It’s really hard to believe that July is right around the corner. The PGA Tour season is more than halfway complete, even though there are a lot of big tournaments left on the schedule. Two major championships have come and gone, and golf fans already have a lot of great memories from this season. Some of the memories are good ones, while some are pretty hard to think about a second time.
I’ll be giving out awards for player of the year, rookie of the year, disappointment of the year, etc. Hopefully this will even stir up some debate here at The Sand Trap. Let’s get to the Thrash Talk 2006 PGA Tour mid-season awards.
Player of the Year
This award comes down to two golfers: Phil Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy. Both Mickelson and Ogilvy have won two tournaments apiece so far in 2006, and each guy has one of the major championships. Lefty is in first place on the PGA Tour money list, but Ogilvy is only $127,000 behind him in second place. This time last month, Phil would have won this award, but it’s more interesting now that Ogilvy is our new U.S. Open champion.
Phil Mickelson’s two wins this season came at the BellSouth Classic in a runaway victory and at The Masters a week later. Lefty has also racked up six other top-10 finishes for eight top-10 finishes this season, including a tie for second at Winged Foot a week and a half ago. All in all, those numbers are awesome!
Geoff Ogilvy has also won two events this season, the Accenture Match Play Championship and the U.S. Open. The young Aussie has four top-10 finishes total, or four less than Mickelson has, but is it enough to concede the award to Lefty? Not hardly.
In the end, my mid-season player of the year is Geoff Ogilvy. Mickelson’s two victories just aren’t as solid as Ogilvy’s two wins. Both have played well enough so far to be the player of the year, but Ogilvy has won two of the four biggest tournaments played this season. That says it all right there. The only question now is which of these guys will finish the strongest in 2006?
Rookie of the Year
PGA Tour fans have been lucky enough to see the emergence of a couple solid rookies in 2006. J.B. Holmes and Camilo Villegas have both made statements early on this season. Some people consider Trevor Immelman a PGA Tour rookie, but that’s really hard for me to believe. I’m excluding him from my list.
J.B. Holmes has something Villegas doesn’t have, and that’s a PGA Tour victory. If it’s all about wins, then Holmes would win the award by default. The young gun won the FBR Open by seven strokes, stamping his name at the top of the Rookie of the Year race. That being said, Holmes hasn’t had a very good year since his win in Scottsdale. In his 11 starts since the win, he has five missed cuts and has withdrawn once.
Camilo Villegas has gotten everyone’s attention with his play on the course, his unusual green reading tactics, and his fashion statements. Those things aside, the Colombian has racked up three top-five finishes, including a tie for third at The Players Championship. However, like Holmes, Villegas has limped a little since finishing strong at Sawgrass. Villegas has missed four cuts in eight starts since then.
It really comes down to two guys that started strong but have tailed off recently. J.B. Holmes has the one victory, but I’m picking Camilo Villegas as my mid-season rookie of the year. Villegas has been a little more consistent so far, and that’s the difference in this race.
There are plenty of golfers to choose from for disappointment of the year. The list includes Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, and Chris DiMarco. All three guys have fallen off considerably in the last year or so.
Ernie Els has managed three top-10 finishes this season and has made the cut in all 11 tournaments he has entered. Those numbers alone take him out of the running for biggest disappointment of the year at the halfway point. That being said, the Big Easy better get it going before I give out the end-of-the-year awards.
Where do I start with the disappointment that is Sergio Garcia? There is absolutely no reason this guy shouldn’t improve his putting and win everything on the PGA Tour. Garcia has three top-10 finishes this season, but the last one was in March. Garcia’s dismal 2006 season continued with two 78s at Winged Foot two weeks ago. The Spaniard may not win the award at the halfway point, but he also needs to improve dramatically in the next few months.
The mid-season award for most disappointing player goes to Chris DiMarco. DiMarco is coming off the best season of his career, and so far he has followed it up with a lot of missed cuts and lousy finishes. He has missed seven cuts in 16 starts and ranks outside the top 100 on the PGA Tour money list. DiMarco’s only top-10 finish of the season was at the Accenture Match Play Championship which was played in February. The master of the claw grip needs to become the master of season comebacks.
Comeback Player of the Year
Speaking of comebacks, that’s the title of the next mid-season award. The two guys that top this list are Stephen Ames and Steve Stricker. Both guys have made huge jumps on the PGA Tour money from last season. Ames finished 83rd on the money list last season, and he currently sits in 11th. Ames’ season includes a dominant win at The Players Championship in March.
Steve Stricker has played in only a few tournaments in 2006, but he has certainly made the most of them. In nine tournaments, he has finished in the top 10 three times. This includes a solid tie for sixth at Winged Foot. Stricker finished last season 162nd on the PGA Tour money list, and he currently sits around 50th place (pending the finish of the Booz Allen Classic). That is an enormous improvement from last season, and that is good enough to win Stricker the Thrash Talk mid-season comeback player of the year award.
The two major championships played so far in 2006 have also been the two best tournaments at the halfway point. Both tournaments gave fans a sense of drama on the final day and even the final hole.
The Masters was great because there were so many top golfers at the top of the leaderboard. Phil Mickelson won the tournament, but Retief Goosen, Tiger Woods, and Vijay Singh all finished in the top 10 as well. Tiger being in contention helped keep The Masters in the running for best tournament of the year.
However, the U.S. Open at Winged Foot wins the award outright. It’s very rare golf fans get to see a crazy finish like the one at Winged Foot. Going into the final day, nobody really knew who would win the tournament. Then, once it looked like Phil had wrapped it up going into the last hole, things got even crazier.
Jim Furyk bogeyed the last hole to finish one shot off the eventual winning score. Padraig Harrington bogeyed the last three holes to finish two shots off the winning score. Colin Montgomerie double bogeyed the last hole to finish one shot behind the eventual winner. Finally, Phil Mickelson did his best impression of Jean Van de Velde at the 1999 British Open. Lefty double bogeyed the last hole to finish one behind the eventual winner.
Geoff Ogilvy, on the other hand, maintained composure on his way to picking up his first-ever major championship victory. Ogilvy finished with four consecutive pars, and that was the difference. All in all, the U.S. Open was a great competition between the players and the golf course. It also provided golf fans a very entertaining tournament, especially the finish.
Quick Predictions for the Second Half of 2006
Stuart Appleby will continue the Australian success in 2006 by winning the British Open in a few weeks. Appleby has been close before, and he will pick up his first-ever major championship like Ogilvy did at Winged Foot. Phil Mickelson will struggle to make the cut at the British Open, as will Tiger Woods.
The Tiger vs. Phil match-up will take place at the PGA Championship in August. We will finally get to see the two go head-to-head down the stretch while playing in the same group. Tiger Woods will put Phil back in his place en route to winning his third-career Wanamaker Trophy.
I already mentioned the disappointing season of Chris DiMarco. That being said, the season will get better when Tom Lehman picks DiMarco as a captain’s pick to play in this year’s Ryder Cup. No matter how bad DiMarco plays throughout the season, he always brings his best in match-play events. Lehman will understand this and make him a captain’s pick alongside Arron Oberholser. Oberholser is also intense, and he will play very well for the United States.
The Final Say
There is still a lot of golf to be played in the 2006 season, but it’s never too early to start handing out awards. Before we know it, it will be time for the Tour Championship. Then I’ll be handing out the end-of-the-season awards. Hopefully, some of these will change and some will stay the same. It would be nice to see guys like Garcia and DiMarco start playing great golf again.
Also, what will the two remaining major championship have in store for golf fans? It will be very tough to live up to the first two majors of the season. Golf fans can’t really ask for much more than what we got from The Masters and U.S. Open. If the British Open and PGA Championship are as exciting as the first two have been, we are all in for a treat.
That’s all I have to say this week. It’s your turn to tell me what you think about this week’s Thrash Talk. Who are your mid-season award winners? Also, what is in store for the two remaining major championships this season? Finally, will any of the disappointments turn their game around before this season ends? If you have anything to add, feel free to comment below or discuss it in the forum. Until next time, have a good week of golf!