The first U.S. Women’s Open to be contested at Pebble Beach. The first U.S. Open played in Los Angeles in 65 years. The mystery that is LIV Golf’s upcoming schedule. Newly elevated events on the PGA Tour. And a Ryder Cup in Italy that will try to find steady ground amid golf’s tectonic shifts.
If we thought 2022 was full of excitement and upheaval, 2023 doesn’t figure to be any less compelling. With massive increases in purses across the spectrum, men and women are playing for more prize money than ever, and that makes the competitive stakes all the greater. Month by month, we can identify new plot lines that didn’t exist 12 months ago.
Jan. 5-8: Sentry Tournament of Champions
Golf’s calendar year starts with the tournament in Maui, and it’s the first of 38 events on the PGA Tour schedule in 2023. Of course, not all of the champions from the 2021-22 campaign will be at Kapalua, thanks to the defections to LIV Golf. Indeed, the event’s reigning champ, Aussie Cam Smith, won three biggies (TOC, Players Championship and Open Championship) before leaving for the Saudi-backed tour. He was joined by Jason Kokrak, Talor Gooch and Hudson Swafford, all of whom won early in the season on the PGA Tour. This being the final year of the PGA Tour’s wraparound schedule, nine official events have already been played, and some big names—Rory Mcilroy (who is passing on the TOC), Tony Finau, Max Homa, Keegan Bradley and emerging star Tom Kim—have nabbed wins. Irishman Seamus Power has been busy, and it’s paid off. He’s played in six events and won in Bermuda to top the FedEx Cup points list. Bradley is second, followed by Mackenzie Hughes, who won the Sanderson Farms.
Feb. 9-12: WM Phoenix Open
There’s a little football game called the Super Bowl being played in the Phoenix area on the same weekend, but this is a big week for the PGA Tour, too. The Phoenix Open will be the first of the full-field “elevated” events that the tour came up with to answer LIV Golf’s hefty purses. There will be $20 million up for grabs; by comparison, Phoenix’s purse for 2022 was $8.5 million. You might remember that Scottie Scheffler earned his first tour win last year at TPC Scottsdale on his way to one of the greatest seasons in recent memory.
Feb. 24-28: LIV Golf League opens in Mexico
Well, here we are. The LIV Golf campaign opens with its standard 54-hole, no-cut event El Camaleon Golf Course in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. The upstart circuit survived its trial year (with a price tag of $750 million for the Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund) and heads into its new season with a new label as the LIV Golf League. There will be 48 players on 12 “franchises” playing a 14-event schedule. So far, LIV lists only seven events on its website—all of them new this year. “We hope to announce our other 2023 events soon,” says a note on the site. What the franchise model will look like and how it will change the nature of LIV’s tournaments and fan interest now that it’s not the shiny new object could be the most compelling news coming from LIV—unless it signs a couple big names from the PGA Tour. Oh, and there is the issue that LIV remains without a television deal despite rumors back in the fall that it was close to paying to get on Fox Sports 1.
March 9-12: Players Championship
Another event that won’t have its defending champion in Cam Smith. Given Smith’s prowess, tour players are going to be just fine with that because there will be more to go around with a purse that’s been raised to continue to be the largest on tour—$25 million.
March 26: Last chance (almost) for the Masters
The last opportunity for an invite to Augusta National if you’re not already in the field—aside from winning the Valero Texas Open the week before—is to be in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after the conclusion of the WGC-Dell Match Play and the Corales Puntacana Championship that Sunday
March 30-April 2: Augusta National Women’s Amateur
Three golfers have won the ANWA, and the ’23 edition figures to be the first to have the defending champion compete. Anna Davis, a 16-year-old high school sophomore from San Diego, shocked some of the world’s best college players last April and has said she’s excited to compete again. Davis is No. 9 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking now on the strength of five made cuts in seven starts on the LPGA over the summer.
We note the tournament dates, of course, but there are the rather juicy prospects for what will transpire on Tuesday, April 4. The Masters Champions Dinner will be hosted by Scottie Scheffler that night (we’re betting Texas BBQ will be somewhere on the menu), and it figures to be the first time PGA Tour and LIV golfers are in the same room since this whole shebang started. The anticipation of great tension will probably be overblown by us in the media because this is a gentleman’s meal at Augusta National, and we’re guessing mashed potatoes won’t be flung across the table by guys in green jackets. But there have been harsh sentiments expressed on both sides that aren’t going to completely evaporate in one evening. We’re curious what Fred Ridley does with the seating chart.
April 20-23: Chevron Championship
This will be a sad week for some, with Dinah Shore’s historic LPGA major being moved from the California desert and played in Houston for the first time. But truth be told, the modern players will hardly mind competing at The Club at Carlton Woods outside of Houston because the new sponsor has upped the total purse to $5.1 million. It’s part of a larger move by the LPGA to raise prize money to a record $101 million spread over 33 events. Another plus is the change in dates from early April means the Dinah, uh Chevron, will no longer go directly up against the Augusta National Women’s Amateur or have a tough lead-in date before the Masters.
May 18-21: PGA Championship
The PGA returns to Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., for the first time in nine years, and for all of its hosting pedigree (three U.S. Opens, three PGAs, 1995 Ryder Cup), Oak Hill has some rather offbeat champions in the last couple of decades. Shaun Micheel, who didn’t win another PGA Tour event and now is an assistant college golf coach, captured the 2003 PGA with a spectacular 7-iron shot to inches from the cup on the 72nd hole. Ten years later, the laughably languid Jason Dufner secured his only major on the strength of a course-record 63 in the second round. Even the 2019 Senior PGA at Oak Hill was captured by an outlier—then-PGA Tour Champions rookie Ken Tanigawa. Keeping with the theme, we offer a couple of early long-shot favorites: Brendon Todd and Garrick Higgo. The other thing to pay attention to is the major renovation of the East course, which will have many fans doing double takes about whether they’re really back at Oak Hill or not.
This one has the potential to be really spectcular. After decades of chasing the chance to stage the U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club, the USGA finally bagged the truly unique North Course that inconspicuously sits in the middle of the skyscrapers and urban sprawl near Beverly Hills. It will be the first U.S. Open played in L.A. since Ben Hogan’s 1948 win at Riviera, and like that classic George Thomas layout, LACC has barranca galore and a shot-making recipe that enthralled us for the 2017 Walker Cup. It will be an “intimate” Open, with only 22,000 tickets distributed each day, and we will whet your appetite with this: There are five par 3s at LACC, and for at least one round, one will play at 300 yards and another at 88. Is a Hollywood ending in the script?
July 6-9: U.S. Women’s Open
It’s California’s time to bask in the major sunshine, and it doesn’t get much better than the first U.S. Women’s Open to be played on the Pebble Beach Golf Links. USGA chief John Bodenhamer has said the women deserve to play at truly historic venues and holding the trophy aloft on the 18th green at Pebble is one of the most memorable accomplishments in the game. Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods have all done it on the Monterey Peninsula, and now it’s time for a female to join them. Guaranteed, it will be the most cherished and envied victory on the LPGA not only this year, but possibly for decades to come.
July 20-23: Open Championship
St. Andrews is a tough act to follow, and that chore falls on Royal Liverpool in England. Its past two winners—Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy—are of the highest quality, so no worries on that front. In dry, windless conditions in 2006, Tiger cleverly carved up Liverpool, using a driver once over 72 holes in beating four contenders by two shots. In 2014, Rory went wire-to-wire to win his first Open, defeating Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler by two strokes. The defending champion is Cam Smith, who prevailed at St. Andrews and immediately faced questions about going to LIV. He made the jump one month later.
Aug. 10-13: AIG Women’s Open Championship
The women also will be in England for their Open, though at a site, Walton Heath, with far less historical pizzazz. This will be the first non-senior major Walton Heath has staged, though it was the site of the 1981 Ryder Cup. South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai is the reigning champion after winning the four-hole aggregate playoff over In-Gee Chun in the first Women’s Open played at Muirfield.
Aug. 10-13: FedEx Cup Playoffs begin
It’s a bit of unfortunate scheduling that the Women’s Open will be played opposite the start of the PGA Tour Playoffs at the FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis. There are big changes coming to the postseason. Only the top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings (when it was previously 125) reach TPC Southwind, and those players will automatically retain their cards for the next season. The top 50 after Memphis advance to the BMW Championship, Aug. 17-20 at Olympia Fields outside of Chicago. Achieving that level is huge, because it will qualify players for lucrative events in the fall schedule. The top 30 from the BMW progress to the Tour Championship, set for Aug. 24-27 at East Lake in Atlanta. Rory McIlroy is clearly the man to beat for the season after he overcame a six-shot deficit to Scottie Scheffler and became the first to win a third FedEx Cup title last September.
The Walker Cup is a rite of passage for top amateurs from both sides of the Atlantic, but it’s extra special when played at an historic venue, and it doesn’t get much better than competing on the Old Course at St. Andrews (though we’ll be saying the same thing in 2025 when the U.S. hosts at Cypress Point). It’s ultra-cool to know that the first Walker Cup played at St. Andrews was a century ago, in 1923, and the winning American team included Francis Ouimet. Great Britain & Ireland have the Home-of-Golf turf in ’23, and maybe that will be an inspiration because GB&I needs to rally after losing three straight.
The COVID-19 pandemic pushing back the Ryder Cup a year is to blame for the biggest event in women’s team golf, pitting the U.S. against Europe, being scheduled for Spain in the same year as the Ryder Cup heads to Rome. The women will move away from the conflict by switching the Solheim Cup to even-year dates starting in 2024 at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va. Europe holds the Cup after winning for only the second time on U.S. soil in 2021 at Inverness. The Americans, who will have their youngest captain ever in 37-year-old Stacy Lewis, will be shooting for their first victory in Europe since Germany in 2015. Suzann Pettersen helms Europe for the first time.
Sept. 29-Oct. 1: Ryder Cup
With the major championships looking to include LIV golfers if they have rightfully qualified, it appears as if this first Ryder Cup, post-LIV, will be the biggest event affected by pro golf’s Great Divide. (Sorry, Presidents Cup; we know you suffered, too.) For the matches outside Rome, the U.S. would seemingly be more weakened than Europe by the loss of stars Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau. But captain Zach Johnson has a deep reserve of talent to dip into. In contrast, Europe’s Luke Donald has a tremendous core—Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood—but plenty of holes in the lineup. Europe will be keen on not repeating on home turf the embarrassing rout it suffered at Whistling Straits.
The PGA Tour hasn’t provided a lot of detail yet on its fall slate, but this will be a life-changing period for most of the players. With only the top 70 following the playoffs guaranteed their cards, the rest will be fighting in the fall tournaments to get into the top 125 and secure full status for 2024. Further in the balance is a chance to join the top 50, who will be invited to three newly created big-money, no-cut international fall events. All this might not steal a lot of eyeballs from fall football, but we know it has the players’ attention like never before.