Rory McIlroy shines, Rickie Fowler misses opportunities

While there are a few unofficial events in December — including another edition of The Match — the PGA Tour’s fall swing concluded on Sunday with Adam Svensson’s win at The RSM Classic.

That win was huge for the 28-year-old Canadian, who actually lost his Tour card after the 2019 season. He now has his first career Tour win under his belt, and earned a trip to The Masters, among other big events throughout the season.

“It’s been a dream of mine since I was 10 years old, 8 years old,” Svensson said. “I don’t think money really does anything. It’s the feeling of coming down the stretch and winning and all that stuff, you just can’t beat it.”

He’s far from the only big winner throughout the fall swing. Here’s a look back at who shone, and who struggled, in the early events of the 2022-23 season.

Winner: Rory McIlroy

While Rory McIlroy’s biggest accomplishment this fall came on the DP World Tour, his spot in this list is an easy one.

The reigning FedExCup winner is playing perhaps the best golf of his career.

McIlroy, who won a historic third FedExCup to end last season, grabbed the 23rd Tour win of his career at The CJ Cup in South Carolina in October. Although it marked his first, and only, stop on Tour so far this season, it jumped McIlroy back to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings for the ninth time in his career.

Then on Sunday, McIlroy finished fourth at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai — which officially earned him a fourth win in the European Tour’s season-long race. He played in just 10 events on that circuit, and finished no worse than 12th.

Jon Rahm won in Dubai on Sunday, beating McIlroy by four strokes.

“I was a model of consistency the whole way through the year,” McIlroy said. “A lot of top finishes. I think my worst finish of the European Tour events I played this year was 12th at the beginning of the year in Abu Dhabi. A really consistent season putting in good performances… You know, I’m really proud of my year and excited for 2023.”

There’s just one potential problem for McIlroy heading into the year-end break. He has to stop playing.

McIlroy has been hunting for a major championship win for years. His last win there came at the 2014 PGA Championship. If one was right around the corner, McIlroy would be a sure-fire favorite.

But the Masters is still almost five months away. A lot can happen between now and then, good or bad.

Only time will tell if McIlroy’s streak will carry over into the summer.

Rory McIlroy picked up his fourth DP World Tour season championship on Sunday afternoon. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Loser: Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler has needed a Tour win for what feels like forever.

His last victory came at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and he’s struggled seemingly constantly since then. The 33-year-old fan favorite has dropped to No. 106 in the OWGR, and he hasn’t been inside the top 50 since 2020.

Fowler’s Tour status runs out at the end of the 2022-23 season, too, so he needs a win.

That’s why this fall has to be so frustrating for him.

Fowler had two seemingly perfect opportunities to grab a sixth-career win already this season. He finished sixth at the Fortinet Championship in September, five shots behind winner Max Homa, and was in it the entire time.

He nearly won the Zozo Championship in Japan a month later, too, thanks largely to a bogey-free 63 on Friday. He even held a one-shot lead over the field heading into the final round, but eventually fell to Keegan Bradley.

While Fowler is playing good golf once again, he let two great opportunities for a win slip away — something he can’t carry over into the new year.

Winner: Tom Kim:

Tom Kim backed up his breakout season on Tour perfectly this fall.

The 20-year-old South Korean grabbed his second career win in September by three strokes at the Shriners Children’s Open — which made him the first player since Tiger Woods to win twice before turning 21. He didn’t make a bogey that week, either.

Kim, who is now ranked No. 15 in the OWGR, got his first win on Tour just three starts after landing there as a special temporary member — which earned him a last-second spot in the FedExCup playoffs, where he eventually finished No. 35. His play earned him a spot in the Presidents Cup, too.

Although he’s only played in three events so far this season, Kim has finished inside the top-25 every time — most recently with a T11 finish at The CJ Cup. His first season as a full Tour member is already off to a great start.

Loser: Mark Hubbard

Fall started out promising for Mark Hubbard — who, like Fowler, needs a win before his Tour card expires at the end of the season.

But it went downhill, and fast.

Hubbard finished T5 at the Sanderson Farms Championship in early October, a great way to back up a T21 finish in his season debut. His last four outings, however, were rough.

Hubbard finished 66th at the Zozo Championship, and then failed to finish in his last three appearances. He missed the cut at both the Bermuda Championship and the World Wide Technology Championship, and then was actually disqualified from the Houston Open for having too many clubs in his bag. He was +9 at the time, so he was going to miss the cut there anyway, too.

The 33-year-old has yet to win on Tour, although last season was his best yet. He had two top-five finishes in consecutive weeks late and qualified for the FedEx Cup playoffs, although he was out the first week. He held a lead after 54 holes at the Sanderson Farms Championship this season, too, but just couldn’t quite hold on.

But the way he finished the fall stretch of the season was brutal. Hopefully that doesn’t carry over into January.

Tony Finau

Tony Finau grabbed his fifth career Tour win earlier this month at the Houston Open. (Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Winner: Tony Finau

Tony Finau has only played twice so far this season. He missed the cut in his season-debut, too.

But his performance at the Houston Open was fantastic.

Finau grabbed the fifth win of his career in Houston earlier this month, which also marked the third win in about four months. He won in back-to-back weeks last fall, and quickly played his way into the Tour Championship.

He didn’t just win in Houston, either. Finau went just 1-under in his final round and still beat Tyson Alexander by four shots. At one point, he had a massive eight-shot lead.

“I was always hopeful that I could go on special runs and I think we’re starting to see that now,” Finau said after his win. “I’m starting to put together a full package game, which is really exciting for me. That’s all you can do is work hard, and I’ve worked extremely hard on parts of the game that I know I have to and I think it’s starting to show.”

That it is.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.