The long, dark golf offseason has finally come to a close. The PGA Tour returns this week to kick off its 2022-23 season, a 47-event marathon which will conclude at the end of August 2023 with the Tour Championship and the crowning of a FedEx Cup champion.
After such an insane 2022, it’s difficult to imagine what the Tour is going to do for an encore, but there are several storylines, players and events to watch out for going into the next 11 months. Of course, LIV Golf will permeate all of this, just as it has done over the last six months. Even when we aren’t talking about who’s leaving next (which we will below), the Tour will still feel the effects of its presence in both good and bad ways.
Let’s not tarry any longer — I think the opening few paragraphs of this article lasted longer than the time between seasons for the Tour — as we look forward to what will be an historic year (and a marker in professional golf) for the PGA Tour.
Five storylines to watch
1. Unity at the top: I have not been this excited at the beginning of a PGA Tour season in a long time. The primary reason is that the Tour has functionally sectioned itself off into two different tours. There will be 12 elevated events, the Players and the four majors in which we will see, presumably, the top 50 players in the world at every event. That’s something that could only have been said about the Players and the four majors in years past, and it’s both a thrill to imagine the top players at 17 of the same events and also provides clarification as to which weeks matter most; no sport has a 47-week schedule that everyone pays attention to all the time.
2. What do majors and Official World Golf Rankings decide? While everyone is paying attention to Phil Mickelson et al vs. the PGA Tour, the real defining legal battle will likely come elsewhere. Thus far, the major championship organizations — Augusta National (Masters), USGA (U.S. Open), PGA of America (PGA Championship) and R&A (Open Championship) — have perhaps been irritated at the shifting pro golf landscape but have yet to ban LIV golfers from playing their tournaments. I don’t believe they’re going to do this outright either. What could happen is that the OWGR board, which is made up of representatives from these organizations, could prevent LIV from obtaining OWGR points, effectively keeping most of their players out of the major championships. It seems like that’s probably the road down which we’re headed, although I’m sure there will be myriad twists and turns.
3. What is Tiger’s plan? It was a strange year for Tiger Woods. He only played nine total rounds last year but also engendered perhaps the moment of the year when he waved his cap across the Swilican Bridge at The Open in July. His performances at both the Masters and the PGA Championship were also uniquely inspiring. I’m guessing we see a very similar schedule for Tiger in 2023 with perhaps the U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club or an Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill thrown in there, as well as an elevated role on the U.S. Ryder Cup team as a vice captain to Zach Johnson in Rome.
4. PGA Tour/DP World Tour strategic alliance: In 2022, the DP World Tour shifted into more of a feeder system for the PGA Tour. That was highlighted by the announcement that the top 10 players on the DP World Tour each year will receive PGA Tour cards for the following season — which is the definition of a feeder system. However, there is plenty of opportunity for the PGA Tour and DP World Tour to continue to work together in the future like they did this year with the Scottish Open. I don’t know if they can pull it off, but I would love to see some of the elevated events on the PGA Tour schedule as co-sanctioned events with the DP World Tour. It’s a good way to fend off LIV players who are joining the rival tour just because it plays a more global slate. You could move the elevated PGA Tour events around and have two or three tournaments in Europe every year alongside the Open Championship.
“I think for the benefit of the global game, a handful of those [elevated] events need to be in Europe,” said Rory McIlroy last week at the BMW PGA Championship. “I’ve said that from the start. This can’t be American-centric.”
5. Who leaves next? I don’t know the answer to that question because nobody knows the answer, but it’s a good bet that when the next player leaves from the PGA Tour to go play the LIV Golf League, it’s going to be a non-American. LIV has branded itself as the global tour. The PGA Tour has an opportunity to provide a rebuttal to that by playing more co-sanctioned events in Europe alongside the DP World Tour, but I think any late 2022 or 2023 defectors to LIV will mostly be non-American players.
Three breakout candidates to watch
I loved this thread by Will Haskettwho evaluated the best players of 2022 who didn’t win any tournaments (yet). Looking at strokes gained (your ability to score well against your peers) against a lack of wins is such an interesting way to try and predict the future. Some names that turned up on the list this time last year: Scottie Scheffler, Cam Smith and Talor Gooch, all of whom had great 2022 campaigns. I used his list and added some of my own flavor as we look for some breakout stars in 2023.
1. Justin Suh: It’s not just the pedigree. It’s not just that he won the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. It’s not just that he was introduced alongside Viktor Hovland, Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa at the 2019 Travelers Championship. It’s all that plus the way he closed out the Korn Ferry Tour season like an absolute menace.
2. Taylor Pendrith: The Presidents Cup later this month could be his coming out party, but the truth is that he’s been a menace all summer. He has six top 15s in seven starts on the PGA Tour dating back to the Players Championship, and only a below-average putter has kept him from rising into a position where he’s a top 25 player in the world.
3. Cameron Young: This one felt almost too obvious. But if you haven’t been paying close attention, Young has been a top 20 player in the world for a while now and contended at multiple majors in 2022. He is the Will Zalatoris of 2023, but hopefully with him, I won’t have to sweat a win until the third-to-last tournament of the season.
Changes are coming
This is the last year of the fall slate as we know it. The season after this one won’t begin until January 2024, although it sounds as if there will still be some events in the fall where players who don’t retain their PGA Tour cards will play for status ahead of the upcoming year (it sounds as if stars playing in an international series for a ton of money is now off the table). One other big change coming this year is that only the top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings will advance to the FedEx Cup Playoffs. That’s whittled down from the top 125, which is what the number has been more recently. This mostly won’t affect the stars and superstars of the game, but it could provide more urgency at an earlier part of the year.
Best bets for majors, FedEx Cup
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
Masters: Cameron Young (40-1) — He should be more like 25-1 or 30-1 based on how he played in the majors this year and how well he drives the golf ball.
PGA Championship: Collin Morikawa (20-1) — The last time the PGA Championship was played at Oak Hill was 2013, and the top two finishers were Jason Dufner and Jim Furyk. Both are short-ish hitters who hit frozen ropes for irons, which is basically the same profile as Morikawa.
U.S. Open: Bryson DeChambeau (65-1) — Do I think DeChambeau is going to win the 2023 U.S. Open? I do not. Do I think 65-1 is outrageously long for somebody who won the U.S. Open two years ago from right now and almost won it again the following year? I do.
Open Championship: Adam Scott (65-1) — He quietly finished T15 this year, and The Open is the one place where it’s much easier for an older player to sneak in and make some noise. I don’t think we’re done hearing from Scott at Opens.
FedEx Cup: Sam Burns (25-1) — He’s made the last two Tour Championships and went into both of those playoffs ranked inside the top 10. He’s a consistent, money-making machine — or at least he has been in recent years — and with big win here or there next season, it’s easy to see him mixing it up on Sunday at East Lake. I also love that he’s improved his strokes gained number in each of the last four seasons.
Predictions for 2022-23 season
- Player of the Year: Jon Rahm
- Rookie of the Year: Justin Suh
- Masters winner: Jon Rahm
- PGA Championship winner: Will Zalatoris
- U.S. Open winner: Xander Schauffele
- Open winner: Jordan Spieth
- FedEx Cup champion: Jon Rahm