Here are 24 storylines for 2024:
Although Tiger Woods beat only two other players at the recent Hero World Challenge, his first start since he withdrew from the Masters in April, his score didn’t matter. More important was that he walked all 72 holes and wasn’t in pain after ankle fusion surgery in April. He hopes to play a tournament a month in ’24, which may mean increasing his stamina.
“Yeah. I think that I can get into the rhythm of it,” he said at the Hero, where he struggled to finish off rounds. “I think that having a couple of weeks off to recover, a week to build up, there’s no reason why I can’t get into that rhythm. It’s just a matter of getting in better shape, basically. I feel like my game’s not that far off, but I need to get in better shape.”
Despite ranking 162nd in Strokes Gained: Putting last season, Scottie Scheffler was so superior from tee to green that he won twice, defending his title at the WM Phoenix Open and capturing THE PLAYERS Championship. He also racked up 17 top-10 finishes, the most since Vijay Singh’s 18 in 2005. And yet you’d still have to say Scheffler underachieved.
There were weeks, like at the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday, when he should have won but struggled mightily on the greens. Determined to find a fix, Scheffler started working with putting coach Phil Kenyon prior to the Ryder Cup and won the Hero World Challenge in December. He ranked sixth in SG: Putting for the week and didn’t have a three-putt. The prospect of Scheffler putting well should scare the rest of the PGA TOUR.
You can’t help but wonder what the pride of Norway will do for an encore. The hottest player in golf after winning the BMW Championship and the FedExCup, Hovland, 26, was also a terror for Europe at the Ryder Cup in Rome, where he went 3-1-1 and with Ludvig Åberg was on the good side of a record 9-and-7 victory over Brooks Koepka and Scottie Scheffler.
Hovland will have his work cut out if he wants to one-up last season. He could start by winning a major, where he’s begun to seriously threaten, or THE PLAYERS Championship.
Lucas Glover was spending more weeks on the road than he wanted, but he needed reps to learn how to use his new broomstick putter. Camilo Villegas didn’t have much margin for error, either. Both became the most recent example of how quickly everything can change on the PGA TOUR.
Glover captured the Wyndham Championship and FedEx St. Jude Championship in consecutive weeks. No longer just trying to keep his PGA TOUR card, he was now inside the FedExCup Top 50, and guaranteed entry into the 2024 Majors and Signature Events. Villegas went T2, 1 at the World Wide Technology Championship and Bermuda Championship, respectively, earning back his PGA TOUR card. Having revived their careers, both can settle in and enjoy the ride in ’24.
We’re used to seeing Thomas win big events (PGA Championship, PLAYERS Championship) and lead U.S. Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams. Last season, though, was the exception. He missed the FedExCup Playoffs by the roll of a ball and went 1-2-1 as a Ryder Cup captain’s pick. He showed flashes of form in the fall, though, before an especially encouraging week at the recent Hero World Challenge (solo third).
“I’m playing really well,” he said at the Hero. “I’m excited, everything feels good. … I feel like I have good control of my game right now. I just kind of, I’m in a good head space, just kind of staying patient and I feel like I can go on a little run of birdies at any point in time.”
A new wave of young, big-hitting stars from overseas earned their TOUR cards in 2023: Ludvig Åberg, Min Woo Lee and Nicolai Højgaard. How they’ll do in ’24 is a tantalizing prospect.
Åberg won both before and after his Ryder Cup debut (2-2), capturing the DP World Tour’s European Masters and PGA TOUR’s The RSM Classic. Højgaard, who went 0-2-1 at the Ryder Cup, bounced back to win the DP World Tour Championship. And Lee recently shot a combined 50 under to win the Asian Tour’s Macao Open and DP World Tour’s Australian PGA Championship. He also finished third at the Australian Open.
The mop-topped kid who won four majors by age 25 hasn’t won one since. He has seven top-10 finishes in his last eight major starts, including two seconds and a third, plus a T6 in his most recent attempt, at The Open in July. In May, the PGA Championship returns to Valhalla, where McIlroy, 34, won his last major (’14 PGA).
Has the three-time FedExCup champ been more encouraged or frustrated by the close calls?
“Yeah, I think a little bit of both,” he said at The Open. “Over the last two years would I have loved to have picked one of those off that I finished up there? Absolutely. But every time I tee it up or most times I tee it up, I’m right there. I can’t sit here and be too frustrated. You think about my performances in the majors between like 2016 and 2019, it’s a lot better than that. Again, I’m optimistic about the future, and just got to keep plugging away.”
Jason Day and his wife, Ellie, just had their fifth child in September, Winnie Joanna, and Day enjoyed a long-hoped-for career resurgence in ’23. After a long dry spell, he returned to the winner’s circle with a victory at the AT&T Byron Nelson this year – his 13th TOUR win – and finished 28th in the FedExCup. He openly aspires to return to world No. 1.
A good sign: Day, 36, teamed with LPGA star Lydia Ko to win the inaugural Grant Thornton Invitational. He has said he wants to get back to the player he was when he won five times including the PGA Championship in 2015, and tacked on three more victories, including THE PLAYERS Championship, in ’16, reaching world No. 1. The plan seems to be working.
No one was paying much attention to the former amateur standout, who had the tools but was getting in own way. After an attitude adjustment, he captured the Wells Fargo Championship and U.S. Open, so he has the blueprint; now it’s just a matter of what he does with it. He said at the Ryder Cup that he still believes he has room to grow into his potential.
“If I don’t think I’m better than every player out here, then what am I doing?” he said at Rome’s Marco Simone, where the U.S. Team took a humbling loss. “If I’m trying to be the best player in the world, which is what I’m trying to be, I’ve got to believe that.”
It would be foolish to think Åberg won’t be at East Lake, given the rocket-like trajectory of this product of Sweden by way of Texas Tech. In short order he won on both sides of the Atlantic and displayed a poise, maturity and excellence that was beyond his years at the Ryder Cup.
As for who will capture the FedExCup, given the importance of the BMW Championship in setting up a player to collect the coveted hardware (See: Hovland, Viktor), let’s consider that the BMW will be at Castle Pines Golf Club in Colorado this year. Wyndham Clark is not only from Colorado, but also, he’s got the power to take full advantage of the ultra-high elevation.
Winless in ’23, Spieth had a lot going on, welcoming his second child, Sophie, and being named to the PGA TOUR Policy Board. He also had a wrist injury in the spring, reinjured it in the fall, and recovered in time to make five pars, two eagles, six birdies, four bogeys, and one double-bogey in his Round 1 68 at the Hero World Challenge in December. In other words, he’s back to his old self.
Everyone loves the new, new thing, and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and The Genesis Invitational – both played on major championship courses – come early in the new era of Signature Events. What’s more, Pebble is expected to get a very different field, which could create must-see TV amid the gorgeous natural scenery of the Monterey Peninsula.
Back problems crept up on Morikawa for the first time in his career last season, but a coaching change to Mark Blackburn, and some subtle tweaks to take pressure off his back, has already paid dividends with his victory at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP.
Belgium’s Adrien Dumont de Chassart was the Big Ten Golfer of the Year at Illinois, and upon turning pro won immediately on the Korn Ferry Tour, one of six top-10 finishes in 11 starts. Gordon Sargent is expected to turn pro after the end of his spring season at Vanderbilt. Ryo Hisatsune just won Rookie of the Year on the DP World Tour and would achieve a neat double if he can do it on the PGA TOUR. And don’t forget about Texas product Pierceson Coody.
Rory McIlroy won the PGA Championship the last time it came to Valhalla in Kentucky, in 2014, but Rickie Fowler finished T3, two shots back. He’ll get another shot at it in May, and is the most due, or overdue, to break through for his first major. Keep an eye on Ludvig Åberg, though, who not only has the game to win a major, but he’s also too young to know how hard it is. Now that he’s putting well again, Scottie Scheffler is clearly the best bet to win multiple majors.
The general public may be about to learn the full story of Chris Kirk, who received the PGA TOUR Courage Award at The RSM Classic and was followed by the docuseries last season. His heartwarming story of triumph and redemption is likely to connect with viewers.
Cole played in 37 tournaments last season, and among his seven top-10 finishes was a playoff loss to Chris Kirk at The Classic at The Palm Beaches (formerly The Honda Classic). He also finished in the top five in four of his five starts in the FedExCup Fall. A win seems imminent.
It’s not unusual for a player to step up in the Ryder Cup and, thus imbued with self-belief, get over the line in a major. Homa has been open about his poor record in the majors, but he was encouraged by his top-10 finish at The Open Championship in July and went 3-1-1 in his first Ryder Cup in the fall, the lone American with a winning record. That will serve him well the next time he feels the weight of history on his shoulders as he sizes up a shot.
The most likely repeat winner in ’24 is the same as the most likely threepeat winner in ’24: Scottie Scheffler at WM Phoenix Open, where his length and impeccable tee-to-green game is amply rewarded. Also, there’s something about TPC Scottsdale that keeps guys coming back to the trophy ceremony year after year, like Hideki Matsuyama, another flusher, in 2016-’17.
With a different bounce and/or lucky break, the former Pepperdine All-American might have won the 2022 WM Phoenix Open and/or Travelers Championship. Now, though, Theegala is a PGA TOUR winner (Fortinet Championship, FedExCup Fall). With his ability to scramble and score from everywhere and anywhere, the Spieth-like Theegala could win anywhere, but keep an eye on him at TPC Scottsdale, TPC River Highlands, and, yes, Augusta National.
Last season Taylor authored arguably the biggest shot in the modern history of Canadian golf, draining a 72-foot eagle putt in a sudden-death playoff to become the first Canadian-born player to win the RBC Canadian Open in 69 years. The tournament acted quickly to preserve the moment forever, or at least the foreseeable future. Can Taylor defend his RBC Canadian Open title now that he’s part of the tournament’s logo?
Can Mike Weir and Canada rally the International Team at the Presidents Cup in Montreal? The U.S. has dominated, but the performance of Tom Kim at Quail Hollow and a closer Cup last time around suggests young talent may yet help the Internationals turn it around. What’s more, Weir may be buoyed by countrymen like Nick Taylor, coming off the biggest win of his career, and the arrival of Australia’s Min Woo Lee on the world stage.
Respect the heater. That’s not just a line from “The Hangover,” it’s a golf truism. Lucas Glover and Camilo Villegas, each of whom completely changed their lives in the course of a two-week tear in the late summer (Glover) and fall (Villegas) were just the latest players to remind of the significance of momentum and how it can trump all, even the best fields in golf.
Fowler’s swing changes didn’t take – he was 185th in the world to start last season – but his return to coach Butch Harmon has worked out nicely. Fowler led through 54 holes at the U.S. Open at L.A. Country Club but faded to finish T5. Not long after that, he ended a long, frustrating dry spell with his victory at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. The winner of six PGA TOUR titles, including THE PLAYERS Championship, is up to 24th in the world – all that remains for him is to win a major.