As the 2023 PGA Tour season closes this week in Atlanta with the Tour Championship, it is anybody’s guess who will win because there is no clearcut favorite.
Scottie Scheffler (Titleist Pro V1) is ranked number one and goes into the event starting with a 10-under par score. Next is last week’s BMW Championship winner Viktor Hovland (Titleist Pro V1) at eight-under, followed by Rory McIlroy (TaylorMade TP5x) at seven-under, Jon Rahm (Callaway Chrome Soft X) at six-under, with Lucas Glover (TaylorMade Tue Response), Max Homa (Titleist Pro V1), Patrick Cantlay (Titleist Pro V1x), Brian Harman (Titleist Pro V1), Wyndham Clark (Titleist Pro V1) and Matt Fitzpatrick (Titleist Pro V1x) all starting at four-under.
Scheffler comes into the tournament into the same spot as last year. He’s had a spotty season, principally because of his putting. Everything else has been spot on. He lost the Tour Championship last year when McIlroy rallied from six behind with a four-under par. Scheffler went backwards in the final three holes.
Scheffler has recorded two wins, two runnerups and 16 top-10 finishes this season. He’s also made all 22 cuts. Overall, he’s won more than $21 million. He more than anybody prospered from the elevated prize money. He’s had a hell of a run in the last two years.
Hovland, whose impressive resume lacks only a major win, shot a nine-under par with the round of his life on the final day of the BMW Championship. The greatest-ever golfer from Norway, Hovland also has two wins, one runnerup, eight top-10 finishes and more than $14 million in prize money this season.
Then there’s McIlroy, who has already won the Tour Championship three times, and seems to be hitting his stride. In his last four tournaments, he has a win, T6, T3 and a fourth. He’s record top-10 finishes in his last nine events. If you were to go on recent form and history in the Tour Championship, he is hard to overlook as the likely winner.
Rahm’s form has been going backwards. He started 2023 strongly with back-to-back wins and then four in his first nine tournaments, highlighted by his Masters victory. He’s had a T37, T31, second and missed cut in his last four outings. If he can somehow recover the form earlier in the year, he should win. But that’s a big if.
And what to make of Glover? The 43-year-old has missed 11 of 27 cuts this season, but has won two of his last three tournaments, including one of them in a playoff. He finished tied for 22nd last week, but as the expression goes, he’s playing with house money now.
Cantlay, winner of the 2021 Tour Championship, hasn’t won in 20 tournaments this year, though he has had two seconds, including the loss to Glover in a playoff in the FedEx St. Jude Championship.
You could actually make a case for all the players in the top-10, but because if the system, those behind Scheffler starting the tournament have to make up ground in a hurry or get hot on the final day.
The case could be made that his whole system is wrong and that all of them should start without any advantage, but it’s based on cumulative points as part of FedEx’s commitment to the PGA Tour and there is a reward for doing well.