Something interesting happened this week after Jason Day wrapped up his fourth PGA Tour win of the year and first of the 2015 FedEx Cup season.
People started debating the unthinkable: a two-time major winner not winning the Player of the Year award. Could that really happen?
The fact there is even a discussion means one thing: The FedEx Cup playoffs have actually become a thing that … wait for it … matters. It’s officially happened! Look at FedEx, standing in the hall of fame.
Maybe the debate is just something to pass the time because it is hard to think that Jordan Spieth isn’t your 2015 PGA Tour Player of the Year despite whatever rhetoric is drummed up this week. But if Day goes on to win three of the playoffs, including the whole bean burrito (a $10 million burrito, mind you), will voters at least take a minute before putting a check next to Spieth’s name?
The case for Spieth is simple; he won the Masters and the U.S. Open, finished in the top five in all four majors and was one short putt on the Road Hole and one red-hot Australian away from a Grand Slam. Since Tiger Woods stopped making every putt that ever mattered, Spieth’s 2015 season is the best we’ve seen, and it did everything golf needed it to, including make other young players step up their games or risk becoming irrelevant. (Rory, I’m not looking at you, but I’m at least peering in your direction.)
The case for Day, of course, is that his second half of the year has been more impressive than Spieth’s. If this whole “playoffs” thing is going to catch on, we have to look at golf as some crescendo-type of sport much like the others we love. The majors are the majors, sure, but as the season progresses, players get tired, hurt, sick and, as cliche as this sounds, the strong do survive and those who can finish off the year leave with a very lucrative prize.
The debate also brings up a point that I’ve started to wonder about the past few years: What is so major about major championships? The Masters is the one played on the same course every season, and the British Open is across the pond, but considering the field at things like the WGC events and the FedEx Cup playoffs, aren’t you trying to beat the same guys you would at a major?
Jason Day was battling Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson last week at the Barclays. That’s the eighth-, fourth- and 11th-best golfers in the world right now, respectively, not exactly a leaderboard you might see at the Tuscaloosa Open.
As the playoffs continue and the field gets whittled down each week, the chances for Day to win, considering the way he’s swinging right now, increase, and the weight of each win means an even stronger campaign for a possible shocker for Player of the Year.
It won’t happen, of course, because we all know that two majors trumps anything else, but I think the debate is at least an interesting one. If you win eight events and a major, would that be enough to overtake a season like Spieth’s? Nine wins? Do you have to get to double digits?
The best part about all of this, really, is the fact that we are debating about two of the best players in the world, both under age 27, who, along with McIlroy, make up a top three all from completely different worlds. (United States, Australia and Northern Ireland are all represented in this group, which means we will get at least two of these three in the Ryder/Presidents Cup from here on out.)
And though Player of the Year isn’t exactly something that is talked about much throughout the season, winning it in 2015 would be a huge honor considering all that went down. If Day continues to play the way he has the past month, and takes home a few more trophies, it will at least make for fun 19th-hole debate.
Shane Bacon is a regular contributor to FOXSports.com’s golf coverage. Follow him on Twitter at @shanebacon.