NAPLES, Fla. -- Tiger Woods was on the ballot when the U.S. PGA Tour began voting on its annual awards, but only in one category.
Even though Woods missed four months with an Achilles injury last year, failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs and finished out of the top 125 on the money list for the first time in his career, he is not under consideration as the U.S. PGA Tour comeback player of the year.
Neither is anyone else, for that matter.
The tour has changed the definition of the award, which began in 1991 and over the years had been given to players who came back from injury (Steve Jones, Steve Pate), a life-threatening illness (Paul Azinger) and bad play (long list, but notably Steve Stricker -- twice).
Now it will be awarded to a player "who through courage and perseverance has overcome extraordinary adversity, such as a personal tragedy or debilitating illness, to make a significant and meaningful contribution to the game of golf."
The award will be determined by tour commissioner Tim Finchem and the four players on the policy board, assuming there is a candidate.
It is not unprecedented for no one to win the award: There was no one on the ballot in 2009 and 2011. That's partly due to what now has become a running joke, with Stricker becoming the only player to win the comeback award in consecutive years -- in 2006 after he started the year with limited status and was considered for the Ryder Cup team, and in 2007 when he won a FedEx Cup playoff event and was No. 4 on the money list.
Andy Pazder, the tour's chief of operations, said potential candidates down the road could include Jarrod Lyle, who is in Australia recovering from a recurrence of leukemia, or even someone like Chris Smith, whose life suffered a crushing setback when his wife was killed in a car crash.
For Woods -- and J.B. Holmes, who had brain surgery last year -- there was little doubt they were going to return to play.
Rory McIlroy is virtually certain to be voted tour player of the year after winning four times, including an eight-shot victory at the U.S. PGA Championship and back-to-back wins in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He also won the money title (in the U.S. and in Europe) and the Vardon Trophy.
Balloting ends on Nov. 30 and the winners will be announced in early December.