PGA Tour season in review: Best player to biggest disappointment to everything in between

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ATLANTA — Another tumultuous season on the PGA Tour has come and gone.

Norway’s Viktor Hovland won the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Sunday, collecting the FedEx Cup and an $18 million bonus.

We won’t see Hovland and many of the PGA Tour’s stars in the U.S. again until the Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club outside Rome in late September. The tour’s fall schedule tees off with the Fortinet Championship in Napa, California, on Sept. 14-17.

It was a season like none other. Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm won another major championship, while Wyndham Clark and Brian Harman won their first. The biggest surprise, of course, was the PGA Tour’s planned alliance with the DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Here’s a look back at the best of the season:

Player of the year: Jon Rahm

The golfer from Spain won four times by April, including his second major at the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, where he defeated Koepka and Phil Mickelson by 4 strokes to win a green jacket on what would have been the 66th birthday of his idol, Seve Ballesteros, who won his second Masters 40 years earlier. Rahm also captured the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2021.

Before winning the Masters, Rahm captured the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the American Express in January and The Genesis in February. The most surprising thing was that Rahm didn’t win again after the Masters. He was second in the Mexico Open and tied for second at The Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.

Scottie Scheffler had some of the best ball-striking statistics in the sport’s history but couldn’t putt consistently and won only once, at The Players in March. Hovland was red hot at season’s end and captured two playoff events and the Memorial.

Breakout player: Wyndham Clark

Clark was 313th in the Official World Golf Ranking in late May 2022. He had missed 24 cuts over the past two seasons. But then things started clicking for the Denver native in the spring when he had three top-six finishes in four starts. The 29-year-old picked up his first PGA Tour victory at the Wells Fargo Championship on May 7.

More than a month later, he became only the fourth player in the past 100 years to win the U.S. Open the first time after making the cut in the tournament, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Clark and Rickie Fowler were tied for the lead heading into the final round at Los Angeles Country Club. Clark managed an even-par 70 to defeat Rory McIlroy by 1 stroke. He had made the cut in two majors before the week.

“I feel like I belong on this stage, and even two, three years ago when people didn’t know who I was, I felt like I could still play and compete against the best players in the world,” Clark said. “I felt like I’ve shown that this year.”

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How a positive mindset helped Wyndham Clark win his first major

Wyndham Clark explains to Scott Van Pelt how changing his outlook on golf helped him win the U.S. Open.

Rookie of the Year: Eric Cole

In 2021, Cole captured the Minor League Golf Tour’s Tour Championship for the second time and walked away with a $10,000 winner’s purse. He won 54 times on the MLGT and other mini tours before finally breaking through on the Korn Ferry Tour the next year.

This season, the 35-year-old PGA Tour rookie had eight top-10 finishes and 17 top-25s in 24 starts on tour. He lost to Chris Kirk in a playoff at the Honda Classic. He tied for 27th at The Players, fifth at the Mexico Open and sixth at the RBC Canadian Open. He collected more than $3.35 million in on-course earnings. He finished 43rd in FedEx Cup points and qualified for the two events of the playoffs.

Comeback player of the year: Rickie Fowler

In June 2022, Fowler was the first alternate for the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. He didn’t get in the field. Ten days later, Fowler fell to 152nd in the world, the first time outside the top 150 in more than a dozen years.

This season, after changing his swing and parts of his team, Fowler enjoyed a remarkable resurgence. He had eight top-10s and 17 top-25s in 24 starts. He was runner-up at the Zozo Championship and tied for fifth at the U.S. Open.

On July 2, Fowler ended a more than four-year drought without a victory, which covered 96 starts on tour, by capturing the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. He hit his approach shot to 3 feet on the 72nd hole to force a playoff, then beat Collin Morikawa and Adam Hadwin with an 11-footer on the first extra hole. After ranking 133rd in shots gained: total last season, Fowler was 10th in 2022-23.

Best victory: Brian Harman at The Open

The British tabloids dubbed him “Brian the Butcher,” and Harman cut down the competition at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England, in July. A 125-to-1 underdog to win the Claret Jug, Harman won by 6 strokes to become the Champion Golfer of the Year.

Harman carded a 5-under 65 in the second round, led by 5 strokes after 36 holes and never surrendered it. The left-handed golfer was up by 5 after the third round and survived a downpour and a couple of early bogeys on Sunday to win his first major championship.

Harman, 36, became only the third left-handed player to win The Open, joining Bob Charles (1963) and Phil Mickelson (2013).

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Harman on Open win: ‘I’m over the moon’

Brian Harman speaks with Mark Schlabach after securing his first major title with a 6-shot victory at the 151st Open Championship in Hoylake, England.

Sure, Glover won the 2009 U.S. Open and captured the John Deere Classic in July 2021. But before the last event prior to the FedEx Cup playoffs, Glover was 112th in points and ranked 119th in the world. He was among the worst putters on tour and completely lacked confidence on the greens throughout the season.

But after switching to a longer putter, Glover won the Wyndham Championship to sneak into the playoffs. Then he defeated Patrick Cantlay in a playoff at the FedEx St. Jude Championship the very next week to secure a spot in the next two events, the BMW Championship and Tour Championship. Glover cooled off at East Lake, but it was one heck of a postseason run for the 43-year-old.

Shot of the year: McIlroy’s 2-iron on the 72nd hole in Scotland

Needing a birdie on the 72nd hole to move in front of hometown hero Robert MacIntyre in the final round of the Scottish Open, McIlroy was 201 yards from the hole and facing a difficult approach shot into gusting winds. Typically, McIlroy would have hit a 3-iron, but he had replaced that club with a 2-iron because of the Scottish winds.

“The 4-iron was only getting me to the front edge,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy hit his ball to 10½ feet and made the birdie putt to defeat MacIntyre by 1 stroke. On the par-3 17th, McIlroy hit a 5-iron to 4½ feet for a birdie. He carded a 2-under 68 for his first victory on Scottish soil.

Best finish: Nick Taylor at the RBC Canadian Open

On June 11, Taylor holed a 72-foot eagle putt on the fourth playoff hole to outlast Tommy Fleetwood in the RBC Canadian Open at Oakdale Golf & Country Club in Toronto. The Winnipeg native became the first Canadian in 69 years to win the tournament.

After dropping the long putt, Taylor tossed his putter in the air and jumped into the arms of his caddie, Dave Markle. Fellow Canadian players Corey Conners, Adam Hadwin and Mike Weir celebrated with him on the green. Hadwin was tackled by an overzealous security guard while spraying his good friend with champagne.

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Adam Hadwin tackled by security while celebrating Nick Taylor’s win

Golfer Adam Hadwin is tackled by security while celebrating Nick Taylor’s victory at the RBC Canadian Open.

“I’m speechless,” Taylor said. “This is for all the guys that are here. This is for my family at home. This is the most incredible feeling.”

The last Canadian player to claim his country’s open championship was Pat Fletcher in 1954. Fletcher was born in England. Carl Keffer had been the only Canadian-born player to win it, in 1909 and 1914.

Thomas has been among the best players in the world, but his 2022-23 season was a disappointment any way you look at it. The two-time major champion had just three top-10s in 20 starts on tour. He missed the cut in three of four majors and tied for 65th at the PGA Championship. He carded an 81 in the U.S. Open and an 82 in The Open.

Thomas finished 71st in FedEx Cup points, just missing the cutoff to compete in the playoffs. JT needed a birdie on his final hole at the Wyndham Championship. He nearly made it when his chip shot hit the pin and bounced away from the hole. He fell to the ground in disbelief.

Funniest moment: Tom Kim gets muddy at the PGA Championship

South Korea’s Tom Kim turned a rather mundane opening round of the PGA Championship into an adventure at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York. He unexpectedly took a mud bath while searching for his errant tee shot on the sixth hole.

Marshals told Kim that his ball had crossed a creek and landed somewhere in the high weeds in a hazard. By the time Kim came back — without his ball — he was covered in mud nearly up to his waist.

“I was told my ball crossed the water,” Kim told ESPN. “It was just in the mud over there, and if I was able to find it [and] I had a good enough lie I was thinking I could chip it over there.”

He took off his shoes and socks and rolled up his pants, but that didn’t help him much. He carded a bogey on the hole.

“As soon as I went in, it was kind of sketch,” Kim said. “But I mean it’s a major championship. I’m fighting for every single stroke I have.”

The rest of the best of the 2022-23 PGA Tour season

Quote of the year

McIlroy on LIV Golf League star Phil Mickelson’s gambling habits

Best club twirl

Clark on the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open

Best hole-in-one

Club pro Michael Block was the hero of the PGA Championship.

Best drive

McIlroy didn’t even know his ball was on the green during the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Best approach shot

Matt Fitzpatrick nearly holed out from 187 yards to defeat Jordan Spieth in a playoff at the RBC Heritage.

Best bunker shot

Even caddie Michael Greller was impressed by Spieth’s bunker shot at the WM Phoenix Open.

Worst swing

Hey, it even happens to the best of us.

Best pairing

Keith Mitchell and Sungjae Im at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Best post-victory celebration

Tony Finau playing a round of night golf with his kids in Mexico

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