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Donald Voted PGA Tour Player of the Year by Peers; Bradley Rookie of the Year


Luke Donald has capped his incredible 2011 season by being named the PGA Tour Player of the Year. Keegan Bradley was also awarded with the Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old Donald was selected in a vote by players on the tour and became the first Brit to win the award since Nick Faldo in 1990.

Donald, also the No. 1-ranked player in the world, won the award over Bradley, Bill Haas, Webb Simpson and Nick Watney. According to The Associated Press, Donald won in a landslide, although the PGA Tour does not release the votes or the order in which the players finished.

"It's a great honor to cap off what has been an amazing year for me," Donald said from the Australian Masters, which starts Thursday at Victoria Golf Club in Melbourne. "Thank you to all the players for their votes.

"There was obviously some other worthy people to vote for, and I guess my overall consistency and having to go to Disney and win, and win the money list like I did, was a deciding factor," he added. "I feel very honored at the moment."

Although he accumulated two wins in 2011 - a 3 and 2 victory over Martin Kaymer in February's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and a clutch two-stroke win in October's Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Disney World to wrest the money title from Simpson, Donald did not win a major title. Ten-time winner Tiger Woods - in 2003 and 2009, Greg Norman in 1995 and Nick Price in 1993 are the only players in the last 20 years not to have captured a major title when they received Player of the Year honors.

If his play this year is any indication, Donald isn't long for getting his first major title. "Obviously, this year has been a breakout year for me in terms of my confidence levels, and hopefully those confidence levels will be carried over to next year and will serve me well in the majors."

Instead, Donald was named for his unerring consistency, which was borne out by him becoming the first player in history to win the money titles on both the PGA and European tours. On the American circuit, he earned $6,683,214; in Europe, he accumulated $7.11 million.

"I've done a lot of things this year that probably not a lot of people would have given me much chance of doing," he said. "I think in the last 10 or 20 years, the power game has really taken control of golf. But I think I've been a little bit of a breath of fresh air knowing that's not the only way you can be successful.

"Through a good short game, good putting, managing your game, you can be successful in other ways," he added. "I think I've proven that quite considerably this year." (See below for the full transcript of the POY announcement.)

Donald also won two PGA Tour events to tie for the most victories on the year, and earned the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average of 68.86. He had top-10 finishes in 14 of the 19 PGA tournaments he entered. In 25 official events in both America and Europe, he racked up a remarkable 19 top-10 finishes.

In being named Rookie of the Year, Bradley was also in the running for POY honors thanks to his breakout season. The 25-year-old from Vermont won the HP Byron Nelson Championship and the PGA Championship, the first-ever major he'd entered and the first-ever player to win a major title with a long putter.

Bradley ended up 10th on the PGA Tour money list with $3,758,600 thanks to the two victories, four top-10s and 12 top-25 finishes in 28 events entered. He also won the Grand Slam of Golf, beating the year's other three major winners in Bermuda, and teamed up last week with Brendan Steele to win the Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout.

On Tuesday, the executive vice president of the PGA Tour, Ty Votaw, commissioner Tim Finchem, Donald and Bradley were on hand for on the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year announcements. Here's what they had to say.

TY VOTAW: Welcome, everybody, for today's announcement. We appreciate very much you calling in, and we appreciate the principals who are on the line with us today from various points around the world. Without further delay, I'd like to introduce Commissioner Tim Finchem, who has our announcements this afternoon.

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, thank you, Ty, and thank you all for being on the call. This is an exciting point of the year when we can single out two players who were voted by their peers as Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year. I think if you look back on the 2011 PGA Tour season, it was an interesting and a different and compelling season, certainly highlighted by the youth movement on the Tour with 16 players in their 20s accounting for 18 wins and a record number of six rookies accounting for seven victories. We had 14 first time winners. The Presidents Cup had six players on the U.S. Team for the first time. We had a terrific playoff finish with Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and some of the veterans played well, as well, with victories by Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson, K.J. and David Toms. And then toward the end of the year it seems like we've seen a reemergence of Tiger Woods with his fine play at the Presidents Cup and returning to the winner's circle at the Chevron Challenge.

I think everybody on the line is aware of our process. At the end of the year we take a ballot. The Player Advisory Council puts out a ballot to all the players to vote on Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year. And the votes are now in, were in Friday. In the case of Rookie of the Year, the players chose to recognize Keegan Bradley with that commendation. Keegan had playoff victories at the HP Byron Nelson Championship and the PGA Championship, the first rookie since Todd Hamilton in 2004 to win twice, and with his PGA Championship victory over Jason Dufner, in that playoff Keegan became the first player since Ben Curtis to win a major championship in his first major championship start.

He was one of a record six rookies to win on the PGA Tour as I mentioned. He finished 20th in the final FedEx Cup points list. He became only the fourth rookie to play his way into the playoff finale since the beginning of the Playoffs. He joins Brandt Snedeker, Andres Romero and Marc Leishman in that category. Keegan had four top 10s. The other players on the ballot were Chris Kirk, Charl Schwartzel, Scott Stallings, Brendan Steele and Jhonattan Vegas. I think Keegan, in addition to his great play, developed as a player during the course of the year, clearly was an exciting player for the fans to watch and contributed a lot to what the fans thought about this year in a very positive way. And with that, Keegan, congratulations to you as the 2011 Rookie of the Year. Please share your reaction with us.

KEEGAN BRADLEY: Yeah, thank you so much. I'm thrilled to win Rookie of the Year for all that it means, but also most importantly the fact that it was voted to by my peers. You know, it's an award that you can only win one time in your entire career. You get one chance at it, and it was the main goal of mine to start the year and it's a huge honor and privilege to be the Rookie of the Year this year.

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Thanks, Keegan. That leads us to the PGA Tour Player of the Year, and the players have recognized Luke Donald for his very consistent play. Luke is the first player from England to be voted Player of the Year since the inception of this recognition in 1990. He had two PGA Tour wins, at the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship earlier in the year and the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic here toward the end of the year. He led the PGA Tour among all players with 14 top 10 finishes, and he had runner up finishes at the RBC Heritage in a playoff and the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational, as well.

For the second consecutive year he finished third in the FedEx Cup competition, and he posted top 5 finishes in three of the FedEx Cup Playoff events. He won the Byron Nelson trophy as well as the Vardon Award for lowest adjusted scoring average at 68.86. He also collected the Arnold Palmer Award with the money title. This is his tenth season on the PGA Tour and his best. In the balloting and selection by the players, he was selected over Keegan Bradley, Bill Haas, Webb Simpson and Nick Watney. Luke, as winner of the Player of the Year you'll be receiving the Jack Nicklaus Trophy. I think all of us have marveled at your incredible consistency in setting some real records on the greens this year, as well. I would also just say as I introduce you that from a PGA Tour perspective, you have over the course of your career in this first decade been a major contributor to what the image of the game is all about, which is our number one asset. You've handled yourself impeccably. You are a role model for what we'd like to see young players be, and I think without speaking for the players, I suspect they took all that into consideration when they voted on you, although they didn't need to because you were clearly the best player this year, and congratulations to you. Please share your thoughts with us.

LUKE DONALD: Thank you, Commissioner. I really appreciate that. That's a great honor, obviously, to cap off what has been an amazing year for me. First of all, thank you to all the players for their votes and for voting for me. There was obviously some other worthy people to vote for, and I guess my overall consistency and having to go to Disney and win and win the Money List like I did was a deciding factor. Thank you to my players, and yeah, I feel very honored at the moment.

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I'll kick it back to Ty to take us through questions and answers.

Q. Luke, congratulations. Amongst the other things you've done, winning the money title on both sides of the Atlantic, do you think that'll ever happen again?

LUKE DONALD: Well, thanks, Doug. It's hard to tell. It's obviously been a tremendously consistent year for me. It's not easy to be a member of both tours and do what I've done. There's only really a handful of people that do it, so obviously there's a limited number of people that can do it in any one year. To be the first is very special, and I think it's probably my greatest achievement this year.

Q. Secondly, I just wanted to ask you, was there any concern, I know you felt like you had the best year out there with everything you've done, but any concern with how the vote might go just based on the members voting for Rickie Fowler over Rory last year in the rookie vote?

LUKE DONALD: To be honest, I wasn't too concerned. You know, I think I left it up to players to try and make the right decision. I felt like I deserved it, but obviously the way the year went, there was a little bit of ambiguity because I only won twice. Keegan obviously had a good opportunity, Webb had a great year. I think there were just a few things that separated myself from the other players just in terms of the overall consistency, obviously winning the Money List and a few of the other things, winning the stroke average. And hopefully - it looks like my players were on my side, and as I said to Tim, I really appreciate their support.

Q. I actually have a question for both players. Just curious, you seem to have it figured out. Do you look at your schedule this year, and can we pretty much expect the same sort of schedule for you next year?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, 2012 I'm going to play a very similar schedule. I'll be playing both tours again. Obviously with the Ryder Cup year, again, it's nice to be a member of both tours, and I'm looking forward to earning some points and hopefully getting on that European side. But my schedule won't change too much. The only real issue I had in my schedule this year was I felt like I played a little bit too much around the U.S. Open. I felt quite tired at that event, and I didn't perform very well. It was a mixture of playing too much and being a little bit under the weather. I had some strep throat, and that didn't help matters. But other than that, my schedule will be very similar for next year.

Q. And for Keegan, as good as the year was, what do you hope to improve on next year?

KEEGAN BRADLEY: Next year I just look forward to getting back out there and playing, seeing these courses for the second time and knowing the players a little better, most importantly being a little more consistent with a little less try not to miss any cuts or less cuts but to keep contending in tournaments and try to win every time I tee it up just like Luke did this year.

Q. Luke, I was curious, you mentioned the U.S. Open, and I'm curious sort of how restless you are for that next step to win a major, and specifically out here in San Francisco it would seem like the Olympic Club suits your game. I'm curious about your thoughts on that in June.

LUKE DONALD: Well, yeah, obviously that's something that is missing from my resumé is a major and something I'll continue to concentrate on trying to focus my efforts on, giving it my best shot. I would love to win one, obviously, and I'm jealous of all the other players that have one. But yes, I don't know a lot about the Olympic Club. I've never been there. But throughout the year hopefully I'll get to see it before I get to the U.S. Open in June. I've heard good things about it. You know, I'm always a believer that any course will suit me as long as I'm playing well. I kind of proved that at the Match Play. It's a hugely long course and not many people probably thought I had a great chance there. But I think if my game is on, I'm good enough to win at any course. I'm looking forward to that one. I heard it's a great course, and again, looking forward to the challenges of all four majors next year.

Q. And one quick follow up if I can. How important is you also winning this award beyond your game? Does it make any statement that you don't have to hit it a million miles to have a great year, to be the best player on the PGA Tour and to be the best player in the world?

LUKE DONALD: Well, you know, I've done a lot of things this year that probably not a lot of people would have given me much chance of doing, just winning both money titles, being as consistent as I have been. I think consistency does go a long way, and I think in the last 10 or 20 years, the power game has really taken control of golf, but I think I've been a little bit of a breath of fresh air knowing that that's not the only way you can be successful, through good short game, good putting, managing your game, that you can be successful in other ways. I think I've proven that quite considerably this year.

Q. Ty or Tim, I was wondering if you could sort of characterize the vote tally. I'm not necessarily asking for the number because I know better, but did Luke win by a comfortable margin, and what about Keegan?

TY VOTAW: I think as you know, we don't really get into details or generalities with respect to the vote totals. I think suffice it to say that they're both deserving winners of this award, and we congratulate them.

Q. This is a question for Luke: What do you think has kept you from making that breakthrough in the majors and maybe why you haven't been as consistent in those as you have been in the other events?

LUKE DONALD: Well, it's a hard question to answer. It's always something I'm searching for, to try and be as prepared as I can. I suppose there's a little bit more pressure, a little bit more expectation in majors and I need to learn to better handle that. Obviously this year has been a breakout year for me in terms of my confidence levels, and hopefully those confidence levels will be carried over to next year and will serve me well in the majors. I think before this year I've been a good player and a consistent player but never really a great player, and obviously this year has been really a big step for me in terms of my mental side and the way I approach tournaments and how I feel about them. I can only think that that will serve me well for the majors next year, and I'm certainly looking forward to the challenge.

Q. Winning the Tour finale with all the pressure of knowing you had to win to have a chance to win both Money Lists, is that what you're talking about in terms of a breakthrough in confidence and mentally?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, well, I think that was just one example, that you definitely feed from those kind of situations. When everything is on the line and you're able to come up with the shots when they matter, that's when the hard work and the practice is really paying off. Those are the kind of situations you feed off when you come into similar situations, you know, in majors and big tournaments. Hopefully I have a lot more to feed off of because of that. I think that will serve me well for next year.

Q. What do you do for an encore?

LUKE DONALD: That's a tough one. Well, obviously the glaring thing that's off my resumé is winning a major, and I would love to do that and add it to what's been a great ten years on Tour. Obviously this year has been a breakout year for me and something I'm very, very proud of. You know, I feel like winning both Money Lists and creating history is something very special. It takes a year to do that. I'm obviously excited to add to my record of wins, and hopefully some of those will be majors. I think there will always be a little bit of an asterisk against my name until I win one, but I'll be trying very hard to correct that.

Q. Luke, I'm curious, every player wants to be consistent, every player works to be a consistent player, but most guys have weeks where their game is kind of off. Did you kind of surprise yourself at all in just how consistent you were this season?

LUKE DONALD: Well, yes and no. I mean, I feel like I've always built my game around being consistent. I think having a proficient short game and a reasonably consistent putter will always make a year reasonably consistent, no matter how you play. It's a big equalizer. It really can make up a lot for some bad long game. For a number of years my long game wasn't where I wanted it to be. I've certainly made big strides this year. I think my driving accuracy percentages, my greens in regulation percentages have all gone up. My short game has stayed at a consistent level. That's really been the difference this year, I think, in terms of my overall consistency, just taking it from where I maybe would not miss many cuts but finished 20th, 25th a lot, taking those to top 10s and five 5s and having chances to win. Obviously every year you're just trying to look for ways to improve, and I obviously found a place to improve on, and it's really served me well in terms of consistency.

Q. And then also, the one cut you missed was at the very start of the year. When that happened, do you remember thinking anything, gee, I just started my year in the States and here I am missing a cut? What reaction, if any, did you have to that kind of start? You followed it up pretty well.

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, well, I was disappointed for sure. I had purposely taken quite a bit of time off at the beginning of the year to spend a lot of time I took five weeks off without even hitting a golf ball, and then I took six weeks where I was pretty concentrated practice, working on some fundamental changes in my swing. I put down that missed cut in LA just to being tournament rusty. You can certainly practice a lot at home and feel like you have it, but when you get to a tournament it's a different feeling, and it obviously took me that one tournament to kind of shake off the tournament rust, and by the next week I had kind of figured it out. Obviously winning at the Match Play was a huge boost for me and kind of set up the rest of my year.

Q. Luke, the consistency part in your short game you talked about earlier, the three putt streak this year, if you can just kind of talk about that and if that was more impressive to you or winning the money titles on both sides of the ocean was more impressive.

LUKE DONALD: Well, yeah, obviously I'm very proud of both of those. I think going back to your first question about my short game, I have to at this point give a big thank you to my coach, Pat Goss. I think he's been in my corner for the last 14 years since I went to Northwestern. I believe he's one of the best short game teachers I know. He's been my only real short game teacher, but the fundamentals that he teaches are very good, and they give me a lot of confidence, and I'm able to put the work in by using the correct fundamentals. I feel like it gives me a great opportunity to be very proficient in that part of the game.

In terms of the three putt, again, together we come up with a lot of drills, lagging drills and speed control, and obviously that's important in putting. Yeah, that streak was impressive. I wasn't really aware of it until people started to take notice, so it's not something I was truly that aware of until maybe the last couple of events, until it finished. Yeah, it's obviously something very impressive, but I don't think it's more impressive than winning both money titles.

Q. Tim mentioned in his opening comments about Tiger Woods coming back into form. Being No.1 player in the world and now the Player of the Year, do you look forward to having him back at that game and having him kind of competing every week? What are your thoughts about the way he's playing right now?

LUKE DONALD: Well, I think it's great for the game to see Tiger playing better again. I think it's only a matter of time. We all knew talent never leaves you, and he was always going to come back, and I'm sure he'll come back very strongly. Having been on Tour for 10 years, Tiger is obviously the best player I've ever played against, one of the greatest of all times. His record speaks for itself, and he attracts a lot of attention to the game, and I think that's great. It's good for the game that he's playing better, and I think as a top player you always want to play against the best. It's nice to see him playing better.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.