First Half Player of the Year
Posted by: mike April 21st, 2017
By ED TRAVIS
With the PGA Tour season at the halfway mark it’s fun to speculate who has been the standout performer, if indeed there has been one, so far through the RBC Heritage. It was the 23rd event on the Tour schedule out of 47 (counting the opposite field events such as the Puerto Rico Open played the same week as the WGC-Dell Match Play).
Who can we make a case for?
How about Hideki Matsuyama who has two wins this season at the WGC-HSBC China and the Waste Management Open. I like Matsuyama but of late his putter has been consistently betraying him plus his showing at the Masters featured two of his first three rounds as less than inspired golf with 76 and 74. A second round of 70 allowed him to make the cut but he only showed what a fine player he is on Sunday with a 67.
Nice, but not worthy of First Half Player of the Year honors.
Next candidate might be Justin Thomas who has three victories but lately doesn’t seem to be able to produce at the level he had at the beginning of the season. Thomas is young (just 23) and hits the ball a mile, averaging over 306 yards off the tee. At the top of the list for making birdies, he only managed a tie for 22nd at the Masters and never seemed to get anything going.
The 2015 “All World” award winner Jordan Spieth has a single win so far, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but has been hardly a factor in any other competition even missing the cut in the Shell Houston Open. His finish at the WGC-Dell Match play and his Master’s performance were less than he or his fans wanted finishing T-3 and T-11 respectively.
Masters winner Sergio Garcia is also in the mix but, outside of Augusta, the rest of his year has been mediocre thus far. His fellow countryman, Jon Rahm has one win at the Farmers Insurance Open and a comfortable rookie showing at the Masters with a tie for 27th. He stood tall at the WGC-Dell Match Play as well. Look at the players Rahm beat--Kevin Chappell, Steve Lowry, Sergio Garcia, Charles Howell III, Soren Kjeldsen and Bill Haas before losing to Dustin Johnson on the final hole for the title.
My award for Rahm is First Half Rookie of the Year .
So who’s left to take home the top honors?
Dustin Johnson, of course.
Dominant so far with three wins and he’s first in the world, first in FedExCup points, first on the money list, and second in driving distance. And, he’s not just extremely long, he hits greens (I would too if I had as many wedges in as D.J.) as seen with his ranking for greens in regulation, another first.
True, the phlegmatic South Carolinian didn’t play the Masters after injuring his back but his return is slated for the first week in May at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Still not convinced? In the eight 2016-2017 events in which he has competed his finishes are T35, T3, T6, Cut, 3, 1, 1, and 1.
Presuming he can restart his season at the Wells Fargo and his swing isn’t compromised—please not another Tiger Woods tragedy—I’ll go on record as making him the favorite for every event and to repeat his U.S. Open Championship.
And, since it’s not much of a limb to go out on, he will repeat as Player of the Year too.
(Ed Travis is a national award-winning golf journalist and has had a lifelong love affair with the game. He has competed in tournament golf both as an amateur and as a senior professional. Although his competitive days are behind him, he still plays regularly and is a 2 handicap.)