Donald makes a clear case for player of the year

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. (AP) - Luke Donald can only hope that shooting 30 on his last nine holes to win at Disney was the hard part.

His sole reason for entering the final PGA Tour event of the year was to keep alive his bid to become the first player to win the money title on both sides of the Atlantic. The bonus of capturing the PGA Tour money title was that it surely would make him the frontrunner, if not the overwhelming favorite, as player of the year.

Donald was better than everyone on the PGA Tour in two of the most relevant categories _ money and scoring average. He and six others tied for most wins (two). Of that group, only Keegan Bradley won a major.

More telling is that in 14 of his 19 tournaments, Donald finished in the top 10. That’s a rate of 74 percent, a level of consistency matched only by Tiger Woods in the last 15 years. There’s a reason he has been No. 1 in the world since May.

And if that’s not enough, Disney provided a rare head-to-head competition with Donald and Webb Simpson playing in the same group all four days. In a winner-take-all situation, Donald birdied six straight holes on the back nine to win.

The ballots go out in two weeks, after the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, where the only person who could possibly cloud the decision is Bradley. Even though he has missed 10 cuts and only has four top 10s, he could attract votes with three wins, including a major and a World Golf Championship.

Either way, picking the winner is not as easy as it should be.

Remember, this is a vote of the players.

Perhaps it’s only a coincidence that as PGA Tour members start deliberating on player of the year, EA Sports announced the winners of a contest in which fans voted to determine who would join Woods on the cover of its next video game. The winners were Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy, two of the most popular young players in the game.

The hope is that player voting doesn’t turn into a popularity contest, too.

A year ago, Fowler was chosen PGA Tour rookie of the year over McIlroy in a vote that made little sense. Fowler finished only four spots ahead of McIlroy in the money list (No. 22 to No. 26), but failed to win a tournament. McIlroy not only shot 62 on the last day to win at Quail Hollow, he finished third in two majors.

Then again, the case could be made that Fowler was a true rookie devoted exclusively to the PGA Tour, while McIlroy was in his third full year as a pro and spent most of his time on the European Tour.

Could something like that happen again?

Robert Garrigus said he had made up his mind before the tournament even started last week.

“I would vote for Webb,” he said. “I mean, he’s had such an unbelievable year. If you look at how many top 10s he’s made (12), it’s almost more than some guys have played in tournaments. What has he made, $6 million? That’s Tiger money, and that’s pretty special.

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