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Should Rory McIlroy have won Player of the Year over Brooks Koepka? Let’s break down the numbers

September 12, 2019

While the 2018-19 PGA Tour Player of the Year race was basically between two people — Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka — most believed it was Koepka out in front. Yet when it was announced on Wednesday that McIlroy won (Jack Nicklaus broke the news to him), many couldn’t believe he actually leap-frogged Koepka.

This award, however, is voted on by the players, and most apparently thought McIlroy’s campaign was better, regardless of which direction public opinion swayed. But with an award like this there are many variables that must be considered. Is it a popularity contest? How much emphasis should be put on majors? The Players? The fall season? The Playoffs? Tops 10s? You get the picture. Koepka may have topped McIlroy’s season when it comes to the majors (which aren’t run by the Tour), but McIlroy won both of the Tour’s marquee events, the Players and FedEx Cup Playoffs.

“Brooks has had an incredible year, an incredible two, three years, whatever it is,” McIlroy said on Wednesday. “He’s the No. 1 player in the world, and I don’t know, I think this speaks volumes of what PGA Tour players feel is important. I think players don’t just feel that four weeks a year is important. It’s more than that. We play a lot more. Why do we play 25 times a year if only four weeks are important? I think that’s a huge vote of confidence from the players that we play for more than just, you know, maybe what the narrative suggests.”

Rory McIlroy beat Brooks Koepka at the Tour Championship, and he also topped Koepka in the Player of the Year race.
Rory McIlroy beat Brooks Koepka at the Tour Championship, and he also topped Koepka in the Player of the Year race.
Getty Images

So who should have won Player of the Year? It’s time for you to vote. Check out the comparisons of both players and decide for yourself.

2018-19 wins

Rory McIlroy: Players Championship, RBC Canadian Open, Tour Championship/FedEx Cup Playoffs

Brooks Koepka: The CJ Cup, PGA Championship, WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational

2018-19 top 10s

Rory McIlroy: 14 in 19 starts

Brooks Koepka: 9 in 21 starts

Major performance

Rory McIlroy:

Masters: T-21st
PGA Championship: T-8th
U.S. Open: T-9th
Open Championship: Cut

Brooks Koepka:

Masters: T-2nd
PGA Championship: Won
U.S. Open: 2nd
Open Championship: T-4th

World Golf Championships performance

Rory McIlroy:

WGC-HSBC: T-54th
WGC-Mexico: 2nd
WGC-Match Play: T-9th
WGC-St. Jude: T-4th

Brooks Koepka:

WGC-HSBC: T-16th
WGC-Mexico: T-27th
WGC-Match Play: T-56th
WGC-St. Jude: Won

PGA Tour marquee events

Rory McIlroy:

Players Championship: Won
Northern Trust: T-6th
BMW Championship: T-19th
Tour Championship/FedEx Cup Playoffs: Won

Brooks Koepka:

Players Championship: T-56h
Northern Trust: T-30th
BMW Championship: T-24th
Tour Championship/FedEx Cup Playoffs: T-3rd

Other notable events

Rory McIlroy:

Sentry Tournament of Champions: T-4th
Arnold Palmer Invite: T-6th
The Memorial: Cut

Brooks Koepka:

Sentry Tournament of Champions: 24th
Arnold Palmer Invite: Cut
The Memorial: DNP

2019-19 money earned

Rory McIlroy: $22,785,286
Brooks Koepka: $13,184,006

*Includes FedEx Cup bonus money

World ranking

Rory McIlroy:

Beginning of 2018-19 season: 6th
End of 2018-19 season: 2nd

Brooks Koepka:

Beginning of 2018-19 season: 3rd
End of 2018-19 season: 1st

Strokes-gained statistics

Rory McIlroy:

SG off the tee: 1st
SG approach the green: 12th
SG around the green: 19th
SG putting: 24th
SG tee to green: 1st
SG total: 1st

Brooks Koepka:

SG off the tee: 21st
SG approach the green: 11th
SG around the green: 92nd
SG putting: 48th
SG tee to green: 12th
SG total: 9th

* Not all events track Strokes Gained statistics.

And there you have it. Case closed? Well, that depends on whom you are talking to. During his conference call on Wednesday, McIlroy was asked if he was told how close the vote was.

“I inquired,” he said, “and they are keeping tight-lipped on that.”

Perhaps we’ll never know.