THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) - No one came close to matching Tiger Woods on the PGA Tour, which is becoming as predictable as Woods being voted the PGA Tour player of the year.
With seven victories and another major championship, Woods won the award Tuesday for the third straight season and the ninth time in his 11 years since he turned pro. The only questions now are whether he’s playing his best golf, and how much better he can get.
“Is he spoiling everyone?” Brad Faxon asked after a pro-am round at the Target World Challenge. “I don’t see anyone close. I don’t see who the next guy is.”
Phil Mickelson was the only other player on the PGA Tour ballot with three victories, including The Players Championship. Woods won the money title by more than $5 million over Mickelson, and Woods’ stroke average was 1.4 shots per round lower than Ernie Els.
But when asked to review his year, Woods spent a lot of time looking at lost shots.
He was tied for the lead at some point in the final round of the Masters and U.S. Open and was a runner-up in both of them by a combined three shots. And the only tournament he failed to win during the PGA Tour Playoffs was at the Deutsche Bank Championship, where he took nine more putts than Mickelson in the final round and finished two back.
So while he won one fewer event and one fewer major in 2007, Woods considers it a better season than 2006.
“I had a great chance to win three of the four majors this year,” Woods said. “I finished second in two of them. I was just a few shots away from basically doing what I did in 2000. What did I finish, second to Phil? And then the two major championships. If I get those done, get those squared away, people would probably be comparing it to 2000, if not better.”
The 2000 season has always been the benchmark for Woods, when he won nine of 20 starts on the PGA Tour, including the final three majors. He won two of those majors by 23 shots, which is one reason that year draws so much attention.
But he was just as dominant at times, twice winning by eight shots.
“Every year has been an unbelievable year,” Jeff Sluman said. “He’s played well every week of every year.”
The only seasons Woods did not win the PGA Tour player of the year award were in 1998 and 2004, both times when he was revamping his swing. Mark O’Meara won two majors in 1998, while Vijay Singh won nine times and a major in 2004.
“Not only has he won, but he won and dominated with three swings,” Sluman said, stopping to laugh at the preposterous nature of what he had just said. “To make changes and still be effective is impressive. And for him to say, ‘I need to be better,’after winning the Masters in 1997 … I don’t know of anyone else who could look themselves in the mirror after winning like that and say, ‘I need to be better.’”
Jay Haas was voted Champions Tour player of the year, while Nick Flanagan won the Nationwide award. The other PGA Tour awards went to Steve Stricker, the first player to win comeback player of the year in consecutive seasons, and Brandt Snedeker, who won the rookie of the year for winning in Greensboro and reaching the FedEx Cup finale.
Woods had an astounding lead atop the world ranking after 2006, a 11.53 margin over Jim Furyk. His lead now is slightly larger, by 11.59 points, over Mickelson.
“I don’t think it’s getting closer,” Stricker said when asked about the gap between Woods and everyone else. “Just playing with him toward the end of the season and watching what he does and what he’s capable of doing kind of blows me away at times.”
Stricker recalled the first time he played with Woods, in 1997 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Stricker was coming off a strong year in which he won twice. Woods was in his first full season on the PGA Tour.
“I looked at him to see how I could stack up,” Stricker said. “I didn’t stack up very well then, and I don’t stack up very well against him now, either. I’ve learned you can’t compare yourself to him. No one can. You just have to go about your own business and try to shoot the lowest score possible.”
Even that might not have been enough this year.
This was the seventh time that Woods swept the three biggest awards on tour — the Jack Nicklaus Trophy for player of the year, the Arnold Palmer Award for leading the money list ($10.8 million) and the Byron Nelson Award for lowest scoring average (67.79).