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A PGA Tour player of the year finalist… plays for LIV?

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This is weird…

Three individuals were recognized by the PGA Tour on Monday as the three finalists for the Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year award in recognition of their outstanding seasons and subsequent contributions to the PGA Tour. Naturally, there was just one issue: one of the candidates has subsequently pledged loyalty to LIV Golf, the Tour’s adversary.

The Tour announced Rory McIlroy, the winner of the Tour Championship, Scottie Scheffler, and reigning Players Championship champion Cameron Smith as contenders for the Nicklaus Award. This is in spite of Smith’s revelation last Monday that he would be quitting the PGA Tour for a rumored $100 million salary to join the rival teams financed by Saudi Arabia.

With three victories and more over $10 million in on-course earnings, World No. 2 Smith enjoyed the finest season of his career in 2022. After winning the Sentry Tournament of Champions to start the season, Smith finished a beautiful (and odd) week at the Players Championship with a nervous triumph in front of his family in his adoptive city, initiating a teary celebration with family in the Tour’s largest event. By leapfrogging Rory McIlroy with five consecutive birdies on the back nine, he won the 150th Open Championship in July after getting the monkey off his back. This was his first major victory.

The 29-year-old Australian eventually confirmed in late August that he has signed on to join LIV Golf, joining his fellow countryman and coach, LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, in the fledgling league after months of whispers. As the captain of his all-Australian team, Punch GC, he took part in competition for the first time last weekend at LIV Boston, where he tied for fourth place.

Smith is still a long shot to win the prize despite having his best season to date. In addition to winning the Masters, Scheffler had one of the most dominating years in recent memory. He also became the World No. 1 and established himself as one of the sport’s most talented players. Behind him, McIlroy had a comeback of his own, winning the Tour Championship for the third time in his professional career and claiming the $18 million first prize. This was his third and final victory of the 2021–22 season.

The three candidates for PGA Tour rookie of the year, Cameron Young, Sahith Theegala, and Tom Kim, were also named along with Scheffler, McIlroy, and Smith. Players who participated in at least 15 tournaments are eligible to vote this week for player of the year and rookie of the year. Prior recipients of the honor include Rory Mcilroy (’18-19), Dustin Johnson (’19-20), and Patrick Cantlay (’20-21). The voting ends on Friday, September 9 at 5 p.m., and the winner will be announced afterwards.

Original article posted on Golf.com

Photo credit: Matt York/Associated Press

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