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PGA Tour members vote on player of the year. The ballots aren’t due until after the final event at Disney in November, and it was so close last year that Luke Donald and Webb Simpson played deep into the Fall Series. Simpson and Donald finished Nos. 1-2 in the FedEx Cup. Neither won a major. Donald finished the season with a 64 to win Disney and capture the money title. Only then was it an easy vote.

That probably won’t be the case this time.

For three players, their only win was a major _ Simpson (U.S. Open), Bubba Watson (Masters) and Ernie Els (British Open). The leading candidate for player of the year going into the FedEx Cup playoffs is McIlroy, who won the Honda Classic and the PGA Championship, setting a record with his eight-shot margin.

Not to be forgotten is Woods, who has won three times this year. No one else has more than two.

Els, Simpson and Watson could make it a five-man race if they were to win the FedEx Cup, which means they would have to win another tournament. Keep in mind that the next four weeks _ particularly the next two with a full field _ feature some of the strongest fields of the year.

Woods (No. 1 in the standings) and McIlroy (No. 3) are in the same group the opening two rounds at Bethpage, which is fitting. How they perform over the next month could decide who wins player of the year.

Woods is a 10-time winner of the award, including two of those years when he failed to win a major.

The closest vote was in 2003, when he had one more win than Vijay Singh (5 to 4), and won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average while Singh won the money title. Neither won a major. Three years ago, Woods won despite not having a major because he won six times, including the FedEx Cup. McIlroy has a major, and the degree of dominance will not be overlooked. He joined Woods as the only players to win majors by at least eight shots since 1976.

Woods probably has to win a playoff event to capture player of the year. And if McIlroy were to win a playoff event, that should be enough for him to win unless Woods were to win twice, including the FedEx Cup.

Beyond the Ryder Cup and the tour’s biggest award, the FedEx Cup offers something for each of the 125 players who qualified _ hope.

Heath Slocum was the only player who moved into the top 125 last week, moving up to No. 124. He is a long shot, though history is on his side. Three years ago, Slocum narrowly got into playoffs at No. 124 and made a 10-foot putt on the last hole at The Barclays to beat Woods, Els, Stricker and Padraig Harrington. That assured him a spot in the Tour Championship and in all four majors.

The goal for Slocum is keep playing as long as he can _ the top 100 go to the second round in Boston, the top 70 to the third event in Indianapolis. He is in the playoffs, though there is no guarantee that Slocum will have his PGA Tour card locked up when the playoffs are over.

That might be more important for him than who gets picked for the Ryder Cup or voted PGA Tour player of the year.