The 2023 Fortinet Championship final leaderboard is headed by winner Sahith Theegala, who earns his first PGA Tour title with a win at Silverado Resort's North Course in Napa, Calif.
Theegala won the tournament going away, earning a two-shot win over S.H. Kim on 21-under 267 to breakthrough on the PGA Tour for the first time. Theegala made bogey on the final hole to finish off 68 for the win.
Cam Davis made birdie on the final hole to jump into solo third place on 17-under total, while Eric Cole finished in solo fourth place. Theegala won the $1,512,000 winner's share of the $8,400,000 purse.
Theegala earned 31.3 Official World Golf Ranking points with the win in the 72-hole stroke-play championship, which helps his place in the world ranking.
Theegala earned 500 FedEx Cup points, with the PGA Tour points offered at the playoff level for this event. A total of 69 (of 156) players finished the tournament in the first event of the 2023 FedEx Cup Fall PGA Tour season after a 36-hole cut was made in this event.
The 2022-2023 PGA Tour schedule continues in three weeks with the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi.
One of the coolest aspects of attending a professional golf tournament as a fan is how close you can get to the players. Even though there are ropes separating you from them, it's still the only sport where you can essentially be a foot away from one of your heroes while they pound a driver or stripe an iron.
One fan at this week's Horizon Irish Open on the DP World Tour got extra close to one of the world's best, Rory McIlroy, and it wasn't because he broke any rules by sneaking under the ropes. McIlroy actually invited him inside. Wait, what?
At the par-5 10th at the K Club in Ireland, McIlroy's first hole of the day, the Northern Irishman's round got off to an ominous start when his drive missed the fairway and plugged in the long rough. When he and partner Billy Horschel arrived on the scene, they were having trouble locating exactly where it had plugged. Per rule 18.2b, if McIlroy was unable to locate the ball within three minutes, it'd be deemed lost, and he'd have to return to the tee box, immediately starting double bogey or worse in the face.
A few friendly Irish fans promptly piped up, one of them claiming he knew where it was. "Let this lad in," one fan says in a video captured by another fan. That's just what McIlroy and Horschel did, with Horschel asking him to come show them where McIlroy's ball was. "Pressure's on now," says another fan. You're damn right it was.
Nerve wracking, to say the least. But the fan came through in a big way and got a well-deserved ovation out of it. Well done, good sir. Unfortunately, McIlroy made bogey anyway, though it could have been worse.
Now, cue the Golf Twitter crybabies complaining that this would only happen for McIlroy, ignoring the fact that the man is literally playing a tournament less than three hours from where he grew up.
In the end, Zach Johnson wasn’t afraid to stir emotions with his captain’s picks for the U.S. team in the upcoming Ryder Cup in Italy. On Tuesday, Johnson announced his six choices—Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Collin Morikawa and Sam Burns—and at least two of those picks will likely create much debate among the players and fans.
Koepka, who won the PGA Championship in May, was picked despite leaving the PGA Tour last year for the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League, while Thomas didn’t play well enough to reach the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs, but is this era's emotional leader.
The chosen players join thos who had automatically qualified for the team: Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Max Homa, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Brian Harman.
The Americans will try to win a second straight Ryder Cup after routing Europe in 2021 at Whistling Straits, with the bigger task being beating the host team on its soil for the first time since 1993. That's six straight wins at home for Europe. The Cup competition is set for Marco Simone Golf & Country Club outside of Rome, Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
"To say I'm excited about these gents is an understatement," Johnson said. "They check all of the boxes—fierce competitors, great versatility, great flexibility when it comes to the pairings."
Though not much of a surprise because of his polarizing position in the game, LIV's Bryson DeChambeau was left off despite four top-10s, including a win, this season.
Thanks in large part to his victory in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill and tie for second in the Masters, Koepka remained among the automatic qualifiers in the U.S. standings until he was knocked out following the BMW Championship, where Max Homa and Xander Schauffele passed him. However, given the 33-year-old's departure to LIV, he could be a dividing figure, if not in the locker room, then for fans. Johnson's choice likely was made somewhat easier with the prospects that the PGA Tour and LiV's founding Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia are working on a deal to create a new business venture.
"When it came to BK, his experience, his temperament, the way he goes about his work, his passion for the Ryder Cup—all spoke voliumes," Johnson said. "... He and I have had communications a lot over the last few months, very candid discussions, when he started to make his way onto this team. He earned his way onto this team when you get down to the pennies and dollars of it. It was a pretty easy pick.”
This will be Koepka's fourth Ryder Cup and he's 6-5-1 overall. He went 2-2 in Wisconsin two years ago, including a 2-and-1 singles win over Bernd Wiesberger. Koepka has yet to lose a singles match.
"I think you're just playing for something bigger than yourself. You don't want to let the guys on the team down," Koepka said. "It's a fun event; it's the most nervous I've ever been in a golf tournament."
Koepka has overcome career-threatening injuries over the past several years to get back to his current level. "The last few years have been a lot," he said, "but at the same time that's what I've been grinding for, that's what I've been trying to get into shape 100 percent to feel good for this moment."
Thomas, a 15-time tour winner, presented Johnson with a tough circumstance because of an ill-timed and uncharacteristic mediocre ’23 campaign in which he posted only three top-10s in 20 starts. But, as the captain, said, “He, without question, has been the heart and soul of Team USA in the Ryder Cup, our emotional leader I would say. I don’t think he would argue with that. He leads by example. … In my mind, he was born for this and you just don’t leave JT out.”
Thomas has a 6-2-1 record in two Ryder Cup appearances, including a 2-1-1 mark two years ago. He twice played with good friend Spieth in alternate-shot foursomes at Whistling Straits and they went 1-1.
Thomas missed three of four cuts in the majors this year and recalled the awkward moments with the media on Friday at July’s Open Championship, when the obvious question about Ryder Cup status was bound to come up. “Everyone’s thinking it, and I know I’m thinking it,” Thomas said. “I did put a lot of pressure on myself because it does mean so much to me. That being said, I think it was a valuable learning experience for me. It’s something that I will use going forward. … You can want something too bad, and I’m sure all of us have wanted to win golf tournaments too much or forced the issue. There are potential times this season that I did.
“I’m very fortunate to be here,” he added. “Zach has been very vocal, and made it sound great that we’re all equal on this team. I feel just as important as everybody else, and my teammates have voiced that the same way.”
Johnson spoke of losing sleep over having to make calls to those whom he didn’t pick, and among the toughest for him was Young, the 23-year-old who posted six top-10s this season and lost 6 and 5 to Burns in the Dell Technologies Match Play final. Young seemed all but a lock to make the team after vice captain Fred Couples said on his radio show in July, “Cam Young will be in Italy.”
Burns, 27, who has five PGA Tour wins to Young’s zero, was ultimately the choice and will be making his first Ryder Cup appearance. He did play for the American squad in the 2022 Presidents Cup and didn’t notch a victory, going 0-3-2.
“Stud athlete,” Johnson said of Burns. “Tremendous putter, which is always good in the Ryder Cup. To say he meshes well with the guys would be a massive understatement.”
Another American player who had to be gutted by being passed over was Bradley, who was trying to make his third Ryder Cup team and first since 2014. He'd made a strong case with two wins and six total top-10s this season.
Golf Channel's Todd Lewis said in a tweet that Bradley responded to Tuesday's news by telling him, "I could tell by the response from Zach when I answered the phone that I wasn’t on the team … I’m super bummed out. I thought I put together a really good year with two wins … I am pulling for the U.S. Team.”
Viktor Hovland wins 2023 Tour Championship to claim season-ending FedEx Cup
ATLANTA – When Viktor Hovland won the Hero World Challenge in December, it put a bow on a year that was defined by close calls but otherwise was short on victory. For some, it would have represented a time to kick back, enjoy the holidays and assume his end-of-the-season winning form would be a springboard to bigger things, but not Hovland. He sought to get better and that meant it was time to re-make himself into a more complete player.
“If you want to get to the next level, you have to look introspectively,” he said. “I think when you try to be honest with yourself and ask yourself, OK, how can I get better, I just basically have to force myself to change a couple of these mindset things.”
All the hard work – to his swing, short game, use of Aim Point and course strategy – paid off, culminating in back-to-back wins and a prize of $18 million as the FedEx Cup champion. On another hot, humid day that led to a nearly two-hour weather delay, Hovland carded a 7-under 63 at East Lake Golf Club and rolled to a five-stroke victory over Xander Schauffele in the 30-man Tour Championship, the 47th event of the 2022-23 season and third and final leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
“He just keeps his foot on the pedal,” three-time FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy said, “just isn’t scared.”
No fear and a refusal to be complacent are attributes that have made the 25-year-old Norwegian a three-time winner this season and one of the best players in the game. Despite winning the U.S. Amateur in 2018 and finding immediate success on the PGA Tour as one of the best ballstrikers in golf, Hovland grew frustrated with his consistency last season.
“It’s a little frustrating showing up to events when you don’t feel like you have your best stuff,” he said before winning in the Bahamas in December. “You don’t have the confidence over the ball thinking, ‘OK, I’m going to stuff this 7-iron,’ because that’s what I used to do when I first came out here and the last two years basically it’s been pretty deadly from the fairway.”
Hovland’s frustration boiled over and in his search to identify flaws in his game that could help him challenge for world No. 1, he changed swing coaches in January, hiring Joe Mayo, better known in social media circles as the Trackman Maestro.
“It is amazing that a player could win a tournament and not be happy with themselves,” Mayo said of Hovland switching coaches shortly after a win, but Mayo’s seen pros who have attributed a win to “smoke and mirrors.”
Switching coaches can be a risky proposition for a player. It can be a recipe for disaster but Mayo noted that Hovland is too savvy to let that happen.
“He’s not gonna let any instructor screw him up,” Mayo said. “He’s too smart for it. He’s got a great bullshit meter, as I would say.”
Mayo studied 3-D imaging of Hovland’s swing and helped him reestablish a repeatable swing and restore faith in his squeeze cut. Hovland said he’s had his best driving season. East Lake is too difficult to play from its wiry rough but Hovland, who ranked first in driving accuracy for the second straight week, could be aggressive and go flag-hunting.
“His ballstriking is probably top 3 on Tour, especially when he’s playing well,” said Edoardo Molinari, a winner of three DP Tour titles, who doubles as Hovland’s performance coach. “He doesn’t miss a shot.”
His short-game was another story. Early in his career, Hovland admitted his chipping game “sucked.” He ranked 191st in Strokes Gained: Around the Green last season.
“Before, when I was standing over every shot, I was like, ‘Don’t duff it, skull it, don’t leave it in the bunker,” Hovland said last week. “Me and a buddy of mine, we made up this saying: Just land it on and keep it on. We set the bar pretty low when we had a chip. Now it’s a lot of fun to be able to open up that face and just slap the ground and put some friction on the ball.”
At the Tour Championship, Hovland ranked first in scrambling as he notched his sixth career PGA Tour title. Mayo said he didn’t even discuss the short game with Hovland during their first month together. On Tuesday of the Genesis Invitational in February, Mayo told his pupil, “Anybody that can put a 4-iron on the back of the ball at 105 miles an hour and hit it 240, are you telling me that you can’t chip a golf ball? I don’t accept that, and I don’t buy it.”
Mayo introduced the short-game package in tiny morsels throught the Players Championship in March. Hovland has improved to 105th in SG: Around the Green this season.
Mayo points out that that figure doesn’t take into account when they started working together. Mayo asked Molinari to run his short game stats from the Players through the FedEx St. Jude Championship and the numbers don’t lie: He’s gained .176 shots, “which puts him at about 55th,” Mayo said.
“That’s been the difference from being still a top-10 player in the world to what he’s done this year,” McIlroy said.
The final ingredient in turning Hovland into his best self this season was improving his course management. He began working with Molinari last year but it was this spring where they made one of their biggest discoveries. After the Masters, where Hovland finished T-7, Mayo asked Molinari to crunch some numbers and discovered that when Hovland attacked greens with pitching wedge through 8-iron, he was short-siding himself 30 percent of the time and the Tour average is 20 percent of the time.
“Sometimes he just misses in spots where no one would get up and down,” Molinari said. “The short game is less of an issue than it is believed to be.”
Hovland compared his new-found focus on course management to the game of poker and placing smart bets depending on the hand he’s dealt. He implemented the strategy at the PGA Championship and finished T-2, and it worked to perfection at the Memorial in June, the first of his three wins in his last eight events.
“Anytime you can tilt math to your advantage, that can be huge,” he said.
Mayo has beaten into Hovland’s head that in Tiger Woods’s heyday, he made a living off of hitting safely to 20 feet, shooting 70 and winning a bundle of majors.
“It’s called boring golf and if Viktor Hovland plays boring golf, he’s going to be hard to beat,” Mayo said.
A week ago, at the BMW Championship near Chicago, Hovland said he “blacked out for a minute” en route to a final-round 61, which included seven birdies and a back-nine 28 to clip world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Matt Fitzpatrick.
At East Lake, where he won the 2018 East Lake Cup men’s stroke play title, which included his first hole-in-one at the par-3 11th, Hovland began the week in second place with a stroke allocation of 8 under in the staggered start. With rounds of 68-64-66, he built a commanding six-stroke lead and he continued his assault on par with four birdies in his first six holes. Schauffele (62) did his best to chip away at the lead, making birdie at seven of his first 12 holes to trim the deficit to three.
“I’ll hold my head up high,” Schauffele said. “It was the most fun I had losing in quite some time.”
Just when it looked like it was about to become a taut affair, Hovland canned a clutch 23-foot par putt at No. 13, the longest putt he made all week, and tacked on birdies at 16 and 17 for good measure to wrap up a bogey-free final round and a total score of 27 under that made the walk to the 18th green a foregone conclusion. It was a testament to how far Hovland’s game has progressed.
“I’m very hard on myself and I felt like even though I had the game to compete, I never truly believed it,” he said. “I’ve just gotten better and better every single year, and with that comes the belief and I feel like the belief was the last missing piece.”