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Rory Named PGA Tour Player of the Year & Huh Rookie of the Year
After capturing the money list title on the PGA Tour - as well as the European Tour - and winning four times in the States, including the PGA Championship for his second career major, Rory McIlroy was named the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Tuesday.
At the same press conference, John Huh was named the Tour's Rookie of the Year.
McIlroy solidified his position as the No. 1-ranked player of the year with his victories in 2012; he also won the European Tour's DP World Championship Dubai in mid-November for a total of five titles. He earned the PGA of America's Vardon Trophy for an adjusted scoring average of 68.87 and, at 23, becomes the youngest to be voted the PGA Tour's Player of the Year since Tiger Woods in 1998.
In 24 tournaments worldwide, McIlroy earned $11,953,586, breaking Woods' all-time single-season record set in 2007. During his 2012 campaign the Northern Irishman stretched his lead in the world rankings to 4.33 points over No. 2 Luke Donald, the biggest margin between the top-two players since Woods led Steve Stricker by 4.53 points in February 2010.
McIlroy was selected as the Player of the Year over Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson and Woods.
Huh also had a solid season. The 22-year-old, who was born in New York City, now lives in Los Angeles and is of Korean descent, was the only rookie to qualify for the Tour's season-ending, 30-player Tour Championship. In addition to winning the Mayakoba Golf Classic in late February, the former Cal State-Northridge player had 12 top-25 finishes in 28 starts, earning $2,692,113 on the year.
On Tuesday, the two players held separate press conferences to discuss their respective honors. Here's what they had to tell reporters during their Q&As.
MODERATOR: My name is Joel Schuchmann, Director of Communications with the PGA Tour. At this time it is my pleasure to introduce the Commissioner of the PGA Tour, Tim Finchem.
TIM FINCHEM: Thank you, Joel, and good morning, everyone. The votes are in from our players on two key recognitions we do every year. The players are asked to vote on who they consider to be the PGA Tour Player of the Year, and we'll get to that in a few moments, and they're also asked to vote on who they believe is the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, and let me start with the announcement that John Huh has been voted the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. He is not on this call. We have a separately scheduled conference call for later today and we invite you to join us for that.
Let me just say briefly that John had a tremendous year. He broke through for his first win at Mayakoba during an eight hole playoff with Robert Allenby. He was the only rookie to qualify for the Tour Championship by Coca Cola. At 22 years old, he was the youngest player to qualify for the Tour Championship since Sergio Garcia did in 2001 at the age of 21. He finished 29th in the FedEx Cup, and he is the first player of Korean descent to be voted PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. We congratulate John, and we encourage you to make yourself available to ask him some questions later today.
Turning to the PGA Tour Player of the Year, we're delighted to announce, and it's no surprise, that Rory McIlroy was voted by the players and his peers as the best Player of the Year. He also, as you already know, has earned the Arnold Palmer Award as the Tour's leading official money winner at slightly over $8 million. In addition, he's the winner of the Byron Nelson Award and Vardon Trophy presented by the PGA of America. The Byron Nelson Award is the award we present for the adjusted scoring average. He had an adjusted scoring average of 68.87, and we congratulate Rory on all three of those wins. If I could make a couple of comments about his recognition, he is at 23 the youngest player to be voted PGA Tour Player of the Year since Tiger Woods in 1998. He had a terrific year, winning four times on the PGA Tour, capturing the Honda Classic, the PGA Championship, the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship, really lighting it up during the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Following his victory at the Honda Classic, he took over world No.1 and has held that position for 24 weeks during the year, currently 17 or 18 in a row. He is the third European to be voted PGA Tour Player of the Year, joining England's Luke Donald in 2011 and Ireland's Padraig Harrington in 2008, and as the players voted, they were looking at a stout ballot because Rory was on the ballot with Jason Dufner, who had a fine year; Brandt Snedeker, who won the FedEx Cup; Bubba Watson, who played well all year and won the Masters; and Tiger Woods, who won three times. So congratulations to Rory on his competitive accomplishments during the course of the year, and certainly the players came down in that recognition in solid style.
I would like to just, before I turn it over to Rory, make another comment, which is to say that in addition to Rory's accomplishments inside the ropes, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that he has been a significant contributor to what the PGA Tour is all about outside the ropes. He has handled himself in terrific fashion. He has been very direct with the media and entertaining to the fans inside and outside the ropes. He is at a very young age already making a very solid contribution to what is the most important asset of the PGA Tour, and that is the image of its players. For that I thank him, as well, and I'd like to introduce him to you and ask him to make a few comments, and then we'll open it up for a few questions. Rory, congratulations.
RORY McILROY: Thank you, Tim. Thanks for your kind words. It's an honor, and I'm delighted to win the PGA Tour 's Player of the Year. It's always nice to get recognition from your peers, the guys that you're trying to beat week in, week out, and obviously there's been a lot of guys on the PGA Tour that have had great years this year, obviously Tiger winning three times, Bubba winning the Masters and playing well, Jason Dufner breaking through for a couple of wins, Brandt Snedeker winning the FedEx Cup. So to beat those guys is very - it's a nice feeling. It's very rewarding, and I guess it's just a great way to end what has been a great year and my best season so far.
Q. I just wanted to ask you, if you go into the weekend of the PGA, at that point you've only got one win this year really on the U.S. Tour, and the tail end of the year was just phenomenal. I wonder if you could talk about what that win at Kiawah did for you compared with the way you won Congressional and kind of the way you sputtered after that if that makes any sense.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think everyone knows that my game wasn't where I wanted it to be sort of through the start of the summer and leading up to the PGA. But I felt like the week before in Akron I had a good week. I finished fifth and actually got a bit of confidence from that. I felt like my game was coming back to where I wanted it to be. And then I guess - of course every time I go into a major I have expectations, but maybe at the PGA my expectations were maybe slightly lower just because of the form that I was in, and I got myself into a great position going into the weekend, and I just sort of - I didn't want to sort of let this opportunity pass me because it was a great opportunity to win my second major, and obviously I was able to do it, and from that I gained a lot of confidence, knowing that I could win my second major. And I went on from there.
Q. I was just wondering if you could tell us who came in second and by how much, for Player of the Year.
TIM FINCHEM: We don't release votes. We've never released all the votes of places, we just release the winner.
Q. Just a quick one on something Graeme said at Sherwood the other day. He mentioned in a very positive way that he felt over the last 15, 16 months your personality had changed a little bit and you'd become very focused and very single minded. Do you feel that you've transformed yourself mentally over the past year and a half, and in what way how have you done that?
RORY McILROY: I mean, I've always felt like I've been dedicated to the game, and I've practiced hard and I've worked at it. But I guess over the past 18 months, especially after winning the U.S. Open, I sort of felt like I went to the next level or the next stage of my career. You know, I feel like my personality away from the golf course hasn't changed, but definitely when I get to the golf course I'm maybe a little more professional, a little more businesslike and go about my business like that. But I guess that's just the way you have to be to be successful and to try and win as many tournaments as you can. You have to approach it that way, and I feel like I have probably changed my mindset a little bit over the past 12 or 18 months, and it's definitely helped and obviously helped me to win more tournaments.
Q. There was a suggestion that maybe your girlfriend had a lot to do with that, as well.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, a little bit. Seeing how hard she works and how hard she practices and how dedicated she is, it definitely, I guess, flipped a switch with me that I could be a little more like that. Yeah, it's definitely - she's definitely been a great influence on me.
Q. Despite the roadblocks you had in May and early June this year, it seems like you have the last couple of years been a really strong player in the second half of the year. Is there a particular reason for that, or is there a reason why you feel like you close the year so well?
RORY McILROY: I'm not so sure. It seems like the last couple years I've started the season well and finished the season well and maybe had a little bit of a lull in the middle. You know, I haven't really thought about it too much. I can't really put my finger on why that is. But yeah, I mean, I guess the maybe I feel like the golf courses really suited me during the Playoffs, and I really liked Kiawah Island, as well. I felt like TPC Boston and Crooked Stick really played to my strengths and my game, and I was able to take advantage of that and get a couple of wins there. But I don't know, I guess in the middle of the season, as well, you're playing quite a lot of golf, and I've sort of figured out that that doesn't really work for me, and I've got to maybe schedule a little bit better and space out my tournaments a little bit so that I'm fresh and I'm ready to play every single week.
Q. And as a follow up on that, obviously you have an affinity for Augusta, but how do you think Merion, Muirfield and Oak Hill work for you next year going into the majors?
TIM FINCHEM: Yeah, I mean, I've never played Muirfield, I've never been to Oak Hill, and I've never been to Merion. They're going to be three new experiences for me, three new courses, and I've just got to try and prepare for them as best as I can. I know Merion is quite a short golf course by today's standards, so I think accuracy will be a key there. Muirfield I've heard is probably the fairest of all the Open courses, so I'm really looking forward to that. And I don't really know much about Oak Hill, so I've just got to, as I say, try and prepare well and try and learn the golf courses as best I can.
Q. When you kind of opened up this call - by the way, what tunnel did you go through?
RORY McILROY: A tunnel in Boston somewhere.
Q. When you said early on that it was a great way to end what's been your best year, best season so far, how can you best, I guess, define how much better you can get?
RORY McILROY: I mean, I guess I've sort of had to answer that question a lot the last few weeks, what can you do next season to try and get better and what would be a success next season compared to this one, and I guess it's just trying to become a better golfer, a better player, maybe add more variety to my game, add a couple more shots here and there. I still feel like I can improve in all aspects of the game. And if I can do that, and my focus is on that, then hopefully the tournament wins and the success will come.
But you know, we are judged on wins ultimately, and this year has been a great year with four wins on the PGA Tour and winning in Dubai a couple weeks ago, so - but next thing, I won my first major in '11, I backed it up this season with another one, and I'd love to go into '13 with that same goal of obviously trying to win another major. But I think really what was disappointing this year for me, if there was a disappointment, that I was only in contention once in the majors, and luckily I was able to win it. But next year I'd love to be in contention in all four of them and have a chance to win all - not saying I'm going to win all of them, but at least give myself a chance.
Q. When you talk about the way you closed out '11 and especially from the PGA on this year, did you ever show up at a tournament not thinking necessarily you were the guy to beat but expecting to see your name up there on the board? Did you reach that level of confidence, I guess?
RORY McILROY: Not really. I mean, a 72 hole golf tournament, it's a long way, and I think you can never go into it expecting your name to be on the leaderboard or trying to be on the leaderboard right away because your name mightn't be on the leaderboard until you make a charge on the front nine on Sunday and you get yourself up there. So of course I expect myself to play well and contend and obviously try to win as many tournaments as I can, but I don't think you can go into tournaments thinking that you're the guy to beat because there's 155 other guys there that are great players and you're just one of them, and you're just trying to shoot the best score possible.
MODERATOR: That concludes today's teleconference. Rory, congratulations, and best of luck in 2013.
John Huh Interview
MODERATOR: Thank you, we are pleased to have John Huh with us this afternoon, newly minted PGA Tour Rookie of the Year for 2012. John was announced by Commissioner Finchem as Rookie of the Year. He won the Mayakoba Golf Classic in February, had a total of four top 10 finishes this year, and was the only rookie to make it all the way to the Tour Championship presented by Coca Cola. So he finished 29th in the final FedEx Cup standings. John is the first player ever of Korean descent to be voted PGA Tour Rookie of the Year by a vote of his peers. Congratulations, you've had a couple hours for it to sink in. Maybe give us your initial reaction on earning Rookie of the Year honors.
JOHN HUH: First of all, thank you for having me. It's a great honor to have this award, especially as a Korean, and it's really hard to explain just how I feel right now. Hopefully I have another great year next year.
MODERATOR: Can you talk about when this was a goal of yours this season? And when you first teed it up on the PGA Tour this season, what were your goals and did you imagine this day would come?
JOHN HUH: My first goal was get my card and play in 2013. But after playing in the first couple of events, I was playing really well; it was my goal, actually, middle of the year, when I was playing well, and I really was excited when I heard that news that I got Rookie of the Year in 2012.
Q. Curious how you think your experience at Q School helped prepare you for this season.
JOHN HUH: As everybody knows, Q School is the most difficult tournament you can imagine, so just going through that Q School, it's helped me playing this season and gave me confidence that I could play and feel like I belong to the PGA. I think I handled myself really good during Q School.
Q. Do you recall when you first became aware of K.J. Choi, I guess you were about 12 when he won for the first time on Tour, and if you could just reflect on what he meant to maybe your inspiration and to other Korean players, as well.
JOHN HUH: Absolutely, when K.J. and Y.E. Yang started playing really well and having victories on the PGA Tour really inspired all the players in Asia, especially in Korea, and I really felt that they actually opened the path for us that we could do it and we can play well enough to win tournaments and belong to the PGA Tour. I'm really thankful to all of the guys on the Tour, and especially the Korean players.
Q. You mentioned Y.E. Yang. Where were you when he beat Tiger at the PGA Championship and what was your reaction to that?
JOHN HUH: At the time I was in Korea playing the Korean Tour. I was watching TV. It was an unbelievable feeling when Y.E. Yang defeated Tiger in a major championship, especially. It really gave us hope that we can play and that we can beat anybody and that we can represent the best players in the world.
Q. Are you as calm as you appear to be on the golf course, because obviously when you won for the first time, you were seven back when the day started and you won in an eight hole playoff, and you just appeared to be very confident. Is that the way you feel, or do you just very good at hiding your nerves?
JOHN HUH: I think I can go through my personality, I don't really try to rush anything and even my swing is not really fast, you know. So I'm not trying to hide anything, just trying to be myself and I think that's how I look on the golf course.
Q. You obviously have a great short game. You don't hit it real far off the tee, but you hit most of the fairways. Do you expect - are you going to try to get longer? Do you think you need to? Or are just going to continue just to progress naturally and without trying to change anything?
JOHN HUH: That's a really tough question. You know, it would be nice if I hit it long as I hit it straight right now, but I'm pretty sure it will come out naturally and hopefully I can bring it in the future.
Q. And one other question, I'd like to ask you about Korean culture; if you can tell me why do you think it took the Korean men longer to succeed at the highest levels than it did Korean women, many of whom really didn't play until Se Ri Pak won the women's U.S. Open. What is it about the culture that you think held the men back for a while?
JOHN HUH: I guess you can put it as experience. As players, when I was over there, we didn't really have a lot of experience and I think that experience really helped them around to turn the best tour in the world. I think playing a lot of tournaments really helps a lot of players and I think that's what we see right now, in Q School right now, and all over the place.
Q. You've had a lot of success in Korea; how much did that help you playing the Korean Tour when you came back to the States?
JOHN HUH: All I can say, it really helped me 100 percent, because I didn't really have a place to play, so I choose to go to Korea to play the Korean Tour for three years. I think it really gave me all of the experience that I possibly can experience on Tour. And I really took all of the positive things that I saw over in Korea and took everything this year and I used it really wisely, all the experience that I had over there in Korea.
Q. Now that you have experienced what it's like to win and you've experienced a year on the Tour, how much have your goals changed for next year, and what do you expect from yourself?
JOHN HUH: You know, because I have a great year this year, and I'm going to have a different schedule for next year, which is playing in a major, playing in all big events, and hopefully I prepare well and play my best in every tournament I possibly can and trying to win the tournament, and give myself a good chance every week.
Q. Were there any guys on Tour who kind of helped you along? How did the other fellas on Tour treat you? Did you have to pay your dues first before they own recognized you?
JOHN HUH: You know, whenever my friends ask me how the Tour looks like, I tell them, all the guys on Tour is nice. They are trying to help you out as they possibly can, and I really want to thank everybody who played with me and who had a practice round with me. And especially Kevin Na, because he was one that I played with him a lot in the practice rounds and he really helped me a lot. Hopefully I can help other Koreans if I could, but not only Koreans, but any player who comes up to me and asks me, I would really appreciate and try to help them out as possibly I can.
MODERATOR: Thank you for your time, and thanks to the media who called in. Congratulations and we'll see you on Tour next year.
JOHN HUH: Thank you.
The transcripts for the above interviews are courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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