Golfers to watch in 2023
With the new year finally upon us and the golfing action ready to return, it’s time to look at some names I think you should be on the lookout for in 2023.
Well, Tom Kim. A guy 90% of golf fans hadn’t heard of until 2022 but ended up being the first player since 2016 to win twice on the PGA Tour before their 21st birthday. They also probably didn’t know he actually won three times in ’22 twice on the PGA tour & a win on the Asian Tour on his 1st start of the year winning the Singapore invitational. The Korean superstar started the year outside the top 100 in the world but finished the year in 15th which just shows how good of a year he had. His two wins secured him a spot on the president’s cup where he became even more of a fan favourite walking in shots & showing pure emotion for winning his team a point. There’s no reason why he can’t pick up more wins again this year & compete in the Majors which will surely be on his radar now.
‘What are they going to say now, Let’s go’ screamed Zalatoris when he won the 3rd hole playoff to win the FedEx St Jude Championship. He was slowly becoming the nearly man before he finally got one over the line. I was expecting the old bus scenario with Will where you wait so long for one & then they come in a bunch similar to what Tony Finau has done this year. However, a back injury put him out of action from August & hasn’t played since. He has committed to the 1st event of the year, so fingers crossed his back is fixed & he is good to go. Let’s also hope that putting stroke has been worked on, nobody needs to see that closely followed by commentators cursing it for hours on end. His 2022 stats were incredible before the injury, he still finished 3rd stoke gained Total which was largely down to his driving & iron play. The 26-year-old was 11th off the tee,1st Approach to green & 1st tee to green. If he can get that going again next season, he will win multiple times in 2023.
The winner of the Arnold Palmer Award (Rookie of the Year) for 2022 was Cameron Young. This despite not picking up a victory which shows how good of a year he had. A 2nd place finish at the Open Championship & a T3 at the PGA Championship. Not bad Major golf for your Rookie Year. Five additional top 5 finishes on the PGA Tour made his Rookie year CV look very pleasing. His stellar season got him a pick on for the President's cup but where he got a vital 1.5 points for team USA. If he can keep the sloppy bogeys off his scorecards next season, I’m sure he will pick up his 1st win. He ranked 6th in birdie average last season so he’s more than capable of going flag hunting. The American just needs to know when to take his medicine to avoid unnecessary bogeys.
Taylor finally managed to get a PGA tour card this year after a couple of years on the Korn Ferry tour where he just couldn’t get the points needed for a PGA card. He was widely regarded as one of the best players on the Korn Ferry but struggled to get the finished he required. This was until last season where he did everything but win, he had thirteen top-15 finishes in just eighteen starts. Since gaining his PGA status, he has been very consistent, finishing in the top 15 six out of Severn starts with a best finish of 3rd at the Fortinet Championship. Taylor is still yet to win as a professional but I’m very optimistic that will change this year. You can’t be putting in the finishes he has consistently & not picking up a win, it’s just a matter of time before he wins in 2023.
Justin Suh secured his PGA tour card by winning the Korn Ferry Tour Championship. Much has been expected of Suh since the 2019 season where Justin was in a press conference with Hovland, Morikawa & Wolff, all four were young upcoming players back then. Those three as we know have all gone onto win on the PGA tour & even Majors, but a wrist injury has held Suh back. In 2022 he was finally injury free & you could tell from his performances. He did everything but win until the tour championship with nine top 10s leading up to the Tour Championship which had all but secured him a card. The 25-year-old then secured his place on the top of the Korn Ferry standings by winning the tour champ & beating Yuan Yechun to top position. It wasn’t the best wrap-around for Justin missing his first 3 cuts but he has since made the cut in his last four starts so he will be able to take the positives from that to build on his Korn Ferry form of last year.
DP World Tour
Thomas welcomed baby no2 at the back end of the year so withdrew from the season ending Tour Championship & he didn’t defend his Portugal title. He has had a nice long break now so will be ready to get his teeth stuck into another season on tour & earn his 2nd appearance at the Ryder Cup. Thomas won his season opening event last year winning the Abhu Dhabi championship. He also had a further four top 10s throughout the year along with a various top 30s. He could have been forgiven for a bad end of the year with the stress of an upcoming birth, but it wasn’t the case. The Belgium ended the year top of the strokes gained category finishing 5th Stokes gained off the tee, 2nd tee to green, 5th approach & 24th putting. If he can get that form going again in the new year, I fully expect him to be on team Europe come September.
Now a two-time DP world tour winner after winning the Australian Open Adrian will be looking to cement a place on the Ryder Cup team this year. He will need to carry on his 2022 form where he won twice & picked up seven top-10 finishes. The polish giant's form can be put down to the improvements he made from the previous season. He managed to improve his driving distance from 305 to 309 whilst improving his accuracy by 2%. He also managed to improve his greens in regulation & putting stats which will always improve your results. His Greens in regulation improved from 81st on tour to 40th & his putts per green in regulation marginally improved from 1.74 to 1.72. Last year's form secured Adrian a place at the Masters, he will become the first player from Poland to take the drive down Magnolia Lane.
Noren won’t be spending all year over on the DP World, but he will certainly be over for more events than usual. This is because he will be after vital Ryder cup ranking points. The swede had a great end to the year finishing 2nd at the tour championship & 4th the previous week stateside. He also finished 2nd at the Alfred Dunhill a few weeks prior to this so a solid end to the year which he will be keen to carry on this year. The world No. 39 doesn’t have any stats from the DP world because he hasn’t played enough but he has solid stats stateside. He is 38th strokes gained total, 43rd around the green & 47th tee to green. He gets called the hardest worker on tour by all his peers so he will no doubt already be prepping for the upcoming year's golf.
John is a young Danish golfer who I’ve been keeping tabs on for a few years now. He gained full DP world tour status this year by finishing T7 at Q school shooting 22under. This was just weeks after securing a challenge tour card. John is a 4-time winner on the Nordic tour 3 of them coming in 2022. He only turned pro in 2020 after a fine amateur career where he played in the junior Ryder cup back in 2014 with the likes of Sam Burns, Emily Pedersen & Cameron Young. The Dane picked up 3 wins on the amateur circuit & also had a 5th place finish at the 2018 made in Himmerland challenge which is what got me watching his progress. Very excited to see what is to come from John this year.
Gary gained a challenge tour card this year after finishing 5th on the Alps tour order of Merit. Not satisfied with a challenge tour place he opted for DP world Q School & finished T13 to gain a full card for the season on 19 under. After winning his tour card he’s got to work right away on tour playing three events in which he has made every cut & has a best finish of 14th in Mauritius. Gary has certainly struggled since turning pro 6 years ago but 2022 was his best & most consistent year he’s had as a pro. Dropping down the Alps tour looks to of done wonders for his confidence, looking at his stats his game is in the right place for the new year he is gaining strokes in every category.
Nelly has had quite a year, 2 events into the season she became unwell & after a trip to the Emergency Services it turned out to be a blood clot which needed surgery. This kept her out of action from April until June where she returned for the US Open & finished 8th. She has been quoted saying she has a new view on golf after her health scare & is not as hard on herself as she used to be after a bad round. Nelly went onto to pick up two wins this year, one on the LPGA & the other on the LET. This along with six more top 10s she got back to world no1 for a short whilst, but Lydia Ko’s amazing season pipped her to the end of year no1 spot. An injury-free Nelly will regain the world No1 spot next year & no doubt win multiple times, but can she get her 2nd Major title? It would not surprise me if she won two Major titles next year.
Charley has already been putting in the winter graft back home in the UK. Daily on her socials, she’s either on the course or at the range. She will be looking to build on her 1st win on the Lpga since 2016 when she returns this season. Charley will be full of confidence after getting a little monkey off her back. Seven top 10s also go onto her 2022 CV so overall a very good year for the English Girl who finished 21st on the Race to CME Globe. Her excellent season can be put down to her very consistent golf game which ranked her 14th strokes gained total. Could this newfound confidence from the win lead her to her maiden major title this year?
Yuna was one of the 45 players who got LPGA status for 2022. A player I've been betting on for the past few years on the Japan Ladies Tour. The Japan star is a six-time winner over a three-year span, two of those wins coming this year. In her 33 starts this year she only missed three cuts, had two wins & finished in the top 10 eleven times. Yuna has some great stats off the JLPGA tour from this year, she ranked 1st par 3 scoring & 5th par 4 scoring. She also possesses one of the best short games on tour rankings 1st for 3 putt avoidance & 2nd for scrambling. No reason why she can't repeat the success fellow nationals Nasa Hataoka & Yuka Saso have had.
Aline burst onto the scene in 2020 when she won the Women’s Amateur Championship beating Annabell Fuller 1up. The Stanford Graduate got to 21st in the Amateur rankings before turning pro in august of 2022. She gained her LPGA tour status by finishing 3rd at Q school with a score of 25 under, a scorecard that only had 11 dropped shots over 144holes. The young German didn’t show any nerves on her pro debut where she shot an opening round of 66 at the Dana Open where she finished the tournament in a tie for 29th spot. She also made the cut at the Pelecan Women’s championship where she finished T55. These two finishes shot her up to 651st in the world rankings from having no ranking previously. There is no reason she can’t break into the top 100 this year on her rookie year.
Hae Ran Ryu
Another Korean off the Golfing production line & already in the top 50 rolex rankings. She won the LPGA Q school this year with a score of 29 under par winning the medalist honours by 2 shots. The 5-time Korean LPGA winner will look to follow in the footsteps of fella Korans Inbee Park, Jin Young Ko & In Gee Chun & become a household name on the LPGA. In her first two full seasons on the KLPGA she won Rookie of the year & claimed 6th & 5th in the Korean LPGA order of merit. In the 4 years since turning pro she has only missed 5 cuts in official ranking events in 87 starts which shows how talented & consistent she is. To go with that she has also had thirty-three top 10s in that period with the 5 wins. That’s nearly a Top 10 every other start which is ridiculous when you consider the strength of the Koran Fields. There is a very bright future on the LPGA for Hae Ran Ryu.
Korn Ferry Tour
Kaito managed to get himself starts on the Korn Ferry this year from a 12th-placed finish at Korn Ferry Q school where he shot seven under for four rounds of golf. The Japan Star has won once on the Japan tour which came after a hot streak of form last summer where he had numerous top 10 finishes. Katio was 2nd in the Japanese version of strokes gained total which is done slightly different to the DP world Version, this includes 8th scoring average & 4th for birdies & better. He is a player that will show no fear on the Korn Ferry Tour & I wouldn’t be surprised If he is one of the Grads that ends up on the PGA tour in 2024.
Mitchell will play alongside his brother Mac on the Korn Ferry tour this year after winning the Latino America Series. This is despite him not picking up a win on the tour which shows incredible consistency to always put in top 5 after top 5 to gain the points needed to win. In total he had nine top 10 finishes in twelve starts five of which were top 3s which was good enough for the no1 spot. On the Latino Tour he was ranked 1st for scoring average with 68.81, 1st total birdies with 216 & 2nd total eagles with 11. With those stats it’s no wonder he led the tour in par 4 scoring & was 9th & 6th for par 3 & par 5 scoring. With his scoring potential on some of the high-scoring Korn Ferry events, he could become established on tour very quickly.
Another product from the Japan tour, Chan got his Korn Ferry card from finishing 2nd at Q School on a score of 13under par. Born in Korea but representing USA Chan has been a mainstay on the Japan tour picking up seven wins over a five-year period. Come the end of this year I would be very surprised is Kim isn’t one of the players receiving a PGA tour card. His experience on the Japan tour will be vital when he gets into winning positions to get the job done compared with Rookies fresh out of college who may not be able to cope with the pressure. Kim could potentially do a Mito & get an automatic scorecard from winning 3 times in a season, he’s certainly good enough.
Tom gained tour status this year through the Alps Tour. He played all of the season as an amateur but has recently turned pro. The Frenchman rose from 1472 in the world rankings & now sits at 553rd. He has a stellar season in the 3rd tier of golf. He won on back-to-back weeks during the summer the 2nd by 6 shots. These victories almost guaranteed him a top 5 spot on the order of merit where he ended up finishing 3rd overall. In his latest start, he picked up his 1st amateur win when he won the European Men’s Club Trophy. The youngster is a super talent that should go far in golf, his consistency will be key to progressing this year. The lowest he finished in an Alps Event last year was 15th with just one missed cut.
Another product from the Alps tour is Julien Sale. He finished 2nd on the order of merit without picking up a victory. His consistent run of top 5 finishes gave him enough points to even beat Vallient. Julien had ten top 5 finishes this season which is phenomenal golfing at any tier in golf. This got him an invite onto the DP world tours Open De France where he finished T26 which was good enough to win lead amateur. A T26 finish on the DP world tour will give him a huge boost going into this year knowing he can compete with the best Europe has to offer.
James will be the last player to win the Europro order of merit after the tour closed for business at the end of this year. He was a 3-time winner on tour this year which gave him just under a £24,000 win over Michael Stewart who was on £36,200. As well as three wins he also had seven top 15 finishes which isn’t bad going from just fifteen starts. James ranked 5th for stroke average with 69.7, his scoring average by par was also under the par on all three par scores. 2.98,3.98 & 4.53 all show he is more than capable of stepping up to the challenge tour this year. A player I am sure will go well this year & should hopefully fair better than fellow order of Merit winner from last year Mitch Waites who couldn't get going on the tour last year.
Emma Turned pro in August after getting high enough in the amateur rankings that she had secured a spot on the LPGA & LET Q schools. The 22-year-old got a high as world no5 in the amateur rankings before turning pro. She has received numerous invites throughout the year on the LET making every cut & had a highest finish of 4th at the ALand 100 ladies open. At LET Q school Emma finished T6 on Ten under par which secured her a card for the upcoming year. When the race to Costa Del Sol finishes up this year, I fully expect the Austrian to be in at least the top 5 if not leading. That will depend on if Linn Grant goes over to America or not because of her Covid status.
The one & only player from last year's preview that gets another write-up. Noja played the majority of last year on the LET access tour with plenty of success making every cut & picking up 1 victory. Her successful season got her a spot in the final Aramco event in Jeddah where she picked up her 1st LET tour win. She beat the likes of Charley Hull, Georgia Hall & Bronte Law to claim this victory. At 16 years old the sky is the limit for Chiara. She’s already the tour leader for driving distance with 288.8 yards & 17th for accuracy. After getting her 1st win last year there's no reason, she can't get multiple wins this season.
Taiga was going to be my amateur to watch this year, but he turned pro in November after winning twice on the Japan Pro tour last year. In one of those victories, he became the 1st ever amateur winner of the Japan Open in its 95-year history. A tournament classed as the countries Major, it certainly put him on a lot of people's radars. His performances this year led to him becoming the no1 amateur in the world. He was on fire during the summer which got him his spot in the Japan Open field, all this started on Abema Tour where he picked up a victory, he then went on a run of 5 Amateur tournaments where he picked up another win & came 2nd in the World Amateur team championship. The youngster then won on back-to-back weeks on the Japan tour to cap off an amazing summer. Could he be the next big star since Hideki? I believe he is the best hope Japan has had for a whilst.
Manu was the 1st ever six-time winner on the Indian tour in a calendar year. An achievement unlikely to happen again. His achievements helped him win the PGTI order of merit getting him a card on the DP world tour to follow in Anirban Lahiri & Shubhankar Sharma’s footsteps. The 26-year-old Indian played in 19 events on tour this season making every cut & to go with the six wins he also finished in the top 10 seven more times. He has had a truly remarkable season & I can’t wait to see what’s next for him on the DP World Tour or even the Asian Tour.
You may have heard of Bio Kim for the wrong reasons. He’s the guy who middled finger gestured a fan after their phone camera went off on his downswing & got a 3-year ban. This got reduced to just one year & he returned to golf last year. 2022 was a good year for Bio, he claimed two wins one on the Korea tour & the other on the Asian Tour. He also had a further seven top 10 finishes which lead to him finishing 2nd on the Asian Tour Order of Merit. Having started outside the top 200 in the world ranking she now finds himself just shy of the top 100. His ban is now a distant memory & he will be looking to go even better next year.
Chen will play on the Asian tour this year after a 5th place finish on the Asian Tour Development tour. The Chinese youngster won twice this year winning the Blue Canyon Classic & the BRG Open. To go with this, he also had six top-10 finishes. The 19-year-old has been widely regarded as China’s best potential Major winner after his eleven wins as an amateur. The 19-year-old won two times on the China tour before moving over to the Development tour so he certainly knows how to win racking up four wins before he turned 20 years old.
After winning the 2020 Nexus Risk WA Open as an Amateur Hayden was always going to make it on the pro tour. He’s played much of the last two years on the pro tour but still competing on the amateur circuit. His last appearance as an amateur was the Asia Pacific Where he finished 44th. He managed the highest position of 33rd in the Amateur Rankings. In 2022 Hayden finished in the top 15 six times which shows he has the game to play as a pro week in week out. He is the current market leader to win the Section C Q School for the Asian tour which I would be surprised if he didn’t at least get a card. I also wouldn’t put it past him winning the event given the strength of the field.