Weekly Recap: More Glory For Rory

Weekly Recap: More Glory For Rory

This article is part of our Weekly Recap series.

On one hand, it would've fitting for the best golfer all year, Scottie Scheffler, to win the season-ending TOUR Championship and the FedExCup. On the other hand, seeing the face of the PGA Tour and all-around white knight Rory McIlroy win it provided a storybook ending. And the Tour cannot have enough storybook endings these days.

We'll look back at every golfer who made it to Atlanta and try to tie a bow around their individual seasons in this, a year unlike any other in PGA Tour history.

1. Rory McIlroy, 21-under
There's no way that we can know the pressure McIlroy felt. There's enough pressure simply trying to win a golf tournament, much less the TOUR Championship, much less when all those rooting for the PGA Tour in their battle with LIV are all but begging you to put on your Superman cape and save their world. So McIlroy's performance this past week, coming from six shots down on Thursday thanks to the staggered start and still having that same deficit on Sunday morning, could go down as one of the greatest of his great career. This was the performance he needed on Sunday at St. Andrews but will have to settle for Sunday at East Lake. McIlroy gained four shots on the field on the greens in the final round alone, and more than five on Scheffler. For the week, McIlroy ranked second in the field in putting. When he can do that, combined with the

On one hand, it would've fitting for the best golfer all year, Scottie Scheffler, to win the season-ending TOUR Championship and the FedExCup. On the other hand, seeing the face of the PGA Tour and all-around white knight Rory McIlroy win it provided a storybook ending. And the Tour cannot have enough storybook endings these days.

We'll look back at every golfer who made it to Atlanta and try to tie a bow around their individual seasons in this, a year unlike any other in PGA Tour history.

1. Rory McIlroy, 21-under
There's no way that we can know the pressure McIlroy felt. There's enough pressure simply trying to win a golf tournament, much less the TOUR Championship, much less when all those rooting for the PGA Tour in their battle with LIV are all but begging you to put on your Superman cape and save their world. So McIlroy's performance this past week, coming from six shots down on Thursday thanks to the staggered start and still having that same deficit on Sunday morning, could go down as one of the greatest of his great career. This was the performance he needed on Sunday at St. Andrews but will have to settle for Sunday at East Lake. McIlroy gained four shots on the field on the greens in the final round alone, and more than five on Scheffler. For the week, McIlroy ranked second in the field in putting. When he can do that, combined with the rest of his game, he can win a lot of tournaments. He clearly likes East Lake -- this was his third TOUR Championship win, breaking the record he shared with Tiger Woods. McIlroy moved to No. 3 in the world and we should soon see No. 2 and LIV-bound Cameron Smith slide down. McIlroy has not been No. 1 in over two years but now it seems within reach again. As always with McIlroy, the biggest question is if and when he can win a fifth major title. That will continue to be part of his golf narrative in 2023 -- along with trying to save the world.

T2. Scottie Scheffler, 20-under
Nothing can take away from Scheffler's body of work across the whole season. He should be the Player of the Year. He won four times, including the Masters, and is the No. 1 player in the world. But he entered the week with a six-shot lead over McIlroy, and still had that same advantage heading into their final-round, final-group pairing. At that point, Scheffler played one of his worst rounds of the year, certainly considering the circumstances. He lost ground to the field on Sunday in every strokes-gained category but Off-the-Tee. He lost about 5 ½ shots to McIlroy on the greens alone. Scheffler has not won since the Masters, spanning more than four months. His amazing stretch surely was unsustainable. He's still a top-5 player – well, technically still No. 1 – but McIlroy and others are now in position to overtake Scheffler.

T2. Sungjae Im, 20-under
Im is so steady. And a bit of an enigma. He finished 2022 with a flourish, with three runners-up in his final five starts and top-15s in the other two. He has two wins in his career, but in four years on Tour he still doesn't have what would be considered a signature victory. Plus, he's never cracked the top-15 in the world rankings. He's currently 16th. He is in the mix so often, yet win totals and his world ranking don't lie. Im is a bit confounding.

4. Xander Schauffele, 18-under
Schauffele always is in the mix at East Lake, so this was no surprise. After a multiyear winless stretch, he won twice over the summer at the Travelers and Scottish Open, then had top-5s at the final two playoff events. The next step for Schauffele is a major title. He's come so close so many times it's a marvel he hasn't won one. Sometimes, too many close calls start to leave scar tissue. People will keep wondering about Schauffele until he answers the major question. He surely will be one of the favorites to win one next season.

T5. Justin Thomas, 17-under
Thomas won a major, and that pretty much means it was a great year. While he racked up a ton of top-10s – 10 in 21 starts – he rarely contended. He couldn't be happy with his season outside of one week. In fact, he's had only one great week in a year and a half going back to his previous win at the 2021 PLAYERS Championship. He won a major and is No. 7 in the world, but the move to Bones Mackay as his caddie was supposed to help deliver better results.

T5. Max Homa, 17-under
Homa made so many progressions this season, from winning multiple tournaments to making cuts in majors to reaching the TOUR Championship for the first time. He's up to 20th in the world, and progress for next season would be contending in majors and moving into the top-10 in the world. Both seem quite doable.
  
T7. Patrick Cantlay, 16-under
Cantlay was and will remain among the elite handful of golfers in the world. He had a win, three runners-up and 12 top-10s in 20 starts. The only area to improve upon would be better play in majors, and he has started I that direction with a top-15 at the U.S. Open and a top-10 at the Open Championship.

T7. Sepp Straka, 16-under
Straka had a great year that looked like it would end on a down note but he reversed course in the playoffs. He won the Honda in February, then was third at the RBC Heritage and ninth at THE PLAYERS. However, he closed the regular season with six straight missed cuts before being runner-up at the FedEx St Jude. Straka had a lot of good weeks and lot of bad weeks. Good luck determining when he has the good ones going forward. Maybe he'll find more consistency as he becomes a better player.

9. Tony Finau, 15-under
Finau came on strong at season's end with two wins. Though he didn't have a great playoffs, he's clearly a top-10ish golfer and appears to be getting better with age. He is putting much better, and that's they key to how much upside he has.

10. Tom Hoge, 14-under
Hoge played very well at the start of the season culminating with his February win at Pebble Beach. He then largely disappeared for five months. He had built up enough of cushion to make it to East Lake, and finishing in the top-10, even in this field, ends his season on a high note. Not much was expected from a guy priced at the minimum $5,000 on DraftKings. Very few golfers reinvent themselves at age 33 after years of mediocrity, so we can't expect a repeat season for Hoge in 2023.

T11. Hideki Matsuyama, 13-under
The PGA Tour can breathe a big sigh of relief that Matsuyama reportedly is spurning LIV at this time. As a superstar in Japan, he is a key player to retain as the Tour tries to maintain and enhance a global presence, especially in Asia. Matsuyama won twice earlier in the season, then was slowed by injuries in the second half. And he's still ranked 16th in the world. He shouldn't stray too far from that ranking in 2023, as long as his back/neck woes subside.

T11. Joaquin Niemann, 13-under
Niemann reportedly is off to LIV, so the only time he'll be on the course with PGA Tour players going forward is at the majors – if they let him in. And you wonder then how battle-tested he will be playing against weaker LIV fields. It's a loss for the PGA Tour, not a huge one, but Niemann just had his best season and moved into the top-20 in the world.

T13. Jordan Spieth, 12-under
Spieth led the field in SG: Approach at the TOUR Championship. How's that for a stunner to do that and still not finish in the top-10 in a tiny field? Well, his putting is so bad – ranked 23rd in the 29-man field and 153rd on the season – that you wonder how close he can be to his former self ever again. Spieth teased us with a win and two runners-up this season – no small feat – but he had only 10 top-25s in 22 starts, which really should be the number of top-10s for an elite player. There were many off weeks.

T13. Aaron Wise, 12-under
Wise moved inside the top-40 in the world rankings during 2022, and he can largely thank improved putting. He's always been an exceptional ball striker, but he was outside the top-170 in the putting the past two years. He crept inside the top-100 in 2021-22, and if that continues to improve, he could win a tournament this coming season and sniff the top-25 in the world rankings.

T15. Jon Rahm, 11-under
It was not a good season for Rahm, who won once but lost his No. 1 ranking and now stands No. 6. His driver and iron play remain elite. His short game hurt him all year. But he ranked eighth in the field in SG: Putting at the BMW, then led the field at East Lake, offering evidence that he's figuring out his problems and can potentially return to his former self next season.

T15. Matt Fitzpatrick, 11-under
It was a breakthrough year for the Englishman, winning the U.S. Open and finishing with top-10s in half of his 20 starts. Expect to see more of the same from Fitzpatrick in 2023 – well, maybe not another major, but a continued presence on the first page of leaderboards and toward the top of the world rankings.

T15. Viktor Hovland, 11-under
Hovland fell out of the top-10 in the world (barely, he's 11th). After a brilliant spring, his game slumped big-time, with only one top-15 over the past five months. As long as his chipping remains so woeful, you wonder how much upside does Hovland really have. The rest of his game is so elite, he probably still has a lot – on certain courses and in certain fields. But it's hard to win any of the big tournaments without command of all 14 clubs.

T15. J.T. Poston, 11-under
Poston began the season back in the fall with six straight missed cuts. And still he made it to East Lake. That's how good he was once the calendar flipped to 2022. Poston had a win at the John Deere, a runner-up, a third and ninth before a bunch of top-25s down the stretch. The key for him was, and always will be, his putter. He was terrible at the start of the season but he finished as one of the best on Tour. If that club continues to work, Poston could continue to move up from his current world ranking of No. 53.
 
19. Cameron Young, 10-under
Young admitted that he strongly considered LIV before staying with the PGA Tour. Of course, he can still change his mind at some point. But for now, it's a win for the Tour. The soon-to-be Rookie of the Year has a game good enough to win and approach the top-10 OWGR. He's already sitting at No. 17. The only that that could stand in his way next season is a sophomore slump, which can be a real thing in golf.

20. Cameron Smith, 9-under
There's not much to say about Smith, since all the reports say he's LIV-bound. There's no reason he can't dominate the weak and small fields of the upstart tour. He will qualify for all four majors in 2023. We'll have to wait and see not only whether they will let him play, but how he will fare against significantly superior competition than what he'll be used to.

T21. Collin Morikawa, 8-under
A very disappointing season ended with one more disappointment. Morikawa notably lost his vaunted fade during the season. He said a few weeks ago that he got it back, but the jury is still out on that. We won't view Morikawa as a top-10 golfer until we see much more evidence tat he's "back." Yes, he's still in the top-10 at No. 8, but he's, um, fading fast.

T21. Billy Horschel, 8-under
A great start to the season limped to the finish for Horschel, who did not record another top-20 after winning the Memorial in early June. East Lake as especially a disappointment, as he always had had success there. Horschel is ranked 15th in the world, but that seems a bit inflated and we wouldn't be surprised if he dipped next season as he starts to head into his late 30s.

T21. Brian Harman, 8-under
Harman continues to play great golf into his mid-30s even as equipment keeps making the longest hitters hit longer and longer. Harman won't make the TOUR Championship every year, and he's not inside the top-25 in the world. But there's no reason he can't continue to be a solid complementary player in fantasy golf next season with the occasional weeks where he contends.

24. Sam Burns, 7-under
Burns was a two-time winner who entered the TOUR Championship at fifth in the FedEx and 12th in the world rankings. But his 2022-23 success was heavily front-loaded, with no top-15s from mid-June on. It's hard to tell if he ran out of gas, but Burns still seems to endure more highs and lows that similarly ranked players who are steadier. Maybe he will eventually mature out of that. At 26, it's certainly time for that to happen.

25. Adam Scott, 4-under
Scott is 42, and returning to East Lake for the first time in three years was a great accomplishment – and a surprise that didn't seem possible just a few weeks ago. But he tied for fifth in each of the first two playoff events. Scott can still be elite on occasion. But wait -- if you can only do it on occasion, is that really elite? Scott doesn't like to play a lot, so we'll see how he fits in under the Tour's new setup next season.

26. Corey Conners, 3-under
Conners made it to East Lake for a second time. From that vantage point, his season was great. But he had only four top-10s, which can be traced to a subpar short game. His iron game is one of the Tour's best. He hasn't won in 3-plus years since the 2019 Valero. At 26th in the world rankings, and you wonder how much higher he can go without an improved short game.
 
27. K.H. Lee, 1-under
Lee is a two-time Tour winner (two Byron Nelsons) and ranked top-40 in the world. That's the real deal. But it's fair to wonder if that is as far as Lee goes in terms of OWGR. He's never been a great iron player, which really is the hallmark of most top players games, and his success is so heavily tied to one tournament.

28. Sahith Theegala, 1-over
Theegala spoke of being amazed to make it to East Lake as a rookie, so much so that there was a real chance he would "just be happy to be there." And that seemed to be what happened. He's already approaching the top-50 in the world rankings, and he seems destined to get there next year. But we would offer one cautionary thought, that sometimes guys with big rookie seasons take a step back in their sophomore year, sort of a mental letdown after grinding so hard for the first time as a pro.

29. Scott Stallings, 3-over
Stallings looked like someone who simply ran out of gas after going full bore for the past two months, beginning with a tie for eighth at the Travelers. He had four top-10s in his final six starts leading to the TOUR Championship, including a runner-up at the BMW. Even though Stallings is a three-time winner, you could argue this was the best short burst of his long career. At 37, he could continue it next year, but the odds would suggest to proceed toward Stallings with caution.

30. Will Zalatoris, WD
Zalatoris had to withdraw before the tournament after suffering what appears to be a significant back injury at last week's BMW Championship, one that already has led him to bow out of the Presidents Cup in three weeks. We all saw how great he can be, how much his game he has. He's a top-10 player. But he now also has two herniated disks. We don't know whether he needs surgery. What we do know is that back injuries can be long-term for golfers (see: Day, Jason). It's shame for this to happen for one the sport's young stars. We can only it won't be long-term.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years. He was named 2020 "DFS Writer of the Year" by the FSWA and was nominated for the same award in 2019.
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