Tiger? Player of Year? 'Major' debate

With the trophies (that matter) out of the way, it's time for golfers to fill their pockets from the FedEx pinata and to size up the season.

To the traditionalists, the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, the final major, brought down the curtain on the year.

But there are bills to pay, and given that PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem could sell smog to Los Angeles, the traveling circus has set up its big top against the skyline of Manhattan for the first of four FedEx Cup playoff events.

They played The Barclays here at Liberty National four years ago -- back when Tiger Woods was still selling Gatorade -- but despite the high-dollar initiation fee for the burghers of Wall Street, Tom Kite's design wasn't reviewed very favorably.

It's better now, even Woods -- who disliked the course despite finishing second here in '09 -- conceded on Wednesday; he lauded the "really nice, positive improvements."

Woods, who is atop the FedEx Cup standings, was, as usual, the subject of conversation on the kind of hot and steamy afternoon that sends the Manhattan crowd scurrying to the Hamptons.

He's won five times this year, but no majors.

Is he Player of the Year?

Adam Scott thinks he is, but when he was asked if he'd swap his green jacket -- in April he became the first Australian to win the Masters -- for Woods' multiple successes, he respectfully declined.

"Tiger's had the best year," he said, "(But) I'd rather have mine, that's for sure.

"He may want mine. I mean, No. 15 [major victory] is proving to be difficult for him."

Cruel perhaps, but true.

Woods hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open, and again blew chances at this year's Masters and British Open.

Bill Haas, who won the FedEx Cup two years ago, has five wins in his career, and so has no problem giving Woods the thumbs-up for what he has achieved this year.

"His lack of winning a major is the only thing talked about, which I think is sad. I think it's ignorant," Haas said on Wednesday.

As for Woods himself, he's always said that great years include winning majors.

He downsized the definition at Oak Hill, and reiterated here that with five quality wins, he considers this a great year.

"The overall package is how I look at it," he said.

"I've won at two of my favorite venues, plus winning two World Golf Championships and a Players in there -- it's been pretty good."

But it was telling to hear him answer when he was asked if he'd rather trade a major for the five wins.

"I think the major," he replied.

Not that he's ruling himself out as Player of the Year.

"It would mean a lot," he said.

"That's voted on by the players, so when you get the respect and the hats-off by your peers, that's something that we don't take lightly. It means something even more special."

He doesn't think that the race is over, by any means.

"Phil (Mickelson) is up there," he said of his longtime rival, who won the British Open and the Waste Management Open in Phoenix.

Woods also acknowledged that Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker -- who both have won twice -- could "get on a run" in the playoffs, and "you're looking at a four-, five-, six-win season, and that's pretty good.''

Of course, Woods could just as easily add to his tally, which would end his POY drought.

He won his 10th POY award in 13 years in '09 and had a sniff last year with three wins until Rory McIlroy came along with a strong second half that included winning the PGA at Kiawah Island by eight shots.

Woods, however, will need to get over his problems with New York mattresses first.

He complained of back and neck pain at last year's Barclays -- at Bethpage Black -- and was at it again on Wednesday; not playing the back nine of his pro-am as a precautionary measure.

"It was stiff this morning after a soft bed," he said, neglecting to choose his words carefully.