You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Top Stories

Shackelford: Rory McIlroy’s POY award raises unfortunate questions

Golfweek logo Golfweek 4 days ago Geoff Shackelford

UP NEXT
UP NEXT

Transparency strikes again.

Cue the Russian bot jokes.

Throw in a few conspiracy theories. Some outlandish, some not. What you get will be the unfortunate response to what is otherwise a very minor controversy: Rory McIlroy was voted PGA Tour Player of the Year by his peers.

While McIlroy's season was almost as spectacular as Brooks Koepka's, McIlroy took the secret player vote announced Wednesday from somewhere in greater Palm Beach. That's likely where Commissioner Jay Monahan and the award's namesake, Jack Nicklaus, presented McIlroy the trophy.

The PGA Tour Player of the Year voting totals are not published, and even McIlroy said in a conference call with writers that the Tour did not tell him how the voting played out. He also said he was "somewhat surprised" to win and the normally eloquent 30-year-old stumbled through an answer attempting to explain why he was caught off-guard by the news.

Maybe Monahan, seated next to him, was dangling McIlroy's $15 million FedEx Cup check. Or maybe McIlroy did not want to admit he voted for Koepka, just what you'd expect from a player growing increasingly humble and grounded despite a swollen bank account and a hard-earned knack for hitting 340-yard drives.

The conference call was cut off after only a handful of media questions that will now persist without voting transparency. Koepka already had won the PGA of America's Player of the Year award - determined by a points system- and will undoubtedly win the Golf Writers Association of America's year-end vote based on his major championship play. Since 1992, the PGA of America award and PGA Tour player vote have agreed on the best golfer of the season.

Not this year.

Both players won three times, including one limited-field event each. McIlroy was more consistent with 14 top-10s in 19 starts to Koepka's nine top-10s in 21 starts.McIlroy turned in big time wins (The Players, RBC Canadian, Tour Championship), but so did Koepka (CJ Cup, PGA Championship, WGC FedEx St. Jude).

The obvious tiebreaker came in Grand Slam events.

a group of people standing on a grass court: File photo © USA TODAY File photo

Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka hug after the final round of the 2019 Tour Championship. Photo: Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports

Koepka, about four or so shots from winning three majors, was an astounding 36-under-par and 18 strokes better than the next best player to make all four cuts, Xander Schauffele.

Head-to-head Koepka was a whopping 21 strokes better in the three majors where McIlroy made the cut.

Which brings us back to the bots.

MVP races in other sports are determined through a combination of transparent methods relying primarily on media (NBA, MLB, NHL) or media and ex-players-turned media (NFL). Vote systems and totals are shared.

The PGA Tour could be seen as wise in keeping their player voting secret just in case players turned their vote into a popularity contest. Yet for 27 straight years the players have confirmed what a points system told us about on-course play. Until 2019.

Without transparency, the PGA Tour takes what should be a fun, 19 th hole debate and encourages imaginations to run wild. Not knowing the vote total or even how many players opened the email from headquarters leads to inevitable and unfortunate questions.

Did it come down to a popularity contest, with the friendly McIlroy edging the sometimes gruff Koepka?

Was there any kind of internal campaign to validate McIlroy's season as a Players and FedEx Cup winner, both events owned by the players and compensating them in very lucrative fashion?

I'm guessing eyes rolled when Monahan introduced McIlroy on the call by labeling those "landmark victories" in another example of the tour's desperation to elevate events needing no artificial elevating. They often undermine the tournaments as no one enjoys or respects the hard sell.

Here's the funny part: Koepka now has more grist for his bizarre mill that feeds off of slights.

McIlroy's peers may simply have felt consistency trumped major play - even historically astounding numbers in majors by Koepka - and that's fine. But without knowing any of the vote numbers, McIlroy's PGA Tour Player of the Year win will stand out for all of the wrong reasons.

MORE:

Antonio Brown's Alleged Emails to Sexual Assault Accuser Released

Browns fan who wasn't at game claims team banned him for throwing beer on Logan Ryan

Dennis Rodman beautifully described the difference between LeBron and MJ

Can the Saints save Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins' tanked season?

Pro Football Focus grades Raiders DE Clelin Ferrell in Week 1

AdChoices
AdChoices

MORE FROM GOLFWEEK

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon