Tag: Rory McIlroy

Drive for Show?

Every golfer has heard the saying “drive for show, putt for dough,” but you’ll find that’s pretty far from the truth once you’ve logged a round or two.

Think about your best days on the course. No doubt you holed some putts—but it’s pretty much guaranteed the driver was operating at or near full capacity. Golf is a whole lot easier from the middle of the fairway—and exponentially so when you’re hitting wedge into the green as opposed to middle or long iron.

You also have to work pretty hard to make a double after a solid drive in the fairway, but a snap hook tee ball that disappears in the woods or a weak flare that settles down in heavy rough a couple hundred yards from the green generally spells bogey at best.

A good way to demonstrate the paramount importance of driving is to look at the top echelon players in professional golf—and they have almost universally been big hitters down through the years.

Tiger and Jack: Power and Greatness

The Longest and Greatest   

Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are without question the greatest players in golf history, and also among the longest off the tee. Many consider Nicklaus the longest of all-time (according to Bobby Jones, Jack was ‘playing an entirely different game, and one which I’m not familiar with”). Unfortunately, official driving stats weren’t tracked by the PGA Tour until 1980 when Jack had already hit 40, but he still came in at No. 10 in distance and No. 1 in total driving with accuracy factored in (he hit 71.5% of the fairways).  

Before knee and back injuries slowed him down in 2008, Tiger was in the top 10 for distance every year with the exception of 2003 (11th) and 2007 (12th). In 1999 Tiger was 3rd in distance and 4th in Total Driving, while piling up 7 Tour wins plus a major and 7 additional Top 10’s.

In 2000 Tiger amped up the big stick even further, finishing 2nd in distance and No.1 in total driving on his way to 3 major championships, 7 more regular tour titles and another 7 Top 10’s,

Driving and the World Number 1’s

Since the World Golf Rankings were established in 1986, twenty-five players have reached number 1 in the world and the vast majority have been long off the tee. Bernhard Langer was the first to hold the Number 1 moniker after his win at the ’85 Masters (yes, the same Bernhard who is still winning on the Champions Tour). Although Langer was not generally regarded as a long hitter, he ranked 17th in distance on the PGA Tour in ’85.

Greg Norman: 331 weeks at #1
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/29/sports/golf/greg-norman-pga-saudi-arabia.html

Norman and Seve

Following Bernard’s brief tenure as No. 1, the top spot oscillated between Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros though the end of 1990. Norman held World Number 1 longer than any player other than Tiger (331 weeks), and he is also regarded by many as the greatest driver of all time.

From 1984 to 1994, Norman was among the top ten in driving distance every year but two (No. 15 in 1989 and No. 32 in 1992). Not only was he long, but he was straight as well—No. 1 in total driving in 1988, 1989 and 1993 plus 5 years in the top ten.

Seve Ballesteros: Power and Grace
https://www.liveabout.com/seve-ballesteros-pictures-4056191

Seve Ballesteros played predominantly on the European Tour (now the DP World Tour) and driving distance stats are sketchy, but he possessed a powerful (though somewhat erratic) tee shot. Seve drove the green on the Par 4 10th hole at the Belfry a number of times, a 290 plus yard carry over water calling for a high cut, including at the 1989 Ryder Cup where he dropped an Eagle putt from inside twenty feet. Keep in mind he was using a persimmon driver with a soft ballata golf ball, and the average distance off the tee on the PGA Tour that year was just under 262 yards.

Tiger: 683 Weeks at #1
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Tiger-Woods

Tiger

Tiger held the top spot in the World Golf Rankings from 1999 through 2010 with the exception of 6 months in 2004/2005 when Vijay Singh (another fantastic driver of the ball) briefly moved into the No. 1 position. In all, Tiger was World Number 1 for an astounding 683 weeks—and an intimidating presence on the tee.

Between 1997 and 2007, Tiger was among the top five in distance six times, and the top ten every year but two (11th in 2003 and 12th in 2007).

McIlroy: 2023 Tour Distance Leader
https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/22/golf/rory-mcilroy-remote-controlled-ball-fan-spt-intl/index.html

Rory, DJ and Brooks Koepka

Rory first reached number 1 in the world back in 2012 when he had just turned 23 years old, and has held the Number 1 position on and off for a total of 122 weeks (most recently from October ’22 through February ‘23).

And of course, McIlroy can bomb it with anybody (picture that majestic high draw that seems to carry forever). Since 2017 Rory has been either first or second in driving distance every year but one (4th in 2020) and led the Tour in distance last year averaging 326.3 yards.

Brooks and DJ: Big hitters Rising to #1

Dustin Johnson ascended to World No. 1 in 2017, and is behind only Tiger and Greg Norman for the longest time at the top (135 weeks). From 2009 through 2021, Johnson ranked among the top 5 in distance every year but 3 (6th in 2018, 10th in 2020 and 7th in 2021).

After winning the CJ Cub on the heels of two major championships (US Open and PGA), Brooks Koepka first assumed World Number 1 in October of 2018, and through February of 2020 he spent 47 weeks at the top. Between 2014 and 2019 Brooks finished outside the top 10 in driving distance only once (19th in 2016).

Knee and hip injuries at the end of 2019 through 2020 severely impacted Koepka’s driving distance and his ability to compete, but after rehab he was injury free in 2023 and recorded a runner up at the Masters, a win at the PGA and a top 20 at the US Open (where he was also second in driving distance averaging 320.6 yards).

Scheffler and Rahm: Battling for #1

Scheffler and Rahm

Jon Rahm or Scottie Scheffler have occupied the top spot in the World Golf Rankings since June of 2021 with the exception of DJ for a week in July of ’21 and Rory from October ’22 through February ’23.

Not surprisingly, both are fantastic drivers of the ball. Since 2017, Rahm finished outside the top 20 in distance only once (22nd in 2020) and was #1 in Total Driving twice—2021 and 2022. Scheffler has plenty of distance (16th in ‘20 and 19th in ‘22) while finishing among the top 10 in total driving 3 of the last 4 years (his lowest ranking was 13th in 2022).

The Putting Factor

There is no question that both Jack and Tiger were amazing putters, particularly on critical putts under maximum pressure, but while putting prowess separated them further from the field, the incredible record they each achieved would not have been possible without the power game.

Jack and Tiger: Power and Putting

Luke Donald possesses one of the finest putting strokes ever seen on the PGA Tour, finishing first in putting from 2009 through 2011. Luke was also a fantastic iron player, but struggled from the tee throughout his career.

In 2010 Donald ranked 186th on tour in total driving, but made a dramatic jump in both distance and accuracy in 2011, allowing him to ride that great putter all the way to #1 in the world. Unfortunately, Luke’s difficulties from the tee returned in 2013 and as his driving numbers dropped each year, so too did his world ranking—even as his putting stroke remained as silky as ever.

This is not to minimize the importance of putting, only to illuminate the fact that driving is far and away the biggest factor in determining success on the golf course. Power players have reached #1 in the world without being particularly good putters (Freddie Couples and Vijay Singh come immediately to mind), but some of the greatest putters in modern history who were not great drivers of the ball are conspicuously missing from the list of #1’s (Ben Crenshaw, Corey Pavin and Brad Faxon for example).

Bottom line is you drive for the dough, and putt for—well, some additional dough perhaps…   

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PGA Tour 2023: Power Ratings (Through the Mexico Open)

Jon Rahm: 2023 Masters Champion

The PGA Tour “wrap around” season includes fifty events played over forty-six weeks, and with the conclusion of the Mexico Open, thirty of those events have been completed—so it’s a perfect time to review performance and consider the possibilities as the season moves toward the remaining three majors and into the FedEx Cup.

The GolfDay Power Rating is based on PGA Tour wins, Top 10 and Cut percentage, and performance at the major championships. The majors carry the most weight, followed by regular tour wins, and then Top 10 and Cut percentage.

Scottie Scheffler: 2023 Players Champion

Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler have been in a back-and-forth battle for the top spot in the Power Ratings (and the World Golf Rankings) since the season began, but Rahm’s win at The Masters opened up some distance between them.

Rahm has recorded 4 Tour wins thus far in ’23, including a major championship, while Scheffler has recorded 2 Tour wins including The Players Championship.

Xander Schauffele: Ranked No. 3 in 2023

Xander Schauffele comes in at No. 3. Although he is yet to record a win in ‘23, Xander has made the cut in all twelve of the events he’s played and recorded 7 Top-10’s (including a T10 at the Masters).

Rankings (Top 10 through May 1—minimum 10 events played)

Jon Rahm228.4
Scottie Scheffler 200.0
Xander Schauffele160.0
Max Homa155.1
Tony Finau142.8
Patrick Cantley 140.2
Victor Hoveland140.0
Sahith Theegala134.7
Jordan Spieth131.6
Cameron Young122.8
Max Homa and Tony Finau: 2 wins each in 2023

With his sixth career win at the Mexico Open last weekend, Tony Finau joined Rahm, Scheffler and Max Homa as the only multiple winners on tour in 2023—and moved Tony into the top 5 on the Power Ratings.

The Numbers

WinsTop 10 %Cut %
Jon Rahm4Jon Rahm67.7Scottie Scheffler100
Scottie Scheffler2Scottie Scheffler67.7Xander Schauffele100
Max Homa2Xander Schauffele58.3Victor Hoveland100
Tony Finau2Patrick Cantley54.6Cameron Young100
20 Players1Max Homa46.2Sahith Theegala94.1
Jason Day42.9Sungjae Im93.8
Victor Hoveland41.7Tony Finau92.3
Jordan Spieth41.7Rickie Fowler92.3
Sahith Theegala41.2Jon Rahm91.7
Sungjae Im37.5Patrick Cantley90.9

The Power Rating Top 10 also includes three talented 25-year-olds who will no doubt make some noise at the remaining 2023 Majors:

Victor Hovland, Sahith Theegala and Cameron Young: Young Guns

Victor Hovland has made the cut in all 12 of the events he’s entered with 5 Top 10’s (including a T7 at The Masters). Hoveland is currently No. 12 in the Word Golf Rankings

Sahith Theegala, in his second year on Tour, has made the cut in 16 of his 17 events with 7 Top-10’s (including a 9th place finish at The Masters). Theegala, who resides in Houston, TX, has climbed to No. 24 in the World Golf Rankings.

Cameron Young, also in his second year on Tour, has made the cut in all 11 events he’s played with 3 Top 10’s (including a T7 at The Masters). Young, who also had a runner-up at The Open Championship in 2022, is No. 16 in the World Golf Rankings.

Quail Hollow Country Club: Charlotte, NC

The Wells Fargo Championship

While neither Rahm nor Scheffler is in the field at Quail Hollow this week, the other 8 players in the Power Rating Top 10 will be teeing it up–along with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas.

Quail Hollow, home to the  Wells Fargo Championship, hosted the PGA Championship in 2017 and the Presidents Cup in 2022. And since the Wells Fargo has also been elevated to a “Designated Event” with a $20 million dollar purse, the field is among the deepest all year.

A win at Quail Hollow would move Xander Schaufflele or Max Homa very close to Scheffler, and within striking distance of Rahm going into the PGA at Oak Hill, so you can bet they will be geared up and ready to go.   

Justin Thomas: 2017 PGA Champ at Quail Hollow

Justin Thomas has been under the radar thus far in 2023. Although he’s made 9 cuts in 10 events, Justin has yet to record a win with only 2 Top-10’s—but he won the PGA at Quail Hollow back in 2017, so perhaps he’ll capture some good vibes and get his season rolling.

Rory

After his poor showing at The Masters, Rory backed out of the RBC Heritage and has played only 7 PGA Tour events all year, missing the cut in two of them. While he’s recorded 3 Top-10’s including a win this year, McIlroy will need to light the afterburner if he wants to catch Rahm and Scheffler.

Rory: Needs to light it up

Quail Hollow may turn out to be exactly what the doctor ordered though. Since 2012, Rory has played the Wells Fargo nine times and finished in the Top-10 in eight of them, including two wins, a runner-up and 2 Top-5’s.

If Rory gets it going this week and records his second win of the year, it will set the stage for a heck of showdown at the PGA Championship.

2023 PGA Championship: Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, NY

Looking Ahead

This week the Tour heads north for the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, NC (May 4-7), and then to Texas for the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney.

The second major of the season is next with the PGA Championship at famed Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY (May 18-21) and then moves back to Texas for the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Wot Worth (May 25-28).

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Tour ’23: Scottie Wins in Scottsdale and Tiger Returns at Riviera

Scheffler moves to #1 and Tiger Returns at Riviera

Scottie Scheffler defended his title last week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, defeating Canadian Nick Taylor by two strokes in the PGA Tour’s first full field event of the season. With this latest victory, Scheffler has moved back into the number one spot on the official World Golf Rankings, and number five in the FedEx Cup standings.

The even bigger news is that Tiger will make his first start of the year at Riviera this week in a star-studded field—and all eyes will be glued to CBS Sports and Golf Channel this weekend to see how close he is to the Tiger of old (and if he’s ready to continue the pursuit of Jack’s major championship record).

Scottie wins at TPC Scottsdale

WM Phoenix Open

Eighteen of the Top twenty players in the World Golf Rankings were in the field last week at TPC Scottsdale, and seven finished in the top 10. In addition to Scottie Scheffler jumping to #1 in the world with his win, Jon Rahm continued his dominant play in ‘22-23 with a 3rd place finish (Rahm has finished in the top 10 in all five of the events he’s played this season, including two wins).

Justin Thomas (No. 7) and Jordan Spieth (No. 16) each recorded their first top 10 of the year, and look like they are gearing up to make a challenge at Augusta (which is not too far away).

Xander Schauffele (No. 6) continued his strong play thus far in the young season with a T10 (Xander has made the cut in all 5 of the events he’s played including 3 top 10’s), and Sungjae Im (No. 18) recorded his 3rd top 10 of the season with a T6.

Rory McIlroy (No. 2) made his first PGA Tour start of the calendar year after a win at the CJ Cup back in October, finishing well back at 4 under par (T32).  His win on the DP World Tour at Dubai in January gave him 2 wins in his previous 2 starts, so Rory’s head-to-head match-up with Scottie and the red-hot Jon Rahm was highly anticipated, but some loose driving and an ice-cold putter resulted in a failure to launch—perhaps Tiger’s presence this week in LA will ignite him

Jason Day (5th), Rickie Fowler (T10) and Keagan Bradley (T20) also continued their 2023 resurgence, while a bit of comic relief jumped up on Sunday when a streaker ran onto the 16th green wearing only his underwear and grabbed the flag stick before flopping into the nearby pond (and was quickly escorted away by Security).  

The Riviera Country Club: Tiger’s back

Tiger at Riviera

Tiger’s return at Riviera this week will be his first start on the PGA Tour since The Open Championship last summer, where it was apparent that his come-back needed more time as he missed the cut. The general consensus had been that Tiger would only play the major championships this year, starting with the Masters.

The Genesis, however is Tiger’s tournament and his foundation (TGR) has been hosting the event since 2020. Riviera is also a special place for Tiger because its where he made his PGA Tour debut back in 1992 at the age of 16.

Youthful Tiger

Expectations were sky high for the young phenom as an enormous gallery gathered to follow him that day at Riviera, and Tiger got a glimpse of the future when he was swarmed by media after completing a first round 72.  

In his pre-tournament press conference, Tiger said he was ready to compete, and would not tee it up if he didn’t think he had a chance to win—although his record “wasn’t very good at Riviera.”

Of course, “not very good” is based on Tiger’s standard for himself. Scheduling conflicts and injury limited him to only twelve starts at Rivieras since he first came out on the Tour in 1996, and although he never notched a win, he finished among the top twenty in ten of those twelve, including four top 10’s (and twice runner-up), while missing the cut only once.

Every other player on tour would be thrilled with that kind of record at a tour event, but Tiger is in a category of his own—and the reason the world will be watching when he tees it up on Thursday.

The Genesis Invitational

The Genesis Invitational

The Genesis Invitational, historically known as the LA Open, has been played at iconic Riviera Country fifty-nine times since the event was first played in 1926, and forty-eight of fifty since 1973.

All of the greats in golf history have teed it up at Riviera, including Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Sam Sneed, Arnie and Byron Nelson.

For year’s Riviera was called “Hogan’s Alley” because he won there three times (’42, ’47 and ’48), and the club has been home to many of the biggest stars in Hollywood (including Humphrey Bogart, who was seen taking in the play from beneath a Sycamore on the 12th hole so often that it became known as “Bogeys Tree”).

Bogeys tree: 12th Hole at Riviera

In addition to Tiger, this year’s field includes nineteen of the top twenty players in the World, and the leaderboard will be jammed with the biggest names in golf as the tournament heads through the weekend to what will no doubt be high drama on Sunday—so make sure you tune in and get ready to hold onto your hats.

The Players: Coming in May

Looking Ahead

The last tournament of February is the famed Honda Classic at PGA National Resort in Palm Beach, Florida (February 23-26). This event will officially kick off the ‘Florida Swing’, where players will be competing in four events in the state of Florida. These include the Arnold Palmer Invitational (March 2-5), The Players Championship (March 9-12), and the Valspar Championship (March 16-19).

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PGA Tour 2023: The West Coast Swing

Rham and Scheffler Battle at TPC Scottsdale

While the 2023 wrap-around PGA Tour season technically began back in September, the year really begins to roll with the “West Coast Swing.” The first leg was the American Express at La Quinta, featuring a stiff test on the Stadium Course designed by Pete Dye, and then moved over to The Farmers at Torrey Pines, where Tiger famously won the US Open Championship in 2008 playing on a broken leg.

The third stop on the Swing was the AT&T Pro-Am, home to perhaps the greatest course in the world–Pebble Beach Golf Links. This week is the WM Phoenix Open, played at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona.

The history of the WM Phoenix Open goes all the way back to 1932, and was originally called the “Arizona Open,” held at Phoenix Country Club. In 1987 the tournament moved to the Championship Course at TPC Scottsdale, designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish.

Next week the West Coast Swing moves back to California and the Genesis Invitational at iconic Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, where Tiger just announced that he will be making his 2023 season debut (and also where he made his first appearance on the PGA Tour).

PGA West: Rham wins American Express

The Recap

Jon Rahm won the American Express, his second PGA Tour win of the 2022-2023 season, where he outlasted young Davis Thompson with a one stroke margin at 27 under par. The Farmers Insurance Open saw Max Homa winning his 6th PGA Tour event, where he took down a charging Keegan Bradley, who recorded his 3rd top 10 of the 2023 season to build on his resurgence in 2022 when he recorded 6 top 10’s.

Another big name, Justin Rose, suddenly emerged from the doldrums with an impressive win last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, ending a four-year victory drought by beating Brendan Todd and Brandon Wu by three strokes.

The West Coast swing has delivered plenty of excitement thus far, and this weekend promises even more as Rory McIlroy joins the field at TPC Scottsdale.

TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale AZ

WM Phoenix Open

TPC Scottsdale is home to one of the most popular tour events of the season, where a half million or more golf fanatics assemble each year to watch their favorites and let it all hang out.

The centerpiece of the tournament is the par 3 16th hole, otherwise known as “The Coliseum,” where raucous spectators turn it up to max volume, testing the focus of even the most seasoned tour pro.

Past winners include many of the biggest names in golf, including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Johnny Miller, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, and Rickie Fowler.

16th at TPC Scottsdale: The coliseum

Tiger left his tracks at TPC Scottsdale in 1997 with a hole-in-one at The Coliseum, and the intensity of the thunderous ovation registered on the Richter scale all the way over at Caltech in Pasadena.

This week’s field includes most of the top players in the world, headlined by Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, and two-time past winner Hideki Matsuyama.

As we head into Sunday, Scottie Scheffler is in the lead as he ramps it up to capture back-to-back Player of the Year honors–while trying to hold off the red-hot Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Nick Taylor. Jason Day and Rickie Fowler are also among the leaders as they look to continue 2023 comeback seasons.

With Scheffler, Rahm, Rory, and a field stacked with the top players on tour jockeying for position, the weekend will be loaded with thrills–and it’s a pretty good bet that the final round on Sunday will be one you won’t want to miss.

Looking Ahead

The Players: Jewel of the Florida Swing

All eyes will be on Tiger when he tees it up at the Genesis Invitational next week at Riviera Country Club in LA. What already promised to be a great week of golf just jumped to a new level of excitement before the Tour heads east for the Florida Swing.

Genesis Invitational 2023: Tiger’s back

The Honda Classic at PGA National Resort in Palm Beach will be first up (February 23-26), where the world’s best will have to negotiate the infamous “Bear Trap,” followed by the Arnold Palmer Invitational (March 2-5) at Bay Hill.

The Players (March 9-12) highlights the Florida swing, followed by the Valspar Championship (March 16-19).

There’s a great stretch of golf on the horizon, and before you know it The Masters will be here, the best golf week of the year—can’t help smiling about that.

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PGA Tour: 2023 Season Preview

Scottie and Rory: Ready to resume battle in 2023

Scottie Scheffler had a break-out season in 2022 with his win at The Masters, 3 regular tour victories and 6 more top 10 finishes—capping it off with PGA Tour Player of the Year.   

And with 3 Tour wins and a Top 10 at all four majors, including runner up at The Masters, 3rd at the Open Championship, and a T5 at the US Open, Rory McIlroy gave Scheffler a run for his money—adding a huge cherry on top with his FedEx Cup victory.

The 2023 season promises even more excitement, as Jon Rahm has his game ramped up to full power for an all-out assault on the majors, and Justin Thomas, Collen Morikawa, Patrick Cantley and Tony Finau appear to be primed and ready for a big year as well.

In addition to the deep field of top stars, there is a host of mega-talented young players looking to hit it big on Tour in ‘23, along with a few big-name Tour veterans who had dropped out of sight in recent years, but appear ready to make some noise again in 2023.

Here’s where they stand so far in the wrap-around 2022-23 season.

Jon Rahm: Four Top 10’s and 2 wins in 2023

Who’s Hot

Jon Rahm
After a relatively quiet 2022 season where Jon failed to record a top 10 in any of the major championships, Rahm has finished among the top 10 in all four tournaments he’s entered thus far in ‘23, including 2 wins in January (Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, and the American Express at La Quinta).

Scottie Scheffler
Continuing his fantastic 2022 season, Scottie has made the cut in all five events he’s entered this year, including 3 top 10’s (T3 at Mayakoba, T7 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T9 at the Cadence Bank Houston Open), narrowly missing another top 10 at the American Express where he finished in a tie for 11th.

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy has played one PGA Tour event (CJ Cup in South Carolina in October) and one DP Tour event (Hero Dubai Desert Classic last week), winning them both. The wins moved Rory past Lee Trevino into No. 20 among the GolfDay All-time Top 100 players.

Two Tour wins in 2023

Max Homa
Max recorded 2 wins in 2022 and has added 2 more thus far in the ’23 season (The Fortinet Championship in September and The Farmers last week at Torrey Pines. Homa has made the cut in all 5 of the events he’s played thus far, finishing among the top 10 in 4 of them. At 32 years old, Max is in his prime and it should not come as a surprise if he adds a major championship to the to 6 Tour wins that he has recorded since 2018.

Tony Finau
Coming off a terrific 2022 season where Tony notched 2 wins (back-to-back at the 3M Open and the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July) with 5 additional top 10’s, Finau is off to a fast start in 2023 masking the cut in 4 of 5 events with 3 top 10’s. This may be the year that Tony brings his power game to bear at a major championship.

Collen Morikawa: 2 time major winner

Collin Morikawa
While two-time major champion Collin Morikawa failed to record a win in 2022, he still notched 8 top 10’s including a 5th place finish at The Masters and a T5 at the US Open. The start to his 2023 season has been solid as well, making the cut in all 5 of the events he’s entered with 2 top 10’s, including a runner up at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and 3rd at The Farmers last week.

Taylor Montgomery
After 2 successful seasons on the Korn Ferry Tour, Montgomery is off to a hot start to his PGA Tour career, making the cut in all 10 of his starts in 2023 with 4 top-10’s. Taylor hits it a long way (308-yard average off the tee), and he’s ranked No. 1 in putting and No. 1 in scoring—a pretty good formula for success.

Sahith Theegala and Tom Kim: Young Guns on Tour

Young Guns

Sahith Theegala
In 2022, his first full season on Tour, 25-year-old Theegala made the cut in 26 of the 32 events he entered–with 5 top 10’s including a tie for runner up at the Travelers and a trip to the Tour Championship. Thus far in 2023, Sahith has made the cut in 8 of 9 events with 4 top 10’s. It’s only a matter of time before he records his first Tour win, and sooner is more likely than later.

Tom Kim
Yet another young phenom coming out of South Korean, 20-year-old Tom Kim is off to a blazing start to his PGA Tour career, making the cut in 6 of the 7 events he’s played, including a win (the Shriners Children’s Open in October) and 2 additional top 10’s. It seems almost certain that he will notch another win or two as the season progresses, and keep an eye on him at the majors as well.

Day, Fowler and Bradley: Back on track in 2023

Come-backs

Jason Day
After yet another dismal season in 2022 where Jason made the cut in only 12 of 19 events, Day looks like he may have things turned around. Thus far in 2023 he has made the cut in 6 of the 8 events he has played, recording 2 top 10’s (already matching his 2022 total). Jason certainly has the talent, and at 35 there should still be plenty in tank.

Rickie Fowler
Rickie is back with Butch Harmon, and the results are starting to pay off. He’s made the cut in 5 of 6 events with 2 top 10’s in ‘23, and his confidence is growing with each start (including a solid T11 with a 67 in the 3rd round at Torrey Pines last week). That elusive major may be a big ask, but Rickie is still only 34, and there’s something about his look that tells me he’s back. 

Keegan Bradley
Keegan’s game began to come back in 2022, making the cut in 19 of 25 events with 6 top 10’s.  So far in 2023 Bradley has kicked it up another notch, making the cut in 5 of 6 starts with 3 top 10’s including a win at the Zozo Championship and a runner-up at The Farmers last week including a 66 in the final round on the difficult South course.  At 36 years old, it would seem we have not seen the last of Keegan Bradley.

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Scottie and Rory: PGA Tour’s Best in 2022

Scottie and Rory: Going Head-to-Head

Scottie Scheffler took home the Jack Nicklaus award as PGA Tour Player of the Year for 2022, and it was certainly well deserved after such a fantastic season—but it was definately not a “slam dunk” as some are saying. When you take a close look at the season Rory McIlroy put together, you pretty much need a razor blade to separate them.

The Majors

Scheffler’s win at The Masters was a brilliant performance, but keep in mind that Rory finished runner-up at Augusta with a magnificent final round 64 (a shot off the lowest rounds ever recorded at The Masters—63 by Nick Price in ’86 and again by Greg Norman in ’96).

Scottie also had a superb run at the 2022 U.S. Open, finishing a shot behind Matthew Fitzpatrick for runner-up. But remember that Rory was also among the leaders at The Country Club on Sunday afternoon, finishing with a T5.

Scottie Scheffler: 2022 Masters Champion

And while Scottie missed the cut at the PGA Championship, and was outside the top 20 at The Open Championship, Rory recorded a Top 10 at the PGA (8th) and finished 3rd at The Open.

In 16 rounds at the major championships in 2022, Rory recorded 9 rounds under 70 with a scoring average of 69.2, while Scottie recorded 7 rounds under 70 with a scoring average of 69.7.

Although Rory was unable to record a major win in 2022, finishing in the top 10 at all four majors is a rarely accomplished feat. Tiger did it in 2000 when he recorded a T5 at The Masters and then won the other 3 major championships. Jack did it 3 times (1971, 1973, 1974), Brooks Koepka did it in his fantastic 2019 season (win at the PGA, 2nd at the U.S. Open, T2 at The Masters and a T4 at The Open Championship) and Rickie Fowler recorded Top-5 finishes at all four majors in 2014 (including runner-up at the U.S. Open and The Open Championship).

Scottie gets the edge with a major win and a runner-up, but Rory had one of the most outstanding major championship seasons on record—so it’s pretty darn close.

McIlroy: Leads Tour in Scoring

The Tour Season

In addition to his Masters win, Scheffler recorded 3 regular tour wins (including the WGC Match Play Championship). McIlroy also recorded 3 regular season wins, including the Tour Championship. Rory made the cut in 14 of the 16 events he played in 2022 (88%) and recorded 10 Top 10 finishes (63%), while Scottie made the cut in 21 of 25 events (84%) with 11 Top-10’s (44%).

Scheffler: 3 Tours wins and Major Championship

From a performance standpoint, Rory led the Tour in scoring average at 68.7 and he was 2nd in driving distance at 321.3. Scottie was fourth in scoring average at 69.3 and 19th in driving distance at 311.6—but Scheffler was #1 in greens in regulation (72.3%) while Rory was #12 at 69.9 %.

Scheffler also recorded 3 regular season runner-up finishes—a T2 at the Houston Open, 2nd at the Charles Schwab Challenge and a T2 at the Tour Championship).

Both Scottie and Rory had phenomenal regular seasons on Tour, and from the numbers it looks pretty much like a flat-footed tie.

The FedEx Cup

Scottie Scheffler was No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings going into the Tour Championship, so under the new format he began the tournament at -10, six shots ahead of Rory who was No. 7 and began at -4.

Scheffler and McIlroy played flawless golf through the first 3 rounds, and both were -13 going into Sunday’s final round—but Scottie still held a six-shot advantage due to the FedEx standings adjustment (Scheffler was -23 and Rory was at -17).

Although Rory wasn’t able to put four fantastic rounds together at any of the 2022 major championships, he put the hammer down at the Tour Championship and fired a closing 66 to finish at -17 (21 under total with the adjustment). When Scheffler faltered with a final round 73 (20 under total), McIlroy had erased the massive deficit to take the championship—and also the FedEx Cup for a record third time.

McIlroy: Wins Tour Championship and FedEx Cup

The Wrap Up

Scottie Scheffler had a great year in 2022, and he will be a force to reckon with on the PGA Tour for many years to come. His win at The Masters, strong showing at the U.S. Open, and consistent performance throughout the year make it hard to argue with his choice as Player of the Year.

With his impressive comeback victory at the Tour Championship and third FedEx Cup, however, McIlroy closed the gap with Scottie to a photo finish—and most certainly not a Scheffler “slam dunk” as some are saying.

Rory played only 16 events on the PGA Tour in 2022 (he also played 2 on the DP World Tour, finishing 3rd at the Dubai Desert Classic and runner-up at the BMW PGA Championship), while Scottie played 25 Tour events, and that also moves the needle a bit more toward Scheffler—but we think Rory edged him by a nose with his third FedEx Cup.

One thing is for sure, the 2022-2023 PGA Tour season (and major championships) are going to be pretty exciting with Scottie and Rory going head-to-head.

When you put Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantley, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Jordan Spieth and Tony Finau into the mix, and then top it off with young stars like Sungjae Im, Cameron Young, Will Zalatoris and Victor Hoveland—2023 is shaping up to be one heck of a year on the PGA Tour.

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2023 PGA Tour Power Ranking

Through The Tour Championship (August 28, 2023)

East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta GA
Victor Hoveland: 2023 FedEx Cup Champion

Top 25

26-50

51-75

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2022 Open Championship: Cam Smith unleashes the Wand

Cameron Smith: 2022 Champion Golfer

As The Open headed into the back nine on Sunday at St. Andrews, the engraver prepared to etch Rory McIlroy’s name on the Claret Jug. McIlroy stood at 17 under par, having opened up a 3 shot lead over young Victor Hoveland, and he was in complete control of his game. Rory had already recorded a runner-up at the Masters, T8 at the PGA and a T5 at the U.S. Open—and it seemed a certainty that his long awaited fifth major championship was at hand.

Anything can happen, however, on the back-nine of an Open Championship on Sunday, particularly at St. Andrews.

St. Andrews: The Old Course

When a thunderous cheer suddenly erupted from the 11th green, the name to be inscribed on the oldest Trophy in golf would have to wait a bit. Cameron Smith had just rolled in another putt, making consecutive birdies to get within 2 shots of McIlroy. Rory was on cruise control, bombing drives and hitting greens—but making no putts (his only birdie on the back nine came when he drove the green on 10, and 2-putted for a 3). Cam Smith, on the other hand, was making everything. At the 12th hole he drove it to the very front of the green, leaving a difficult eagle putt from over 70 feet—and drained an 11-footer for birdie to pull within 1 shot of Rory. On the 13th, Cam rolled in another birdie, this time from nearly 20-feet, to pull even with McIlroy at 18 under par. And on the Par 5 14th hole Smith completed a stretch of 5 consecutive birdie’s by knocking in a 5-footer that brought him to 19 under par, and the outright lead.

Rory: Top 10 at Four Majors in 2022

The Magic

The championship hung in the balance as Smith reached number 17, the famous “Road Hole,” still clinging to a 1 shot lead. A poor approach left him just under the steep faced bunker guarding the front left of the green, and the pin was tucked just behind it. With brilliant touch and steel nerve Cam pulled the putter once again, and using the contour surrounding the bunker, was able to give himself an opportunity to save par from 10 feet—and then calmly knocked it in.

 The 18th hole of the Old Course at St. Andrews is reachable with a well-struck tee shot, and one of the most exciting finishing holes in golf. While all eyes were on Rory, however, a powerful young phenom, 25-year-old Cameron Young, had quietly moved back into contention, pulling within 2 shots of Smith’s lead—and they were playing together in the second to last pairing.

Cam Smith: Unleashes the Wand
Golf Digest (https://www.golfdigest.com/)

After Smith hit a solid tee shot just short of the green, Young unleashed a bomb that settled pin-high with a very makeable eagle opportunity from just 17 feet—a putt that would draw him even with Smith at 19 under and force a playoff. Cam was also fully aware that Rory, still only a shot back at 18 under, was likely to reach the green at 18 and have an opportunity for eagle, or a 2- putt birdie that would move him to 19 under as well.

Facing a 75-foot putt up the slope with a sharp right to left break and maximum Open pressure, Cam smoothly rolled his ball to within 3 feet, where he tapped in to finish at 20 under par, a shot ahead of Cameron Young (who indeed made his eagle putt to finish at 19 under). When Rory failed to eagle the last, Cam added his name to the illustrious group who have won The Open on the Old Course, while setting a new scoring record at St. Andrews.

Cam Smith

His Open Championship victory is the latest in a breakout year for Cam. He won the Players back in March, and followed that up with a T3 at the Masters, a T13 at the PGA and a T13 at the Memorial. Ranked 7th on Tour in putting, I suppose it should not have been much of a surprise to see him roll it so beautifully at St. Andrews, but when you consider the venue and the pressure of closing at a major, it was a truly spectacular performance.

At 28 years of age, Smith has always carried himself with the confidence and swagger of a PGA Tour veteran. And with 5 Tour wins, including a major championship and Player’s Championship under his belt, Cam is in position to secure a place in the World Golf Hall of Fame—and the putter to make it happen.

Cameron Young

At 25-years old, in only his first season on Tour, Cameron Young will be a force on the PGA Tour for many years to come. In addition to his gutsy runner-up finish at The Open, Young recorded a T3 at the PGA back in May, runner-up finishes at The Genesis and Wells Fargo Championships, and T3’s at both the RBC Heritage and Sanderson Farms Championships.

Cameron Young: Power and Putting

While Young’s primary weapon is the driver (currently ranked 6th in distance from the tee at 318 yards), Cameron is lethal on the greens as well (8th on Tour in putting). That’s a powerhouse combination, and will make him a man to keep an eye on as the season rolls toward the FedEx Cup playoffs.

LIV

The LIV contingent made their presence felt at The Open, erasing a mediocre performance at the U.S Open, and no doubt bringing a smile to Greg Norman’s face. 10 of the 23 LIV players who competed at The Open made the cut, with Dustin Johnson (-13) and Bryson DeChambeau (-12) recording Top 10’s. Abraham Ancer and Sadom Kaewkanjana both finished at -11, among the Top 20.

Their play on Sunday was particularly impressive, as both Ancer and Kaewkanjana fired closing rounds of 65, with Bryson carding a 66.

The third LIV event is scheduled for July 29-31 at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ.

Trump National, Bedminster NJ
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Measuring Greatness: Jack, Tiger, and the Young Stars on Tour

Jack and Tiger: A League of Their Own

While Major Championships and Tour wins define a player’s legacy, making cuts and recording Top-10’s are the most revealing measurement of success in professional golf. Not surprisingly, Jack and Tiger set the high-water mark for these criteria as well, and they are the standard of comparison when looking at the current group of highly talented young stars.

In the graphic below, Jack’s numbers include the entirety of his career, through his retirement at age 65—and it is particularly impressive that his percentage of Top-10 finishes remains so much higher than any player other than Tiger, even when his twilight years on Tour are included.

Athletes peak at different ages, and unfortunately, injury also plays a significant role. For Jack, his percentage of Top-10’s actually increased throughout his 30’s (his Top-10 percentage was 71.8% on his 30th birthday, and 74.5% when he turned 40). Tiger, on the other hand, built the bulk of his record in his 20’s, with serious physical issues beginning to impact his play almost immediately on turning 30. He lost significant portions of the 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2015 seasons, so although Tiger’s Top-10 percentage stood at 66.0% on his 30th birthday, it fell to 60.4% when he turned 40. And then he lost the entire 2015-2016 season following another back surgery.

Current players are at different stages in their career, so the best way to view performance is by looking at percentages, rather than just the totals. As shown in the graphic below, there is a vast gulf in Top-10 percentage between Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy (No.’s 1 and 2), and Dustin Johnson (No. 3).

Rory McIlroy and John Rahm: Separating themselves from the Field

Jon Rahm, at 27 years old, is only just entering the peak performance years of his career, and Rory, at 33, is at the height of his ability. Collin Morikawa, 25 years old, with the same Top-10 percentage as Dustin Johnson and a significantly higher cut percentage, has virtually his entire career before him. It will be fascinating to track the progress of the current group of talented young PGA Tour stars over the next decade and more, when viewed against the eye-popping numbers that Jack and Tiger put up.

Collen Morikawa: Two Majors at 25

Movers

Although Scottie Scheffler has the look of a much more “seasoned” pro, he only just turned 26 on June 21. On top of his Masters victory in April, and strong performance at the U.S. Open (T2), Scottie has made the cut in 18 of the 20 events he’s played this year while recording 9 Top-10’s (including 4 wins). When The Open Championship gets underway at St. Andrews in July, it’s a pretty safe bet that Scheffler will be on the leader board come Sunday.

Scheffler, Thomas and Spieth: Moving the Needle

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, boyhood rivals with 5 major championships between them, are both at the top of the list when it comes to making cuts and Top-10 percentage. Still in their 20’s, each is a lock for the World Golf Hall of Fame when the curtain comes down on their careers.

Will Zalatoris (No. 8), at 25 years old, has already recorded 6 Top-10’s in major championships. While he has yet to record his first Tour victory, his ball striking is second to none. Should Will begin to putt with more consistency, the possibilities are virtually limitless.

Players with Hall of Fame talent who have yet to reach 25 years of age include Victor Hoveland (No. 20), Sungjae Im (No. 23), and Joaquin Niemann (No. 28).

With so much talent currently on the PGA Tour, challenging the records of Jack and Tiger would seem an impossible task—but it makes for tremendous excitement week in and week out.

LIV

While LIV has picked off 7 of the Career Top 30, closer inspection reveals that the Tour hasn’t given up a whole heck of a lot. As a group, the PGA ex-pats played a total of 99 events in the 2021-2022 season, making just 66 cuts (66%) along with a grand total of 10 Top-10 Finishes (10%). Surprisingly, the star of the show is Abraham Ancer with 3 Top-10’s.

Mickelson, Johnson and Koepka: 4 Top-10’s combined in 2022

Perhaps it’s mostly related to age, with just one defector under 30 years old (Bryson DeChambeau). Two are soon to be 40 (Louis Oosthuizen–39 and Dustin Johnson–38), Sergio is 42, and Phil just turned 52.

Phil and Dustin have already punched their ticket to the World Golf Hall of Fame, but with only 1 major and 6 Tour wins, Sergio has become an extreme long shot (although his 22 worldwide wins give him an outside chance). Pat Reed with 1 major and 9 Tour wins, has removed himself from any consideration. Koepka, with 4 major championships, has closed out his PGA Tour career with a total of  only 8 wins—so his chances of getting to the Hall are now very much in doubt.

The Saudi’s have paid a boatload of money with this venture, but the quality of their purchases have thus far been questionable to say the least.          

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2022 U.S. Open: Rory Riding High for Battle in Brookline

Rory Hitting Stride for U.S. Open

With his impressive performance at the Canadian Open, it appears that Rory McIlroy is firing on all cylinders in pursuit of his fifth major championship heading into the U.S. Open. Unlike the PGA Championship where he opened with a magnificent 65 and then glided through the second and third rounds with 71 and 74 before finishing with a solid 68 (8th place), Rory kept his foot firmly on the gas from beginning to end last week, with rounds of 66, 68, and 65 before closing with a sizzling 62 (19 under total). Justin Thomas, brimming with confidence in the wake of his second major championship victory at the PGA, refused to make it easy for Rory in the final round, however. Thomas began the day 2 shots back of Rory at 9 under, and after reeling off six straight birdies from 6 through 11 and adding another at 14, he got to 17 under—within a shot of Rory’s lead. When McIlroy fanned his tee shot into the bunker on the par 3 16th and made bogey, they were tied going to the last two holes—and Rory had a downcast look about him as he left the green that’s been all too common in recent years.

By the time he reached the 17th tee Rory had gathered himself and, deciding to let the big dog eat, unleashed a 367-yard bomb that left only a wedge from 127 yards. He then stiffed his approach to 2 feet, and tapped in for birdie. When Thomas faltered with a bogey, Rory carried a 2-shot lead going to the last. At 18 he ripped another 300+ yard drive to the right fairway, once again stiffing his approach (4 feet this time), and tapped in for birdie and his second consecutive Canadian Open Championship.

When Rory kicks it up a notch in the face of a full-on stress test applied by the reigning PGA Champ, it should give the field at The Country Club something to ponder and have golf fans chomping at the bit.

Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas and John Rahm

The Contenders

Rory certainly looks to be in full control of his game, and it will be shocking if he is not among the leaders come Sunday. He will have a monumental task ahead though, because the field for the 2022 U.S. Open may be the deepest ever assembled for a golf championship. In addition to the red-hot Thomas, Scottie Scheffler, reigning Masters Champion, is at the top of his game as well—and no doubt casting a keen eye toward backing up his win at Augusta with another major championship. The most dangerous player in the field, however, may be Jon Rham. The career numbers Rham has put up on the PGA Tour thus far are eye-popping, and he is past due for his second major. In 120 starts, Jon has finished in the Top 10 an astounding 49% of the time—the highest of any player in the field. In addition, he’s made the cut in 90% of the events he’s entered—so he’s rarely off his game.

Although Jordan Spieth missed the cut at The Masters, he’s recorded a Top 10 in 3 of his last 5 starts, including a win at The Heritage, a runner-up at the Byron Nelson, and a T7 at the Charles Schwab Challenge. With 3 major championships on his resume, Jordan knows how to close under pressure—and his putter is second to none. Although Collin Morikawa has been treading water while making cuts since his strong finish at the Masters (5th), his driving accuracy and precision iron play is exactly what the USGA looks for in an Open Champ.

Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa

Based on his dismal season thus far, one might assume that Brooks Koepka will be lacking confidence when he tees it up at the 2022 U.S. Open today. Don’t count on it. After missing the cut as an amateur back in 2012, Koepka, has played the Open 7 times—recording 2 wins (back-to-back in 2017 and 2018), a runner up (2019), 2 T4’s (2014 and 2021) as well as a T13 in 2016 and a T18 in 2015. Koepka lives for major championship golf, and a win this week would go a long way toward healing the pain of yet another injury-plagued season. Perhaps, Tiger-like, he’ll summon a great performance with sheer will and fortitude.

Based on his uninspired performance at the LIV event in London, and with money no longer an incentive, it will be interesting to see what Dustin Johnson brings to the table at the Open. With so few opportunities to achieve anything meaningful in golf going forward, perhaps Dustin will make a statement. It would seem unlikely, but the talent is still there.

Young Guns: Sungjae Im, Joaquin Niemann and Victor Hoveland

The 2022 U.S. Open will also feature a host of mega-talented young stars on the verge of breaking loose at a major—and you can be assured a few will appear on the leaderboard as the championship rolls into the weekend. Will Zalatoris has already recorded 4 Top-10 finishes at major championships in only his second season on Tour, and 24-year-old Victor Hoveland has recorded 3 Tour wins while making the cut in 58 of the 64 events he’s played (91%). Sungjae Im, also 24 years old, has recorded 23 Tour Top-10’s, including 2 wins and a T8 at Augusta in April. Joaquin Niemann, 23 years old, has racked up 21 Top-10’s including 2 wins, and 25-year-old Sam Burns has already notched 4 wins on Tour (3 wins in 2022).

With McIlroy, Thomas, and Scheffler at the top of their game, and so many bright young stars who are poised to burst through at a major, this U.S. Open promises to be memorable indeed—and we are in for a spectacular weekend of golf.

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