PGA Championship preview
PGA Championship 2023: The top 100 golfers competing at Oak Hill, ranked
Once known as the black sheep of golf’s four big events, the PGA Championship has arguably been the most entertaining major championship over the past decade, and the tournament will look to continue that good fortune as the golf world descends on Rochester, N.Y., for the 105th edition of the championship.
No, there will be no Tiger Woods, as the 15-time major winner is sidelined following ankle surgery last month. But the PGA will not be short on storylines. There is Jon Rahm, who can turn his Nevada-in-the-summer heater into something historic. Scottie Scheffler will try to reinsert his name as the best player on the planet. Rory McIlroy is in a bit of a slump yet remains a betting favorite, as is defending champ Justin Thomas. Speaking of title defenses, after skipping his last year, Phil Mickelson returns to the PGA amid more controversy after accusing the PGA of America of colluding with the PGA Tour against LIV Golf. And Jordan Spieth may or may not attempt to secure the career Grand Slam once more, depending on whether his injured left wrist will cooperate.
As the 2023 PGA Championship approaches, we ranked the field, hoping to give you a leg up on your friends as you watch/bet on one of the best weeks in golf.
Trey Mullinax, Adri Arnaus, Adam Schenk, Robert Macintyre, Thorbjorn Olesen, Danny Willett, Alex Smalley, Patrick Rodgers, Yannik Paul, Joel Dahmen
Alex Bierens de Haan
Could this finally be the year Rodgers figures it out? He entered the AT&T Byron Nelson 33rd in strokes gained and 26th in scoring. The only thing hurting is Thursday, as he ranks 90th in Round 1 scoring. … Bob Mac has not become the player Scotland hoped he would be after finishing T-6 at the 2019 Open. He’s also still just 26, and for all the folks who will like Shane Lowry this week with potentially bad conditions in the forecast, make sure you put Macintyre on your list as well. … Smalley hails from Rochester, a fact you will only hear 8,000 times if he happens to be in contention.
K.H. Lee, Hayden Buckley, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Emiliano Grillo, Justin Suh, Davis Thompson, Brandon Wu, Ben Griffin, Dean Burmester, Maverick McNealy
It remains tough to gauge the competitive spirit over at LIV Golf, so take this with a grain of salt, but Burmester has been good on the Saudi-backed circuit at times in 2023. … Thompson and Griffin have been solid in their rookie seasons on the PGA Tour, and Thompson made a nice little run at the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot when he was still in college. We tend to shy away from young guys at majors, but this duo could make some noise. … McNealy got off to a strong start this season, but hasn’t been the same since dealing with an injury, failing to finish inside the top 30 since January.
J.T. Poston, Mackenzie Hughes, Min Woo Lee, Harold Varner III, Nick Taylor, Scott Stallings, Victor Perez, Pablo Larrazabal, Andrew Putnam, Adam Hadwin
Lee came apart Sunday at the Players Championship, but that he worked his way into the final group showcased the type of game he possesses. If the weather gets bad, he’s one name that could squeak through. … Taylor has already racked up five top-10s this season, including a runner-up finish at the WM Phoenix Open. He’s not been efficient off the tee, but the rest of his game has been lights-out. If the set-up calls for accuracy and keeping the bigger numbers at bay, don’t be shocked to see Taylor in the mix. … There’s always one European player near the lead at the PGA or U.S. Open on Friday morning that causes casual golf fans to go, “Wait, who?” which spirals the European cognoscenti into a dark place, aghast at the American ignorance which then leads a cultural war of sorts in the media center. Perez will be that guy at Oak Hill.
Paul Casey, Nicolai Hojgaard, Ben Taylor, Thomas Detry, Gary Woodland, Matt Kuchar, Thomas Pieters, Alex Noren, Kevin Kisner, Adam Svensson
Woodland has made the cut in nine of his past 10 starts and was on the early board at the Masters. But as good as he’s been from tee-to-green (11th in off-the-tee and 11th in approach), the former U.S. Open champ has been a mess with his short game, ranking outside the top 190 in SG/around-the-green and putting. Perhaps worth a flier as a first-round leader, but hard to see him doing much after that. … Speaking of fliers, Noren is listed by most sportsbooks at 150-to-1 as of writing. He’s not coming into Rochester hot, missing his last three cuts, but for a guy ranked just outside the top 50 those are pretty enticing odds. … Kuchar is making his 15th start at the PGA. He’s finished inside the top 10 three times since 2015, but also missed the cut three times in that span.
Ryan Fox, Si Woo Kim, Keith Mitchell, Aaron Wise, Mito Pereira, Denny McCarthy, J.J. Spaun, Phil Mickelson, Adrian Meronk, Lucas Herbert
At last year’s U.S. Open, looking and sounding nothing like himself, Mickelson promised to keep his opinions about golf’s governing bodies to himself. Now, well, now he’s using Twitter to send vague deleted threats to the PGA and USGA. Honestly, we missed his magisterial pronouncements, and that he’s making them signals he’s feeling good about himself and his game … Meronk is coming of a win at the Italian Open, played at the course that is set to host the Ryder Cup. The Polish native can lock down a spot in Rome with a good showing in Rochester.
Adam Scott, Cam Davis, Brendon Todd, Bryson DeChambeau, Seamus Power
Scott feels like he belongs higher on the list. He also has just one top-five finish in his last 30 major starts, with his last top-10 coming in 2019. The Aussie showed much needed signs of life in Charlotte with a T-5 finish considering he’s not inside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup points list, and finished T-5 at the 2013 PGA, so perhaps all hope is not lost. … DeChambeau is currently 38th—repeat, 38th—out of 48 players on LIV Golf’s season standings. Hard to envision someone struggling in that league somehow beating the world’s best at Oak Hill. Conversely, DeChambeau’s ceiling remains high, and maybe all he needs is a good round to get right.
Sepp Straka, Joaquin Niemann, Chris Kirk, Davis Riley, Abe Ancer
Niemann has made the cut in 10 straight major championships, including a T-16 at this year’s Masters. He’s also been struggling at LIV Golf this year (25th out of 48 in the individual standings), so read into that what you will. … It's a bit unfair to describe Riley’s 2023 as a sophomore slump, given he partnered with Nick Hardy to win the Zurich Classic last month. However, he hasn’t taken the jump that some thought he might coming off a strong 2022 season, entering the Nelson 121st in strokes gained and 122nd in scoring after ranking 46th and 37th in those categories last year. The Zurich gives him the runway to find his game without pressing, so if you’re searching for a super longshot, Riley warrants a look.
Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Taylor Moore, Talor Gooch, Taylor Montgomery
People are saying “Taylor/Talor” is the new “Cameron” in professional golf. Although, in total transparency, we originally had Ancer in this group but ultimately decided that having three dudes with the same name was too cool to pass up. … For those looking for a top-20 play, Henley finished T-4 at the Masters with T-19s at the RBC Heritage and Players Championship.
Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood, Billy Horschel, Wyndham Clark, Justin Rose
Kevin C. Cox
The Masters was a political win for LIV Golf on a number of fronts. However, we’re not sure the tournament was the proper gauge of competitive atrophy, since Augusta National is a course best played by experience and a number of LIV Golf members had plenty of Masters reps under their belts. With most of the field not playing in the 2013 PGA at Oak Hill, this might be the better barometer of how LIV Golf players hold up. If you’re looking for a dark horse in this bunch, Reed might be the best bet. … Tommy Lad is coming off a T-5 at the Wells Fargo, and T-5 at last year’s PGA. Bettors have been biten many a time riding Fleetwood at the majors, but the Englishman’s game does seem like a proper fit at Oak Hill.
Kurt Kitayama, Tom Hoge, Hideki Matsuyama, Corey Conners, Rickie Fowler
Kevin C. Cox
Hoge entered the Nelson leading the tour in SG/approach; what’s just as impressive is he’s as good on the short ones (second in proximity from inside 100 yards) as he is the long ones (second in proximity from 200-225 yards). Only reason he didn’t crack our top 25 is his recent play, failing to make the weekend in five of his last seven starts before Dallas. … For all the cries of being overexposed, Fowler’s revival in 2023 has somehow gone under the radar. Fowler has finished T-20 or better in eight of his last nine starts and is 11th on tour in strokes gained. Crazy as it might sound he’s a handful of top-fives away from running into Ryder Cup consideration.
No. 25: Jordan Spieth
World Ranking: 10 PGA starts: 10 Best finish: 2nd, 2015
Frankly, if Spieth is dealing with a serious wrist issue, he probably doesn’t merit this spot. However, he had been playing well, with five finishes of T-6 or better since late February. He’s also that rare bird that tends to elevate his game in the sport’s biggest events. Yes, he can make the easy look difficult, but he also makes the difficult look easy, and playing through an injury at a major qualifies as difficult. We don’t think he gets the career Grand Slam this week, but with Spieth, you tend to expect the unexpected.
No. 24: Sahith Theegala
World Ranking: 25 PGA starts: First
If you did an anonymous poll at tour headquarters of which player the league would love to see take the next step, Theegala would win running away. He’s got the game and personality to be the sport’s next big star. (Why he failed to get a Presidents Cup nod continues to confound.) Had back-to-back top-10s at the Masters and RBC Heritage, and if a little rain softens up Oak Hill, Theegala’s aggressiveness (10th in birdie average) may give him the chance to earn that breakthrough victory.
No. 23: Harris English
World Ranking: 37 PGA starts: 6 Best finish: T-19, 2020
Quietly putting together a nice comeback campaign, highlighted by a T-2 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and T-3 at the Wells Fargo. His approach game remains a work in progress, but if he gets right with the irons, English may regain the form he had just two summers ago, a form that earned him a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
No. 22: Tom Kim
World Ranking: 19 PGA starts: 2 Best finish: MC, 2020, 2022
He has come back down to Earth after his torrid fall, but Kim hasn’t been a no-show by any means, finishing T-16 at the Masters and T-23 at the Wells Fargo. There’s a good chance there will be a raucous crowd on hand in Rochester, and Kim embraced such an atmosphere at the 2022 Presidents Cup. Throw in a solid second-shot game (15th in SG/approach) and Kim shouldn't disappoint.
No. 21: Dustin Johnson
World Ranking: 82 PGA starts: 13 Best finish: 2nd/T-2, 2019, 2020
Didn’t play that well at the Masters and was 20th out of 48 players on LIV’s season standings going into Tulsa before his victory. But Johnson could take a year off from the sport, win his first event back and no one would blink twice. Did finish T-8 here at the 2013 PGA, and though he missed the cut in his last two PGA tries had back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2019 and 2020.
No. 20: Shane Lowry
World Ranking: 26 PGA starts: 11 Best finish: T-4, 2021
It feels like Lowry has been a trendy sleeper pick for like six straight majors. We’re not sure if this is because everyone digs Lowry’s game (25th SG/tee-to-green) or because they dig Lowry, for things always seem a bit more fun when he’s in the plot. Likely to be a popular dark horse, and this time we won’t argue otherwise.
No. 19: Jason Day
World Ranking: 20 PGA starts: 13 Best finish: Win, 2015
We’ve gone back-n-forth on Day. His rejuvenation has been one of our favorite stories of 2023, racking up six top-10s and ranking eighth in strokes gained before capping things off with his victory on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, his first in five years. In that same breath, the past month also has been a reminder that the 35-year-old Aussie remains cursed on the health front, with vertigo taking him down at the Masters. The fear for bettors would be that the elements take their toll on the former PGA champ. But if his body holds up, don’t be surprised if his flat stick (11th in SG/putting) keeps Day in the mix.
No. 18: Keegan Bradley
World Ranking: 22 PGA starts: 12 Best finish: Win, 2011
Since winning the 2011 PGA, Bradley has just one other top-10 finish at this tournament … which came in 2012. But he has been playing well this season and is one of the better second-shot performers from the rough (27th in proximity). A good finish in Rochester could put Bradley squarely in the Ryder Cup discussion.
No. 17: Sungjae Im
World Ranking: 18 PGA starts: 4 Best finish: T-17, 2021
Four finishes of T-8 or better in his last six stars, three of which (Players, RBC Heritage, Wells Fargo) were designated events. However, outside of the Masters, Im has not been a factor at major championships yet. A good way to change that will be keeping his ball out of the left side rough, as he’s 172nd in proximity from the rough on the left versus seventh from the right.
No. 16: Viktor Hovland
World Ranking: 11 PGA starts: 3 Best finish: T-30, 2021
Last year's Open and last month’s Masters were important steps for Hovland. He ejected hard at St. Andrews and never quite got going Sunday at Augusta National, but competing at majors is a bit like riding a bike in that you have to fall off to figure out how to stay on. The important thing is making sure those experiences don’t create too much scar tissue. The short game remains a mess (166th around-the-green, 130th putting), but the ball-striking is so good it can combat those deficiencies.
No. 15: Sam Burns
World Ranking: 14 PGA starts: 3 Best finish: T-20, 2022
The WGC-Dell Match Play (which Burns won) doesn’t account for stats, which is why Burns’ numbers look pretty pedestrian (39th strokes gained, 107th SG/tee-to-green). Conversely, that could also be interrupted as, save for his Austin conquest, Burns hasn’t been the tour-de-force player we saw last season, and he hasn’t finished better than T-20 at a major championship in his still-young career. His potential puts up this high on our list, but be careful in putting Burns in those fantasy lineups.
No. 14: Tyrrell Hatton
Eston Parker/ISI Photos
World Ranking: 17 PGA starts: 8 Best finish: T-10, 2016, 2018
On one hand, Hatton’s been sneaky solid this year, ranking seventh in strokes gained and four finishes of T-6 or better in 11 starts. On the other, Hatton ripped Southern Hills greens last year and wanted to take a flamethrower to Augusta National, so maybe he’s not the guy you want to bet on at a venue such as this.
No. 13: Max Homa
Eston Parker/ISI Photos
World Ranking: 6 PGA starts: 4 Best finish: T-13, 2022
Homa’s record over the past 12 months should place him inside out top 10. His record at majors should have him outside the top 50.. The latter, and his performance from the rough (154th in hole proximity from the high stuff vs. 11th from the fairway) does give us pause, but expect Homa to get the major monkey off his back by finding his way onto the weekend leaderboard.
No. 12: Justin Thomas
World Ranking: 13 PGA starts: 7 Best finish: Win, 2017, 2022
That JT hasn’t won since hoisting his second Wanamaker at Southern Hills is more of an indication of how tough it is to win than any indictment on the recently turned-30-year-old. And yet, Thomas hasn’t been right this year; he’s currently 67th in the FedEx Cup standings—and is starting to run out of time to turn it around. Thing is, the numbers mostly remain solid (11th SG/tee-to-green, 16th in strokes gained), they just haven’t translated to solid results. Majors aren’t usually the environments that spur reversals, but Thomas isn’t far away from being the player we know he can be, and perhaps a title defense is exactly the fire under his behind that he needs.
No. 11: Tony Finau
World Ranking: 12 PGA starts: 8 Best finish: T-4, 2020
Playing the best golf of his career, ranking third in strokes gained and second in approach, and fresh off a win in Mexico over Rahm just weeks ago. That the PGA routinely resembles setups seen on the PGA Tour (at least compared to other majors) also helps Finau’s cause. If the putting can just remain slightly better than average, Finau’s hot streak should continue in Rochester.
No. 10: Cameron Young
World Ranking: 15 PGA starts: 1 Best finish: T-3, 2022
When I heard Young was going to be on the cover of Golf Digest, I pitched a video idea where a camera crew would follow him on a tour through the Bronx, stopping at pizzerias and subway stations and Yankee Stadium. The idea was shot down with force. Anyway, Young has been brilliant at majors in his fledging career, finishing T-3 at last year’s PGA and runner-up at the Open, plus a T-7 last month at the Masters. He’s a certified big-game hunter, and expect that trend to continue at Oak Hill.
No. 9: Collin Morikawa
World Ranking: 16 PGA starts: 3 Best finish: Win, 2020
The short game remains a problem (161st in SG/putting). The second-shot game remains on point (fourth in approach, fifth in GIR percentage). Jason Dufner won the 2013 PGA at Oak Hill despite putting like a donkey, and though it’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison given the course’s restoration, the soul of the place remains intact, which is why we think Morikawa has a shot at his third major championship.
No. 8: Cameron Smith
World Ranking: 8 PGA starts: 7 Best finish: T-13, 2022
(Whispers) Hey, come here … (looks around) … little closer … (voice barely audible) … are we sure Smith didn’t just ride a five-month heater? Because the returns since St. Andrews haven’t been great. Should you argue otherwise, the only remaining answers for his display over the past 10 months are that he’s in a rut or apathetic to his new surroundings. Call this standing a show of respect for what he did in 2022, but the next three majors will give us an idea of what is going on with this cat.
No. 7: Matt Fitzpatrick
World Ranking: 7 PGA starts: 7 Best finish: T-5, 2022
The prevailing thought is, the tougher the PGA of America sets up Oak Hill, the better Fitzpatrick’s chances will get. We mostly agree with that logic, although Fitzpatrick’s bulging disc issues don’t seem conducive to the expected thick and luscious rough. He has played well over the past month, with a win at the RBC Heritage and T-10 at the Masters, and if his approach game returns to his historical mean, Fitzpatrick should contend come the weekend.
No. 6: Rory McIlroy
World Ranking: 3 PGA starts: 14 Best finish: Win, 2012, 2014
Rory’s in a slump, or at least what qualifies as a slump for someone of his stature. It happens. What is slightly worrisome is that Quail Hollow, a place that usually serves as his playground, did not wake him from his slumber. Conversely, McIlroy is still fourth in SG/tee-to-green and finished T-8 at the 2013 PGA at Oak Hill. It’s not the wisest thing to bet on something coming in with poor form, yet the inverse is to bet against Rory, and that’s one bet we will not be making.
No. 5: Patrick Cantlay
World Ranking: 4 PGA starts: 6 Best finish: T-3, 2019
Having a new caddie in Joe LaCava will get all the attention, but Cantlay’s game has done plenty of talking as of late. Eighth in SG/tee-to-green, third in SG/off-the-tee and 16th in putting. Has finished in the top 10 in half of his starts, and was in the penultimate group at the Masters before being submarined by a final-round 75. Our only wish, if Cantlay should find himself in contention on Sunday, is to fully lean into his slow-play archetype. We’re talking 20-25 practice swings per shot, asking LaCava for a play-by-play rundown of Super Bowl XLII, reading a new chapter of The Fountainhead on every green. Golf Twitter will lose its mind.
No. 4: Brooks Koepka
World Ranking: 43 PGA starts: 10 Best finish: Win, 2018, 2019
Here are the facts, and they are indisputable: Koepka nearly surrendered an insurmountable lead on Sunday at the 2019 PGA at Bethpage Black. He threw dirt on his competition on Saturday night of the 2022 PGA and promptly laid an egg. He admitted that Phil got in his head Sunday at the 2021 PGA. He was thoroughly outplayed by Rahm during the Sunday marathon at this year’s Masters. The man of the utmost conviction is having a damn hard time closing golf tournaments. So why is Koepka this high? Because even the greats experience a crisis of confidence. What makes them great is weathering the storm to see the other side. Koepka is finally healthy, and the Masters proved he still has what it takes to be one of the best.
No. 3: Xander Schauffele
World Ranking: 5 PGA starts: 6 Best finish: T-10, 2020
Only one top-10 finish in six PGA tries, but no matter. Schauffele has finished T-5 or better in four of his past five tour starts overall. Ranks fourth in strokes gained and fifth in scoring. There are no holes in his game and remains as cool as the other side of the pillow. We think Schauffele earns his major breakthrough in 2023 … just not here, as his methodical, efficient, no room for nonsense game seems better tailored for LACC.
No. 2: Scottie Scheffler
World Ranking: 2 PGA starts: 3 Best finish: T-4, 2020
In nine starts in 2023 (prior to the Nelson), Scheffler’s worst finish is a T-12. No surprise then that he’s first on the tour in SG/off-the-tee and SG/tee-to-green and second in strokes gained total. Scheffler’s game is so consistent that it can come off as plodding, but at Oak Hill, plodding will work. In fact, the only player that “plodders” better is …
No. 1: Jon Rahm
World Ranking: 1 PGA starts: 6 Best finish: T-4, 2022
Rahm could be playing left-handed with plywood and a whiffle ball and he’d still take the top spot. It seems blasphemous to state someone is capable of winning the Grand Slam given the depth and frontline firepower in the professional ranks, but that’s a conversation we may be entertaining as the sport heads to Los Angeles Country Club.