PLAYER OF THE YEAR (SO FAR)
Big surprise, it's Tiger Woods. With two dominating wins in two starts he continues to raise the bar to previously unimaginable heights.
Jason Day came in with all the hype, but after two months the most impressive freshman has been Dustin Johnson, 23, the Coastal Carolina All-America who hasn't missed a cut in five starts and had top 10s in Hawaii and Pebble Beach. Third in driving distance (307.5 yards) and 10th in putting average, Johnson is a big-time talent who will win sooner rather than later.
John Daly deserves a lifetime achievement award in this category, but he's outdone himself this year. After a long week of well-chronicled carousing at the Hope, he WD'd before the fourth round. More embarrassing has been his kvetching about possibly suing the Honda Classic because he claims he was injured when a fan clicked a camera in backswing at last year's event—while at the same time asking for a sponsor's exemption from the tournament this week.
MOST DISTURBING TREND
Woods's continued disappearing act. Once upon a time Tiger, a California kid, was a regular at the Mercedes, L.A. and Pebble Beach. Now he skips all three, making only two West Coast starts and badly devaluing the start of the year.
MOST ENTERTAINING PERFORMER
Phil Mickelson. A solid win at L.A. followed a riveting playoff loss in Phoenix—and in between there was the 11 he made at Pebble Beach on the 14th hole on Friday to miss the cut. Good or bad, Phil is never boring. Honorable mention: J.B. Holmes. Yeah, he's one-dimensional, but what a dimension! Golf's preeminent basher was overpowering in victory at Phoenix and unyielding even in defeat against Woods at the Match Play.
SHOT OF THE YEAR
Steve Lowery's four-iron from a fairway bunker on the 9th hole during the final round at Pebble Beach. From 217 yards he stuck it to within 13 feet, setting up a birdie that keyed his comeback victory. Runner-up: Lowery's four-iron on the previous hole to within nine feet for another memorable birdie.
MOST INEXPLICABLE SCHEDULING DECISION
With the U.S. Open returning to Torrey Pines five months later, the Buick Invitational would seem to have been a must-play, but among the no-shows were Angel Cabrera, Ernie Els, Sergio García, Padraig Harrington, Zach Johnson, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Steve Stricker. Within weeks of the tournament both Scott and Stenson paid greens fees to play casual rounds at Torrey.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL ACRONYM
MDF, which left many players PO'd. The made-cut-did-not-finish rule was so sensible it was doomed to have a short lifespan.
Woods's 60-footer on the 11th hole on Sunday at Torrey Pines. It was shaped like a question mark, going past the hole, then feeding down a slope into the backside of the cup. Woods's overall game has become so airtight that he rarely needs the miraculous recoveries of his youth, but this putt was proof that he's still capable of producing jaw-dropping highlights.
"He's going to have a hard time getting off my property without a bullet in his ass." —Frank Lickliter, to AP, on the prospect of a drug tester coming to his house to collect a urine sample.
Will Mackenzie. One of the stars of last year's West Coast swing has fallen into the abyss. Possible distractions? Check out his girlfriend Alli Spencer's pictorial at FHM.com.
FRED VUICH (MACKENZIE)
COURTESY OF THE PGA TOUR (LEADER BOARD)
Photographs by Robert Beck