In my previous incarnation as a sports columnist in Augusta, Georgia, each year began with a predictions column. It would typically recap the established successes* and failures of the previous calendar year before venturing into the realm of the unknown that a new sports season might bring. It was one of the more fun pointless endeavors of the year but always a good post-holidays conversation starter.
*While there was a surprisingly decent sum of good guesses among the many misses through nearly two decades of annual predictions, the high-water mark came at the brink of 2004 when the column forecast: Phil Mickelson bouncing back from his worst career season by finally breaking his major maiden at the Masters; the Boston Red Sox reversing an 86-year curse by winning the World Series; and freshly resigned Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier opting to return to college football later that year for the longtime-listless South Carolina Gamecocks. If only I’d plunked down some cash in Vegas on that unlikely trifecta.
Golf has ventured into uncharted waters over the last year, as the LIV Golf disruption continues to send ripples of unrest across the professional and top amateur landscape. The PGA Tour has rejiggered its schedule formula to try to hold fast its grip on the highest rung of the game. LIV CEO Greg Norman promises further disruption. Lawsuits remain pending.It seems like a good time to dust off the crystal ball and try to make sense of what the game may throw our way in 2023. So here’s a fearless forecast for what promises to be another bumpy golf season:
- Another handful of players will sign their competitive souls away for Saudi riches before the first full LIV Golf season starts in February, but the departures won’t be nearly as seismic as some of the prominent names who left in 2022. The only top-50 loss will be Mito Pereira of Chile. Colombia’s Sebastian Muñoz will add to the South American roster. Despite persistent rumors, there will be no major defections such as Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele or Viktor Hovland – at least not this year.
- LIV Golf will get a five-day hearing in early February to decide the fate of the DP World Tour’s suspension and fines of departed members that was put on hold by a British court last summer. It’s tough to compare jurisprudence in the U.K. vs. U.S., but if there is any real justice the Euro tour will be granted the right to apply its rules and penalties as it sees fit and bar LIV golfers from crashing its fields.
- LIV will buy its way into some kind of TV arrangement. It’s essential for the model to grow, and surely some network or major streaming service (Fox? Amazon?) is willing to take the Saudis’ money to air some David Feherty quips.
- As a karmic mulligan for the (in hindsight) travesty that happened at the 150th Open at St. Andrews, the golf gods finally will grant Rory McIlroy his career slam with victory at Augusta National in a duel with Cam Smith.
- It will be a huge year for Euros on the major stages, with Jon Rahm (PGA Championship at Oak Hill) and Tommy Fleetwood (British Open at Hoylake) joining McIlroy as winners, and Viktor Hovland will land the Players Championship. The only American major winner will be Will Zalatoris at the U.S. Open in Los Angeles.
- Team USA, however, will conquer its road demons and deliver a victory for captain Zach Johnson at the Ryder Cup in Italy – 16-12. The American team is simply too deep to fail.
- The European women win a record third consecutive Solheim Cup in Spain – 14½-13½.
- Lydia Ko wins one more major championship in the process of crossing the threshold for the LPGA Hall of Fame and retires at the end of the LPGA season as the world No. 1.
- Michael Thorbjornsen outduels Gordon Sargent to win a heavyweight battle at the U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills. Rose Zhang wins the U.S. Women’s Amateur in a relative home game at Bel-Air.
- With Honda exiting after 42 years as a title sponsor of the Florida swing tour event, the 2023 Honda Classic may be the last at PGA National. If so, the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook could take over the late February date with the Houston Open moving back into the regular season rotation following the Players Championship. Davis Love III’s RSM Classic at Sea Island would be a prime contender to it into the regular-season if anything else pops open.
- Tiger Woods will play and make the cut in three majors at Augusta, Los Angeles C.C. and Hoylake. He’ll skip the PGA Championship this year at Oak Hill. He’ll still win the PIP pot because even small doses of Tiger move the needle like nobody else can.
- The OWGR will deliver LIV Golf an ultimatum: At the very least establish 36-hole cuts or you won’t get world-ranking points. This is one area LIV might be willing to bend, cutting the individual leaderboard to 30 or so while still having everyone keep playing for the team component.
- Patrick Reed’s frivolous lawsuit against selected media members will be laughed out of court – but not before Reed probably adds me to the list just for saying this. Hopefully he’ll be ordered to pay any court costs for everyone he’s inconvenienced with his baseless claims.
- First-time tour winners this season will include Cameron Young, Sahith Theegala, Davis Riley, Callum Tarren, Hayden Buckley, Greyson Sigg and two Taylors: Pendrith and Montgomery.
- This year’s Scottie Scheffler, who went from winless to No. 1 in less than 50 days last season, will be Cam Young. Once he breaks his maiden, he’ll add multiple victories before 2023 is done.
- Rickie Fowler gets all the way back with a PGA Tour win.
- Assuming I was right about Xander Schauffele sticking with the PGA Tour, he’ll be rewarded with a FedEx Cup title at the end of the season.
- Neither Phil Mickelson nor Bryson DeChambeau will win any event in the LIV series. Their competitiveness is in Dire Straits: money for nothing.
© 2023 Global Golf Post LLC
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