow competitor. Is it wins? Is it majors? Is it record over the course of an entire season that featured 39 events? There’s something for everyone. Here’s the case for each, with the players listed in the order in which they finished in the final Schwab Cup standings:
Wins: 3 (Ally Challenge, PURE Insurance Championship, U.S. Senior Open)
Top 10s: 18 (69.2%)
Money won per event: $120,833.19
Schwab Cup ranking: 2
The skinny: Furyk burst from the gates in summer 2020, winning the first two events in which he played on PGA TOUR Champions. On the flip side, that means he won only once in his next 24 events. He could have, and one can argue should have, won the Schwab Cup, and if he had there probably is much less argument for any other rookie. Still, he was in contention nearly every time he teed it up, and he added a major.
Wins: 2 (Hoag Classic, SAS Championship)
Top 10s: 18 (50%)
Money won per event: $75,540.14
Schwab Cup ranking: 4
The skinny: Both of Els’ victories came in his first 10 starts. He certainly figured to win at least once more over his next 26 events, if not more. But he started the 2021 calendar year in a bit of a slump, with just one top 10 in his first nine events and three finishes outside the top 25. With only two wins and neither a major, he doesn’t figure to garner much of the vote.
Wins: 1 (Insperity Invitational)
Top 10s: 12 (41.4%)
Money won per event: $70,698.86
Schwab Cup ranking: 9
The skinny: Weir had four runner-up finishes. Had he been able to convert any two of those he could have been in the mix with three victories and a higher finish in the ranking. As it turned out his lone victory didn’t lead to him kicking down the door, and his performance in the playoff was the worst of any of the rookies (zero top 25s).
Wins: 4 (Charles Schwab Series at Ozarks National, Dominion Energy Classic, Constellation Furyk & Friends, Charles Schwab Cup Championship)
Top 10s: 4 (66.7%)
Money won per event: $252,590.50
Schwab Cup ranking: 12
The skinny: It’s hard to argue with four wins in just six outings. No one figured on Mickelson to tee it up much on PGA TOUR Champions, and he’ll pick his spots for as long as he feels like he’s competitive on the PGA TOUR after earning exempt status with his victory at the PGA Championship. He has yet to play in a major on the Champions Tour, and it’s hard to peg when he will. What’s interesting about his fledgling career with his old friends is his two indifferent finishes when he wasn’t in contention -- a 20th at the Cologuard Classic and a T47 defending his championship at the Dominion Energy Classic, the first event in the Schwab Cup playoffs.
Wins: 2 (Regions Tradition, KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship)
Top 10s: 7 (36.8%)
Money won per event: $97,663.68
Schwab Cup ranking: 13
The skinny: Cejka is the only player to win two majors during the 39-event 2020-21 season. That has to count for something. And his money won per event is better than that of Els and Weir. The problem for Cejka is after his second major victory he hit a dry spell -- and really, who can blame him? He righted the ship at the end of the regular season with four top 10s in five events, but his best finish in the playoff was a T16.
Wins: 1 (TimberTech Championship)
Top 10s: 9 (90%)
Money won per event: $114,620.70
Schwab Cup ranking: 18
The skinny: It’s too bad Alker had only 10 events in which to make his case for Rookie of the Year because it was one hell of a stretch. If he had prevailed over Mickelson in the finale instead of losing to Lefty by a stroke he’d have had two playoff wins, an even higher Schwab Cup ranking and a higher money won per event. As it was the New Zealand native had only two finishes outside the top seven -- a T9 and a T16. His Schwab Cup playoff finishes were T4, 1 and 2; Furyk’s were T8, T2 and T5.