NEW YORK: Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy was named as the PGA Tour Player of the Year yesterday, capping an outstanding season for the world No. 1
As expected, the 23-year-old was the popular choice for the annual Jack Nicklaus Award, decided by a vote from eligible tour players, becoming the youngest recipient since Tiger Woods in 1998.
McIlroy won four PGA Tour titles this year, including the PGA Championship by a record eight strokes. Nicklaus held the previous record margin for the last major on the golfing calendar, winning the 1980 PGA Championship by seven shots. “It’s always nice to get recognition from your peers, the guys that you’re trying to beat week in, week out,” McIlroy said on a conference call.
“I guess it’s just a great way to end what has been a great year and my best season so far.”
McIlroy also won the Honda Classic, Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship and the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average.
He also won the money lists for the PGA and European Tours, making his selection a virtual formality on a final ballot that included Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson and Woods. “It’s no surprise that Rory McIlroy was voted by the players and his peers as the best Player of the Year,” PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem said.
John Huh won the rookie of the year award after becoming the youngest player in more than a decade to qualify for the Tour Championship.
Huh, 22, broke through for his first win at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in February, enduring an eight-hole playoff with Robert Allenby. The youngest player before him to reach the end-of-season championship was Spain’s Sergio Garcia, who was 21 in 2001.
Watson ready to rediscover ‘Bubba Golf’ in Thailand
In Bangkok, Masters champion Bubba Watson said yesterday he hopes to rediscover the “Bubba Golf” that lit up Augusta when he plays at the Thailand Golf Championship this week.
The 34-year-old American, who has explained his buccaneering approach to the game as “Bubba Golf,” is one of the star draws in a strong field at the Asian Tour tournament which starts tomorrow.
Asked if he was ready to bring his freewheeling, high-risk style to the course in a bid for a first victory since his April win in Augusta, the world No. 12 said: “I’m hoping so... but you never know.”
The 34-year-old lefthander will be joined at the Amata Spring course by defending champion Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia, Hunter Mahan and Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa.
Watson claimed his first major at Augusta in April, beating Oosthuizen in a nerve-shredding play-off, but the American has not won since.
“We work hard on our games, but you never know. This week is another challenge and it should be fun,” he told reporters in Bangkok.
The Thailand Golf Championship is the penultimate event of the Asian Tour calendar.
Manassero, Jimenez to play Volvo Golf Champions
In Johannesburg, European Tour record-breakers Matteo Manassero and Miguel Angel Jimenez will play at next month’s Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa.
Italy’s Manassero, the youngest winner on the tour, and Spain’s Jimenez, the oldest winner, were confirmed yesterday for the tournament at Durban Country Club from Jan. 10-13.
India’s Jeev Milkha Singh and former British Open champion Darren Clarke also have entered the third event on the 2013 Race to Dubai. Manassero was 17 when he claimed the 2010 Castello Masters title. Jimenez won last month’s Hong Kong Open at 48.
Ryder Cup winners Nicolas Colsaerts, Paul Casey, Peter Hanson, Paul Lawrie and Francesco Molinari already were confirmed for the Volvo Golf Champions.
The new European season begins with three successive events in South Africa, starting with this week’s inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship.