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Vardon Trophy still up for grabs

Padraig Harrington was about the only one not complaining that a double major champion could not qualify for the Tour Championship, blaming only himself for missing consecutive cuts at the start of the PGA Tour Playoffs.

His biggest letdown? Realizing he couldn’t win the Vardon Trophy.

Harrington figured he was safe playing the minimum 15 events on the PGA Tour. But he missed the cut three times, and finished the year with only 52 rounds. Players must complete 60 rounds to be eligible for the Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average.

“I didn’t know that,” Harrington said with a mixture of surprise and disappointment. “I was trying to win that award. I would consider that a big deal to have the lowest scoring average.”

At least there will be one compelling race at the end of the year.

Going into the Tour Championship next week, Phil Mickelson leads with a 69.52 scoring average, with Sergio Garcia one-hundredth of a point behind at 69.53. Right behind are Vijay Singh and Anthony Kim, tied at 69.62. Harrington, who was leading until he tied for 55th in the BMW Championship, slipped to fifth place at 69.67, but it’s a moot point now.

Mickelson has never won a major postseason award, and this might be his best chance. So even though Singh has effectively wrapped up the FedEx Cup, Lefty will have something at stake at the Tour Championship.

Tiger Woods ran into the same problem as Harrington in 2006, when he won two majors then cut his season short after a long year off the course dealing with his father’s death. Woods withdrew from Riviera, missed the cut in the U.S. Open and wound up playing only 59 rounds. The Vardon Trophy went to Jim Furyk.

But it raises a question the PGA of America might want to consider.

Harrington is among several players who compete around the globe and often play only the minimum on the PGA Tour. That means they cannot miss a cut and be eligible for the Vardon Trophy.

“It’s been 60 rounds for quite a number of years,” said Kerry Haig at the PGA of America. “That’s still a good, reasonable number to judge a yearlong competition. It’s a fairly stringent, fairly consistent criteria. But when you look at the competition now out there, is it reasonable to make 15 cuts out of 15 tournaments for players to reach the minimum rounds? We’ll continue to look at it.”

The PGA Tour has its own version of the Vardon Trophy—the Byron Nelson Award—and it requires only 50 rounds to be eligible.


September 10, 2008

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