What a first 60 days it’s been within the golf world in 2023 The PGA Tour’s designated events were a smash hit, there have already been three different No. 1 players in the world, Max Homa nearly won twice, Jon Rahm did win three times and Tiger Woods even made a cameo as the first two months of the golf season unfolded.
The Tour now heads to Florida with the West Coast swing in the rearview mirror as the march toward Augusta National and the 2023 Masters begins. So, it’s time to denote some winners and losers for the past six weeks. The year started in Hawaii with a quick Tournament of Champions-Sony Open hit before finishing with a five-event flurry in Arizona and California.
Here’s a look back on some of what you may have missed, or even forgotten, over the first two months of the year.
If we’re talking about winners, it’s impossible to look past Rahm. Seemingly everything he’s touched has turned to gold ad he’s finished with nearly half as many tournament victories (3) as players who defeated him (8). Rahm finished in the top seven in all five tournaments he played in January and February, taking trophies at Kapalua, Palm Springs and at Riviera on Sunday over Max Homa. He gained nearly four (!!) strokes per round on this swing and earned $9 million in the process. He noted it on Sunday at Riv after his victory — not that it needed noting — but Rahm is having the best season of his life. The $9.8M he’s earned for the season (stretching back to last September) would place him 10th in all-time money earned in a single season, and we’re still a week away from March. No matter how you dice it, Rahm destroyed worlds across three different states and in five different tournaments while emerging as the clear-cut, without-a-doubt best player in the world going into the Florida swing. Verdict: Winner
Aside from Woods attaching a prosthetic leg to his hip and winning Phoenix and Riviera by 10 strokes each, it’s difficult to imagine the first two months of 2023 going any better for the Tour. The consolidation of their top stars into the same golf tournaments is clearly going to work, and they got Morikawa-Rahm, Scheffler-Rahm-Taylor and Rahm-Homa-Mitchell as the first three Sunday showdowns in designated events. Throw in the hype around the Netflix documentary and the lack of LIV Golf signings (Thomas Pieters as a headline probably isn’t great) and commissioner Jay Monahan might host his Players Championship press conference in March on a yacht in the pond in front of the PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra. Verdict: Winner
McIlroy came into 2023 as the No. 1 player in the world, and since Jan. 1, two different golfers have taken the spot. Scottie Scheffler ascended after winning Phoenix, and Rahm took it from him after winning Riviera. McIlroy won in Dubai but played poorly (for him) at Phoenix and Riviera as he now heads to Florida currently ranked No. 3 in the world. The good news is that he thrives at Bay Hill and could pretty easily jump back up to No. 1 — or close to it — with a strong next few weeks. Still, for somebody who started his PGA Tour year coming off of seven consecutive top fives globally, to not crack the top 25 in either of his Tour starts thus far has to be considered a disappointment. Verdict: Loser
I thought coming into the year that Fitzpatrick was going to make a move on the world No. 1 spot. Instead, he leaves the West Coast swing with more missed cuts (2) than top 10s (1). The bigger bummer is that an injury could hamper him for the near future — a future that includes several major championships, including one that Fitzpatrick will be defending at Los Angeles Country Club. Hopefully he’s better for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which he always seems to play well, but it wasn’t an idyllic start to the year for the U.S. Open champ. Verdict: Loser
the Masters. It’s never been a victory for Woods to simply stay upright and make the cut, but 2023 is not 2003, and Tiger wants to take his biggest swings at the four majors, not in the middle of February. In that sense, Riviera was a big W. Verdict: Winner, but it’s hard to overstate what a positive outcome four days of competitive golf is without any serious injury concerns. Of course, those concerns are always going to be there on some level, but in terms of health, things could not have gone better for Woods. They went so well, in fact, that I would actually be surprised if he didn’t play again before
On Sunday at Riviera, for just the fourth time in 10 tries, Homa did not win when entering the final round of a PGA Tour event inside the top five on the leaderboard. However, he did win Torrey Pines, added a T3 at the Tournament of Champions, that solo second at Riv and continued to display just why he’s so beloved by golf fans who are serious about the sport. Vulnerability — truly caring about something — is underrated as a personal characteristic and Homa is one of the few athletes I’ve seen willing to enter into it with conviction and without hesitation over and over again. It’s a delight to experience and witness. Verdict: Winner
Spieth kind of quietly had a pretty mediocre first 60 days. The T6 in Phoenix was nice (and fun), but he missed the cut at both the Sony Open and Riviera and was uncompetitive at Pebble Beach, a venue in which he thrives. His iron play has been a problem. If the season ended today, this would be his ninth-best of 11 PGA Tour seasons, and I don’t go into the Bay Hill-Players-Match Play stretch with any confidence that he can hang with the Will Zalatoris’ and Max Homas of the world, much less the Jon Rahms and Scottie Schefflers. Verdict: Loser
You probably wouldn’t have thought after he kicked away that Kapalua victory on Sunday to Rahm that Morikawa would end up in this spot, but here we are. He put up three top-five finishes in four starts and has led the world in approach play (among PGA Tour players) over the first 60 days of 2023. Furthermore, and this is irrelevant to his play but very relevant to how fans perceive him, he was incredible in how he broke down and discussed the 10th hole at Riviera on Saturday during the third round. I could listen to several top players get in the weeds about golf for hours and hours, and Morikawa is certainly one of them. Verdict: Winner