Year-End Awards Highlight Stars On All Tours.

The Hollywood Foreign Press announced their nominations for the Golden Globe Awards this week and the Academy of Arts and Sciences will be doing the same in a month or so. And while December is a hot month for movies, it is a decidedly slow one for golf. That being said it’s a great opportunity to run through the players who shone brightest in 2009 and who were consequently recognized by the major tours for their efforts. We begin, as we always seem to do when it’s awards time, Tiger Woods.

PGA Tour Player of the Year – Tiger Woods – For the 10th time in 13 years Tiger Woods has claimed the mantle of the best player on the PGA Tour, and even in light of his off-course media attention of late, few would be brave enough to suggest he didn’t earn it once again in 2009. Despite not winning a major this year (the one thing Tiger measures his success by), Tiger went ahead and dominated all comers in 2009, winning the Fed-Ex Cup, the money title and recording the lowest scoring average on tour for the 9th time in his career. His money total of $10. 5M was $4M ahead of second place finisher Steve Stricker and his six wins was more than double any other player on tour.

Yes, he did struggle in the majors by his standards, recording 6th place finishes at the Masters and U.S Open, a missed cut at the Open Championship and finishing 2nd behind the improbable Y.E Yang at the U.S PGA. Despite all this 2009 was a year where things must be kept in perspective. Woods returned from major knee surgery at the beginning of the year, an injury that has taken Ernie Els the better part of three or four years to recover from, and stepped straight back into the role of the game’s most dominate player. With an indefinite hiatus ahead for Woods, 2010 is going to begin the same way 2009 did – amidst uncertainty. But if nothing else, Tiger is still Tiger and 2010 is sure to prove to be a defining year in the great man’s career.

European Tour Player of the Year – Lee Westwood – Ten years ago Lee Westwood was on top of the European golfing mountain. He was the Order of Merit winner, a Ryder Cup star and had climbed to No. 3 in the world rankings. By 2002 Westwood was languishing outside the top 250 in the world. He was frustrated and discouraged with his golf game. In his own words he was lost. This year Westwood showed just what hard work, patience and a strength of will can do. Trailing 20-year old Irish supernova Rory McIlroy into the last tournament of the season at the Dubai World Championship, Westwood went ahead and played the tournament of his life, shooting an absolutely flawless eight-under, 64 in the final round to claim a six-shot win in the event and leap-frog McIlroy to win the inaugural Race to Dubai. For a player who as been close in multiple majors the past two seasons, the win reaffirmed many pundit’s beliefs that Westwood is a player on the cusp of greatness.

LPGA Tour Player of the Year – Lorena Ochoa – She may not have done it in the same dominating fashion as in recent years, and she may have found a new challenger to her crown as the best female player I the game, but Lorena Ochoa is still had the LPGA Tour player by which all others are measured. Although she finished 4th on the final money list, $400,000 behind rising star Jiyai Shin of South Korea, Ochoa’s three wins and Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average were enough to give her the nod for the fourth consecutive year in the POTY points-based system . It took a final hole birdie from Ochoa at the Tour Championship to hold off tour freshman Shin in what may have been the best and most under-appreciated finish in a non-major event in golf in 2009.

LET Player of the Year – Catriona Matthew – While many women are still on maternity leave less than three months after giving birth, Scot Catriona Matthew was back at work and on her way to winning her first major championship, the Ricoh Women‘s British Open. Punctuated by a five-under, 67 in the second round, the 15-year veteran was the only player to finish under par at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. She finished the tournament at three-under, three shots clear of runner-up Karrie Webb. Matthews is the first Scottish player to win the LET POTY and just the fourth Brit in the 30-year history of the award.

PGA Tour Rookie of the Year – Marc Leishman – The Aussie became the first player since Charles Howell III in 2001 to win ROTY honors without winning a tournament. “Leish” finished 20th on the final Fed-Ex Cup points list and 47th on the final Money List, rubbing shoulders with the game‘s best throughout the playoffs.

European Tour Rookie of the Year – Chris Wood – After bursting onto the scene and contending late on Sunday at the 2008 Open Championship, Wood went ahead and did the exact same thing in 2009 at Turnbury. He eventually finished T3 and also made the exclusive field for the Dubai World Championship at the end of the year.

LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year – Jiyai Shin – Few rookies have dominated golf in recent years like Shin did in ‘09. After winning 10 of 19 events on the 2007 Korean Tour and the 2008 Women‘s British Open, Shin transplanted herself to the LPGA Tour in 2009 and continued her rise to greatness, winning three times, more than any other player on tour and leading the tour in money earned.

LET Rookie of the Year – Anna Nordqvist – After a stellar amateur career in both Europe and the on the American collegiate circuit Nordqvist made a massive impression on the world of golf in 2009, winning the LPGA Championship, a major, in just her fifth start on tour. She would cap off the year by winning the Tour Championship and representing Europe in the Solheim Cup. It was a resume that would have put Nordqvist in contention for the POTY award most other seasons, but behind Ochoa’s consistency and Shin’s year-long hot streak, she had to settle for third-best on the LPGA Tour. The LET ROTY award was her consolation for a strong first-year campaign.

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