ATLANTA – Tony Finau took a deep breath.
The question posed to him demanded some deep thought. Who would he be voting for as the PGA Tour Player of the Year? Some years, like when Tiger Woods wins three of four majors or 10 titles, it’s a cinch, but not this go-round.
“Man, I think that’s really hard,” Finau said. “This year, is it Jon Rahm or is it Scottie Scheffler?”
Finau wore a perplexed expression and it was evident that his mind was working double time to break it down.
“Scottie’s been unbelievable. He hasn’t finished outside the top 12 ever, right, and that’s an amazing accomplishment,” Finau said. “But because Rahm won a major and how hot Rahm’s year was, winning four alone in the calendar year and in the first four months, this year it’s got to be Rahmbo.”
Finau isn’t the only player who is torn in determining who will garner his vote for the Jack Nicklaus Award, which is voted on by the players. (The PGA of America gives its own Player of the Year award, which is based on a points system, and the Golf Writers Association of America chooses its own winner at the end of the calendar year.)
“It depends what you value,” Rory McIlroy said Wednesday during his pre-tournament press conference ahead of the Tour Championship at East Lake. “I think Scottie’s won twice this year, Jon’s won four times, Jon’s won the Masters, Scottie’s won the Players. If you go on total wins — it’s hard because how can you not — it’s going to be really difficult because Scottie’s had — he could end up with the best ball-striking season of all time. He’s hit the ball as good, if not better, than Tiger hit it in 2000, which is the benchmark for all of us. But I think Jon probably has a little more to show for his year. But I think it could come down to this week and who performs. But it’s a two-horse race between Jon and Scottie.”
Brian Harman, the Champion Golfer of the Year, agreed with that sentiment and predicted it would come down to the wire and depend on who wins the FedEx Cup. For Rahm, it could be déjà vu all over again. He narrowly lost the Player of the Year in 2021 to Patrick Cantlay, who won the FedEx Cup by a stroke over Rahm, but Rahm had captured the U.S. Open that season.
“Gosh, yeah, it’s so close,” Harman said. “Scottie’s had one of the most incredible stretches of ball striking that we’ve maybe ever seen in golf. And then Jon Rahm, especially at the beginning of the year, he just seemed almost unbeatable. They’re two incredible players and I don’t think there’s a bad choice for Player of the Year. I don’t have a specific opinion, no. They’re both really, really good. I certainly wouldn’t want to make one of ’em mad before I have to play against them week, so I’ll refrain.”
Xander Schauffele played Switzerland too.
“I think this week will be pretty important in determining who may win that,” he said.
Let’s go back to Finau, who came to his final answer on a difficult decision with the following logic: “I still believe the hardest thing to do on Tour is win; the second hardest thing is consistency,” he said. “I’ve got to go with the guy who is winning more than the guy who is consistent.”
But Finau left himself an out in case he changed his mind.
“If Scottie wins the FedEx Cup on Sunday,” he said, “I might be voting differently.”