Who can challenge Rory McIlroy for Player of the Year?

Can anyone take Player of the Year honors from Rory McIlroy? (Getty Images)
Can anyone take Player of the Year honors from Rory McIlroy? (Getty Images)

Since 1998 only six different golfers have won the PGA Tour Player of the Year award and that number likely won't change in 2014.

Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald, Jim Furyk, and Rory McIlroy are the golfers and one of them -- specifically the one from Northern Ireland is probably going to snag his second award in three years.

Two majors will do that for a guy, but so will the dominance he's played with over the last two months. So will the ushering in of a supposed new era.

Let's say something crazy happens though and McIlroy doesn't win because of a late charge by one of the other big dogs. 

Here are four golfers who have a chance to make a last-gasp effort at taking McIlroy down for Player of the Year honors.

Bubba Watson

He might be the only golfer who can seriously challenge McIlroy. A Masters is worth oh probably 1.25 or 1.5 PGA Championships so he can throw that at the Ulsterman and if he wins the Tour Championship he'll be sporting a green jacket, Northern Trust Open, and Tour Championship.

That likely won't get it done but it could at least make folks think.

Bubba Watson is looking to add to his two wins in 2014. (Getty Images)
Bubba Watson is looking to add to his two wins in 2014. (Getty Images)

Martin Kaymer

Golf is hard Part 812: 

Kaymer also has a Players Championship he can trot out there to go with his monster US Open victory. In any season in which a golfer didn't win two majors Kaymer would probably be considered the favorite.

Unfortunately for him he needs the Tour Championship to go with his two wins and even then it might not be enough.

Rickie Fowler

The strange thing about what Fowler has done this season is that he hasn't actually, you know, won. He has as many top 10s in majors (four) as he does in non-majors which is great for the ol' resume but bad if you're trying to win Player of the Year.

He'll have to win multiple times over the next few weeks, including the Tour Championship, to even be considered.

Rickie Fowler has been good this year but not good enough. (Getty Images)
Rickie Fowler has been good this year but not good enough. (Getty Images)

Jimmy Walker

Walker is the only golfer besides McIlroy to win three times and only those two, Watson, Kaymer, and Patrick Reed have won more than once.

Walker's wins came early on though and won't carry the weight they would if he'd won later in the year.

He'll have to win out probably to take the crown. Interestingly, if he wins again and McIlroy doesn't that would give him the wins title for the season. Only once since 1998 has somebody who didn't take the wins title (or at least tie for it) win Player of the Year and that was Padraig Harrington in 2008 when he won...yep...two majors.

The likelihood that all these guys are just playing for second is quite high. Like "you almost have to win out and then still hope folks don't think winning the PGA Championship and British Open is as impressive as it actually is" high.

So maybe they're playing for second, but in a season in which McIlroy has asserted himself firmly as the best player on the planet, second is still pretty great.

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

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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