The announcement is still two months away, but let’s end the debate right now- Luke Donald is your 2011 PGA Tour Player of the Year.  How can a player who only won once receive such an honor?  Here’s how:

First off, 6 players won twice on the U.S. circuit this season- Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson, Nick Watney, Mark Wilson, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson.  Each of those were certainly impressive season’s in their own right, particularly Bradley’s as he won a major- PGA Championship + the Byron Nelson Classic in his rookie season on Tour.  But, what did Bradley do over the course of the rest of the season?  Not much really, just two other top 10s.  Careers are judged off majors, but the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award is the entire season’s performance wrapped up into one.  So, Rookie of the Year for Keegan?  Absolutely.  PGA Tour Player of the Year?  Not quite.

As listed above, While Stricker, Bubba, Watney and Wilson had impressive seasons each having a pair of victories, their overall consistency level wasn’t there, and just isn’t Player of the Year quality.  So, that leaves Webb Simpson.

After finishing 125th (the last one on the nose to keep his card for the year) of the 2010 PGA Tour Money List, it was Webb’s realistic goal to come into 2011 with a goal to keep his card and improve on the money list.  Well, wow, improve on it he did.  Webb carded ten top 10s and two victories- finally breaking through for his first PGA Tour victory at the Wyndham Championship and then again winning just two weeks later in a playoff at the FedEx Cup’s Deutsche Bank Championship.  Only a rough finish (t-22 in a 30 player field) at the Tour Championship at East Lake kept him from winning the Fed Ex Cup and a $10 million bonus.  Not too shabby for a player coming into the season looking to merely keep his card.

So, why Donald over Webb for the PGA Tour Player of the Year title you ask?  Well, let’s compare season-long resumes.  Ten top 10s and two wins for Webb in 24 events, an impressive 42% top ten percentage on the season.  Again, an incredible season especially considering his 125th place finish last year.  Compare that though to Donald- Thirteen top 10s (including 8 in a row to start the season) and one win (the prestigious WGC World Match Play Championship) for Donald in just 18 events, giving him an incredible 72% top ten percentage on the season.  That’s basically 3 out of 4 times that Donald teed it up he finished in the top 10 over the course of an entire season.  Absolutely remarkable when you stop and think about it!  Also, Donald carded two top 10s in majors, while Webb’s best finish was t-14th.

Also, of note is that Luke Donald currently leads the European Tour Money List as well thru the end of September, giving him the chance to be the first player ever to win the money title on both Tours during the same year.  Incredible.

Absolutely superb seasons by all of the above listed candidates, especially Webb.  But, when it comes down to it, the PGA Tour Player of the Year award is for season long performance.  The NFL doesn’t give an MVP award to a player who is hot for just 4 or 5 games.  It’s a full season award, just like the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year award, and this year there was no one better than Luke Donald.

Joel Harrington

Webb Simpson