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Tiger Woods leads player of the year race, but he's got competition

By Kyle Porter | Golf Writer

Tiger Woods wasn't great at Muirfield but that doesn't affect his player of the year chances. (USATSI)
Tiger Woods wasn't great at Muirfield, but that won't hurt his chances to win player of the year honors. (USATSI)

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Other than Masters week, this is my favorite time of the golf year. You have the US Open, British Open, PGA Championship and FedEx Cup playoffs all within about 100 days of each other, with the whole season on the line.

So many things -- history, legacies, grand slams, money winners and major champions -- can swing every week. Every day, really.

One of those things that's been swinging back and forth this year -- and will do so many more times over the next few weeks -- is the PGA Tour player of the year race.

Last year we had a no-doubt winner in Rory McIlroy. But at this same time last season he only had one win and four other top 10 finishes. He would go on to close with three more wins and two more top 10s to easily take the top spot.

That's the exciting part to me, this thing could go in a number of different ways. You might say if Tiger Woods wins one more tournament to bring his total to five, he's probably going to win it.

But what if Phil Mickelson wins the PGA Championship to round out a two-major year? Or what if Jordan Spieth wins the PGA Championship and the FedEx Cup and finishes No. 1 on the money list? Then what do we do?

Or what if somebody who's had a down year like Jason Dufner goes on a McIlroy-like streak and wins three of the next six tournaments?

I think pretty much everything is in play, but here's the short list of guys I think could take the 2013 player of the year.

1. Tiger Woods -- I think he takes it over Lefty so far because his wins, though not majors, have been bigger tournaments, and he has four of them. Obviously if he wins the PGA Championship, it's over. He's already taken home a World Golf Championship, one of the two biggest non-majors (The Players), and two other smaller ones. I think if he wins at all the rest of the year that would probably seal the deal as well.

2. Phil Mickelson -- One of only four guys so far with multiple titles. Plus, he got the big one at Muirfield. I think he can overtake Woods with either a monster PGA Championship (assuming Tiger doesn't win) or a win at Bridgestone or one of the FedEx Cup tournaments but I think he definitely has work to do. It's also pretty crazy to think he's never been player of the year.

3. Brandt Snedeker -- Probably the best of the group outside of Woods and Lefty so far this year. He's won twice but come up empty at the majors, though he's played well. If he can somehow repeat last year's showing at the Tour Championship, that'll do it. Otherwise I think he might be on the outside looking in.

4. Justin Rose -- Rose has had a sneaky great year. Missed cuts at the Players Championship and British Open but he's finished in the top 25 in every other PGA Tour tournament he's entered, including that big time win at Merion. He can end the conversation with a PGA Championship win.

5. Matt Kuchar -- Lots of work left to do for "Kooch" as well. He won the Match Play Championship back in February which is a cool title, but not as meaningful as, say, the Bridgestone Invitational or Cadillac Championship. He can do it with a major or the FedEx Cup title but he's going to need to close hard to finish off Mickelson and Woods.

6. Adam Scott -- I know I probably shouldn't dock him for not playing very much but he just doesn't stock up top 10s like a Snedeker or Rose. He hasn't played great outside of the Masters though he had a chance to win the British Open (which would have ended this race). If he can take Bridgestone again I think that puts him in the top two.

Others with a chance to sneak in the conversation late: Bill Haas, Billy Horschel, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Boo Weekley, Kevin Streelman, and Harris English.

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnGolf and @KylePorterCBS on Twitter or Google+ and like us on Facebook.

 
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