Scheffler wins 2nd consecutive PGA Tour player of the year award

Scottie Scheffler has been voted PGA Tour player of the year over Masters champion Jon Rahm, a player vote that raises questions of whether Rahm was penalized for defecting to LIV Golf.

1st repeat winner since Tiger Woods in 2007; McIlroy eases off criticism of LIV Golf

American men's golfer watches his shot from the second tee during the final round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour on Dec. 3, 2023 in New Providence, Bahamas.
Golfer Scottie Scheffler is the first back-to-back PGA Tour player of the year winner since fellow American Tiger Woods in 2006-07. (Fernando Llano/Associated Press/File)

Scottie Scheffler has been voted PGA Tour player of the year over Masters champion Jon Rahm, a player vote that raises questions of whether Rahm was penalized for defecting to LIV Golf.

Scheffler is the first back-to-back winner since Tiger Woods in 2006-07. The world's No. 1 player had the best statistical season since Woods by leading the tour in all the important categories from the tee to the green, along with scoring.

He had the seventh-lowest adjust scoring average (68.63) in PGA Tour history — the top six belong to Woods — and finished out of the top 10 only six times in 23 tournaments from a season that began in September 2022. At one point, Scheffler went 18 consecutive starts where his worst finish was 12th.

"Anything that you receive voted on by your peers is very special to me and being able to go home with this trophy two years in a row now is very special," Scheffler said. "I think the body of work I put in last year … I was very proud of that consistency."

What he lacked, compared with Rahm, was winning.

Scheffler won The Players Championship and the Phoenix Open. Rahm, however, won four times, including his second major when he captured the Masters.

The PGA Tour said voting took place Dec. 1-15. Rahm, who for 18 months had been an ardent supporter of the tour, donned a LIV letterman's jacket and announced he was joining the Saudi-funded rival league on Dec. 7.

The tour said Scheffler received 38 per cent of the vote in what was believed to be a tight race. It did not disclose the voting percentage received by Rahm, FedEx Cup champion Viktor Hovland, U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark or Rory McIlroy.

Eric Cole voted top rookie

The tour previously did not release any vote totals for the award. Now it withholds what percentage of players voted.

In another close race, Eric Cole was voted rookie of the year over Ludvig Aberg of Sweden. Cole was the only player to reach the second round of the FedEx Cup playoffs, a longtime player in golf's minor leagues who made $5 million US in his first year on tour.

Scheffler had hinted in the Bahamas last month his vote might go toward Rahm because while consistency is key, "we play this game to win."

Asked if he was surprised to win, Scheffler said it all depended on what mattered the most to players who voted.

"I guess this year they really kind of appreciated my consistency," Scheffler said. "The way I played the entire year — I think I maybe only had one or two starts that I would categorize as not great, but other than that I had a lot of starts where I just played really solid golf. And to do that for an entire season out here I think is very difficult."

Cole also was a steady hand, especially for someone who had played only two regular PGA Tour events before finally getting a card. At age 35, he is the oldest rookie of the year since Todd Hamilton in 2004.

Cole had two runner-up finishes and two third-place finishes, and he played well enough to move into the top 50 in the world ranking to earn a spot in the Masters.

Aberg didn't turn pro until June. He won the season-ending RSM Classic by tying the PGA Tour scoring record for 72 holes at 253. He previously won on the European tour and went from leaving Texas Tech in June to playing in the Ryder Cup for Europe in September.

McIlroy: Rahm defection smart business move

Rory McIlroy has gone from being the harshest critic of LIV Golf to extending an olive branch. He said on a British soccer podcast Wednesday he was too judgmental about players defecting and has accepted that LIV is "part of our sport now."

He referred to Jon Rahm's decision to join LIV Golf last month as a "smart business move."

McIlroy also suggested he helped instigate discussions with the PGA Tour and the Saudi backers of LIV Golf. He said he met with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Public Investment Fund, at the end of 2022 in Dubai.

"When I got back to America, I was on the board of the PGA Tour and I said to the guys, 'Someone has got to go talk to this guy.' Then there was a plan put in place that one of the board members would try to develop a relationship with him," McIlroy said.

He said on the "Stick to Football" podcast the surprise was how quickly a deal came together. Board member Jimmy Dunne and chairman Ed Herlihy arranged the first meeting after the Masters in April.

The PGA Tour and PIF announced the agreement for a commercial deal on June 6.

McIlory resigned from the policy board in November, saying it was taking up too much of his time. The framework agreement missed its Dec. 31 deadline to get finalized, and now the PGA Tour also is negotiating with a private group of U.S. investors.

McIlroy referred to early defections to LIV as players wanting to take the easy way out and said that players were being duplicitous for pledging support and then taking the Saudi cash.

He had said no peace could be made if Greg Norman was in charge, and as recently as July said he "hates" LIV and hoped it went away. "If LIV Golf was the last place to play golf on Earth, I would retire. That's how I feel about it," he said in July.

His tone began to soften when Rahm, the Masters champion, became arguably the biggest name to leave, because the 29-year-old Spaniard is entering the peak of his career.

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