It’s hard to believe that we have reached the end of the 2022-23 PGA Tour season.
As the opening round of the Tour Championship got underway at East Lake, the main contenders to walk away with the Fed Ex Trophy on Sunday are:
- Scottie Scheffler
- Victor Hovland
- Rory McIlroy
- Jon Rahm
- Lucas Glover
Now, let’s recap today’s events!
The format for the Tour Championship sees strokes allocated to players based on their standings in the year-long Fed Ex Cup; let’s take a look at the leaderboard:
This is why we see this strange scenario of the current number 1 ranked player in the Fed Ex standings – Scottie Scheffler, starting the tournament at 10 under par.
Scheffler’s closest pursuer in the standings – Victor Hovland, begins the week at 8 under par, and the pattern continues down the 30-man field with the lowest-ranked of the 30 players staring at level par.
The star of day 1, however, was undoubtedly Collin Morikawa.
A player who’s not been at his best over the season fired himself to the top of the leaderboard with a blistering 61.
Morikawa’s round included 11 threes on his scorecard, including an eagle at his 6th hole to give him his lowest round on the PGA Tour.
The question for Morikawa is can he continue to play close to this standard for the next three days and walk away with his first title since the 2021 British Open?
Arguably, the player in hot form at the moment is Victor Hovland.
After completing his thrilling victory at the BMW Championship last week with a red-hot final round of 61 that included 12 threes on his scorecard, his round yesterday at East Lake showed there was little hangover from last Sunday’s round.
Hovland’s opening round of 67 sees him tied for the lead with Morikawa and Keegan Bradley.
2023 has been a bit of a renaissance year for Bradley, but two victories earlier this season have seen a return to form, and a push to be included in the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2014 adds an extra incentive to his play this week.
His cause was certainly helped with a strong, bogey-free round of 63 that vaulted him to the joint top of the leaderboard.
Scottie Scheffler has been the man to beat this season; he captured the Players Championship in March, regained his world number 1 spot, and been the model of consistency throughout the season.
Rory McIlroy even commented earlier in the week that the quality of Scheffler’s ball striking this year put him on a par with Tiger Woods’ stellar season of 2000.
But yesterday wasn’t his finest round; Scheffler started strong, opening up a 5-shot lead but recorded three bogies and a triple bogey at the par 3 15th on his way to recording a 1 over par round of 71.
It was an indifferent day for the European Ryder Cup pair of Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy.
Rahm carded a mixed bag of opening round of 1 under 69 featuring 4 bogeys against 5 birdies, but McIlroy’s level par 70 was the more note-worthy of the rounds.
Struggling with what looked like a sore back in his warmup, the discomfort continued out on the course, with McIlroy visibly showing signs of pain during his round.
Post-round McIlroy said he was “over the moon” still to be in contention.
McIlroy had felt stiffness in his back on Tuesday, but after receiving physio felt much better.
The problem manifested itself again on Wednesday during a gym session when his back seized up once more.
With less than a month to the Ryder Cup, the European captain, Luke Donald, will be hoping that this is something that won’t cause problems for one of his star players.
So, going into day two, we have three players who are all capable of continuing their form, but even though Scottie Scheffler hadn’t had the best of starts, it’s worth noting that he is still only one behind with a lot of golf still to be played.