Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm stand out above the rest heading into 2023 Genesis Invitational
There are currently three top players and then everyone else in professional golf. Scotty Sheffler, Rory McIlroy and John Rahm are how the Official World Golf Rankings distribute the three PGA Tour superstars, but any reshuffling is acceptable with these three names right now.
This week at the Genesis Invitational, they are in the top three. All 10-1 or less, and the next closest (Xander Schauffele) is 16-1. The reason of that? Over the past 20 rounds, each of these three players has averaged (on average!) 2.9 hits or more per round. The closest is, you guessed it, Schauffele at 2.4.
It’s not just advanced metrics that tell us this. In their last 15 races together around the world, this trio has nine (!!!) finishes in the top five, including five wins. Scheffler and Ram have won three of the first six events on the 2023 PGA Tour together.
In trying to determine the top five players in the world independently of any other system, I ran into two problems. The first was to figure out what order to place those three at the top. The second one was trying to figure out who even played well enough compared to those three to take fourth place.
Humorously, Scheffler was asked if he was ignited by the hype surrounding Ram and Rory, who went to the Phoenix Open last week. The two Europeans have won seven of their last 14 tournaments together and were clearly the two best players in the world.
“Not really. I should probably agree,” Scheffler said. “It’s not like I sit and say that I’m playing better than these guys right now. They won tournaments, and I kind of watched them from the sidelines. So no, I didn’t actually pay. too much attention to it.”
Then he went out and won. And he did it by defeating Ram on Sunday.
It’s hard to overstate how good these three have been since early 2022; they have 14 combined world wins since early 2022, the same as a group that includes Victor Hovland, Patrick Cantley, Justin Thomas, Will Zalatoris, Matt Fitzpatrick, Cam Smith, Sungjae Im, Dustin Johnson, Cameron Young, Jordan Spieth and Colleen Morikawa .
These things obviously ebb and flow, and by the time Masters rolls over, we might be talking about four guys, or maybe one of those three. However, the sequence of Scheffler, Ram and McIlroy is impressive. If you push the window back six months, 12 months, even 24 months, all three of them will be at the top of the rankings. They are almost unequivocally among the top three golfers in the world for the last two years.
The top three players in the world by hits scored (via @datagolf).
Last 20 rounds: Ram, Scheffler, Rory
Last 6 months: Ram, Rory, Sheffler
Last 12 months: Rory, Sheffler, Ram
Last 24 months: Ram, Rory, Sheffler
— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) February 15, 2023
This group will be difficult to break into. Scheffler and Rahm are at the peak of their careers, while McIlroy is in his second (or third?) heyday. Of the best players of the scoring era, you are dealing with number 2 (Ram), number 3 (McIlroy) and number 9 (Schaeffler). It’s not that a decent player warms up for a couple of weeks or months.
There are a million stories to talk about when it comes to golf right now, especially with the new Full Swing series on Netflix. But perhaps the least talked about or overlooked is the issue of such a clear top three, which is rarely so clear now.
Rick Geman was joined by Patrick McDonald and Kyle Porter to announce the 2023 Genesis Invitational. Follow and listen to The First Cut at Apple Podcasts And Spotify.
It will continue throughout this mega month-long stretch with four scheduled events in the five weeks leading up to the Masters. Maybe someone will join the three at this time, or maybe they continue to separate from the field and all three are galloping ahead straight down Magnolia Lane.
Whatever the case, they’ve set the pace lately and will be hard to catch on the Riviera, Bay Hill, TPC Sawgrass or… anywhere, really. The top three players in the world are very obvious and have been for a while (even if I didn’t see them!). The question now is not who they are, but when any of that will change.