Plenty on the line at TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, including Player of the Year

John Swantek and Amanda Balionis take an in-depth look at the 2013 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.

September 18, 2013
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

ATLANTA -- The formula is simple for those in the top five in the FedExCup standings entering this week’s TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola: Win the tournament, and you win the FedExCup.

It’s less defined when it comes to Player of the Year honors, which will also be decided as the 2013 season comes to a close at East Lake.

“Last year it was a little more clear-cut,” said Jason Dufner. “Rory (McIlroy) won a major and three other times, including two Playoffs events. This year is probably tougher than most years.”

Each of the three players in the running this season present a strong case.

Tiger Woods has five wins this year, including THE PLAYERS Championship and two World Golf Championships. He also enters this week ranked No. 1 in the FedExCup standings after a tie for 11th last week to regain the top spot over Henrik Stenson.

Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott both have two wins, including a major.

Mickelson’s victories came in Phoenix and at The Open Championship. The latter was unexpected and by Mickelson’s own admission the best of his Hall-of-Fame career. That sentiment was only strengthened by a final-round 66 on a day when the field average was seven strokes higher.

Scott’s wins came at the Masters, where he beat Angel Cabrera in a memorable playoff, and at The Barclays, where he waited to see if his final-round 66 and 11-under total would hold up. It was.

Voting for Player of the Year will begin Sunday night following the conclusion of the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola and conclude Thursday, Oct. 26. The winner will be announced the following morning.

“I think if one of them wins it might make a difference,” said Roberto Castro. “I think they already have a strong case. It’s hard to argue against five wins, but it’s hard to argue against the year Phil has had, too.”

Likewise, Scott knows how important this week is in what has already been a magical year. The 32-year-old has four other top 10s on TOUR and contended in three of the year’s four majors.

In his eyes, however, that’s not enough -- yet.

“I really need to win to even throw my name in the hat there,” Scott said. “Then it could be possible.”

And it wouldn’t be without precedent.

Three times a player with the most wins in a season wasn’t named Player of the Year in the 23-year history of the award.

The first occasion was in 1996. Mickelson had twice as many wins as Tom Lehman with four, but Lehman won The Open Championship, finished second at the U.S. Open and had a dozen other top 10s.

Two years later, David Duval had four victories on the year. Mark O’Meara, however, captured the Masters and The Open Championship and reached No. 2 in the world.

Perhaps it’s ironic that Woods was the last player with more wins in a season than anyone to not get the honor. He had four in 2008 but missed the remainder of the year after his U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines because of a broken leg. Padraig Harrington went on to win the year’s final two majors and with it took home Player of the Year honors, too.

“Majors are what define people’s careers out here,” said Dufner. “The guys who are winning majors have separated themselves.”

Maybe so, but most seem to agree a win here would go a long way. So would capturing the FedExCup.

“I think it's a very important week,” said defending tournament and FedExCup champ Brandt Snedeker. “If one of those guys wins this week, I think it kind of seals the deal.”

If Mickelson, sixth in FedExCup points, adds to his total with a victory at East Lake, where he has won twice before, he would stand a good chance of also winning the FedExCup.

Should Scott, fifth in points, win, it would be his second victory here and would guarantee him the FedExCup.

“Tiger would have to be favored having won five times,” said Gary Woodland. “But I think winning the last event of the year holds a lot longer in people’s minds.”

Scott agrees.

“I think winning is a big thing,” he said. “I think the history of whoever's won Player of the Year has had multiple wins, and that carries a lot of weight.”

And that’s where Woods, who has twice won the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, holds the biggest advantage.

“I won some big events this year,” he said. “A lot of people thought I would never win again, and here we are with some more wins.”

So how important is this week in Woods’ eyes?

“Well, I'd like to get a sixth win,” he said. “How about that?”