It was simple to draw the conclusion that the highest level of men’s professional golf has evolved into a rarefied environment fit only for the game’s most powerful creatures as Scottie Scheffler ousted Rory McIlroy from the top of the global rankings.
Amazingly, just a select handful have controlled this time. It appears that the days when a number of lesser known figures might occupy the top tiers of leaderboards are long gone.
You must be among the greatest in order to hold those positions in the modern period. To put it another way, it helps if your name is Scheffler, McIlroy, or Jon Rahm in this exclusive club.
After not placing lower than 11th since last October, Scheffler successfully defended his championship at the prestigious $20 million (£16.5 million) WM Phoenix Open.
After finishing with a fantastic 65 to finish two shots ahead of the field, Scheffler said, “I hadn’t won since the Masters.
It’s great to finish this one, especially in the way I did it, because I’ve given myself a good shot a few times.
Rahm, Justin Thomas, Jason Day, and Jordan Spieth, four golfers who have all experienced being ranked number one in the world, were in the top six.
The Masters winner, who lost just two strokes in 72 holes, is now returning to celebrate his 31st week at the top. Later, he described the champion mentality that helped him succeed.
I’ve always been fiercely competitive, and I detest making bogeys, he claimed. “When I make a poor shot, it all depends on how you react because mistakes will happen.
“You won’t play 72 holes of flawless golf. What matters most is how you react. This week, I thought I did a really excellent job at it, and I just want to keep improving on it.”
In addition, as he acknowledged, there had been a few close calls in his recent history. In contrast to Rahm and McIlroy’s recent hot streaks, it has actually been rather modest.
Since McIlroy defeated Scheffler and took home the Tour Championship in August of last year, the European Ryder Cup teammates have been pretty much constants on leaderboards.
Rahm has won four tournaments during that time and has never finished outside the top eight. Although McIlroy struggled in Phoenix, his first US event of the year, he still had an outstanding season overall.
With the exception of last week, he finished in the top four in every competition during that span, winning three of them, including the Dubai Desert Classic last month, which was his only other appearance so far this year.
The degree of consistency is reminiscent of Tiger Woods at his best, and the three golfers, ages 26, 33, and 28, who are Scheffler, McIlroy, and Rahm, all grew up idolizing the 15-time major champion.
They all play in his unstoppable style when they are at their best, and this is no accident. The Woods revolution of the 1990s and 2000s gave rise to the era we are currently experiencing.
It transformed a large number of players from casual golfers to competitive sportsmen who understand the importance of having a killer instinct. There are now three outstanding examples leading the sport in this area.
Therefore, it is fitting that Woods, 47, is promoting the upcoming PGA Tour event, the Genesis Invitational. He will also be playing in competition for the first time since failing to make the cut at The Open at St. Andrews in July.
Tiger Woods is still golf’s biggest beast in terms of his impact on the sport, despite having a critically broken right foot, a problematic back, and numerous prior operations. Tiger is also the joint leader with 82 victories on the American circuit.
“I know he’s going to keep doing everything he can to continue try to win more tournaments,” Rahm said last week. “maybe achieve that 83rd victory. Hopefully, he clearly thought of a major.
“It is therefore a great honor for all of us. Tiger’s presence on the golf course enhances the competition whenever he is there. Therefore, I’m hoping that he can perform properly and in comfort.”
Let’s be practical, though.
Woods’ kids are significantly too powerful, thus he will not be able to compete in the modern period.
The Los Angeles event this week has a $20 million average prize pool, making it one of the higher-level competitions. They were brought in to combat the lucrative threat posed by LIV Golf and are a notion that Woods and McIlroy arranged last year.
The current fourth-ranked player in the world and Open champion Cameron Smith is arguably the only recruit from the Saudi Arabian-funded circuit who can consistently compete with the top three.
It is a shame he won’t be involved as the 2023 season gets going. The Players Championship at Sawgrass, the marquee event of the PGA Tour, will also be missed by him next month.
What level of skill does the Australian possess now that he is playing 54-hole shotgun starts? There is no way to know.
Although he placed tied 47th at the Australian Open, he won the Australian PGA during the LIV off-season. At the most recent Asian Tour Saudi International, he failed to make the cut.
What an intriguing prospect it is that Smith will be a part of the tale at the Masters in April. But LIV appears to be far softer fare as compared to the heavyweight caliber now being offered on the PGA Tour.
Already, things are starting to take shape. If that keeps up, it’s a safe bet that players like Scheffler, McIlroy, and Rahm will be better able to bring Augusta National’s first major of the year that vital competitive fire.