Tiger: Player Of The Year


This time, there was no debate. Tiger Woods was voted PGA Tour player of the year Tuesday after putting together the best season in more than 40 years.

The award is based on a vote of the players, and Woods left little room for argument by closing out the year with five victories in his last six events, including a major.

"I've had a good year, and I'm very proud of the way I played," Woods said. "It's a season I will remember for a long time, and one during which I learned a great deal. But in this game, you can't rest."

Carlos Franco, the 34-year-old who grew up dirt poor in Paraguay, was voted rookie of the year after winning twice and finishing 11th on the money list with more than $1.8 million.

Steve Pate, who has had as many injuries as PGA Tour victories, was voted the comeback player of the year.

Woods previously won the PGA of America's player of the year award, which is based on points from victories, money, scoring average and top 10s. The PGA Tour's honor, called the Jack Nicklaus Award, is considered more prestigious because it is a vote of his peers.

And his peers had few options, although David Duval and Payne Stewart also were on the ballot.

A year ago, the players voted for Mark O'Meara and his two major championships over Duval and his PGA Tour-high four victories. Woods' season included a little of everything.

His eight victories were the most since Johnny Miller won eight times in 1974, and Woods also won his second major at the PGA Championship, a thrilling finish in which he made an 8-foot par putt at the 17th hole to beat 19-year-old Sergio Garcia.

Woods ended the PGA season with four straight victories two of them in the new $5 million World Golf Championship events to become the first player since Ben Hogan in 1953 to put together a streak that long.

In the process, he became the first $6 million man, was No. 1 in the world ranking and won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average. And while the official season ended in Spain, Woods kept right on going.

After a sixth-place finish in Taiwan, he won individual honors in the World Cup, where he and O'Meara scored a U.S. victory, nd he won the Grand Slam of Golf among the four major championship winners.

And Woods feels the best may be yet to come.

"As soon as you feel like you're finished, then I guess you are finished because you have already put a limit on your ability and what you can attain," he said. "I don't think that's right. You should always strive to become a better player."

Franco, who got through qualifying school while using his driver to putt on the final holes, won at New Orleans and Milwaukee. He was selected over two-time winner Notah Begay, Rich Beem and Garcia.

Pate's injuries include a bruised hip from a car accident during the 1991 Ryder Cup and, most recently, an injured wrist in 1996.

Although he didn't win this year, Pate was a semifinalist in the Match Play Championship, lost in a playoff in the Nelson Classic and finished second when Duval shot a 59 in the Bob Hope Classic. He was 13th on the money list.

Other comeback candidates were Dennis Paulson and Mike Weir.

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