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Past Issues
57. Bryson 4.0 (2024-06-19)
56. Newsletter No. 56 (2024-06-12)
55. Valhalla Delivers? (2024-05-22)
54. Major Expectations (2024-05-15)
53. Major Moves (2024-04-17)
52. Masters Tidbits (2024-04-10)
51. On Site at The Players (2024-03-21)
50. Still Top Scheff (2024-03-13)
48. Taylor Triumphs (2024-02-15)
47. DG PIP Rankings (2024-02-07)
46. California Kids (2024-01-23)
45. Yuan Goes Yard (2024-01-17)
44. Brain Drain (2024-01-03)
43. LIV Fever (2023-12-06)
42. Nothing Major (2023-11-15)
41. Driving Machine (2023-11-08)
40. How's Traffic? (2023-10-18)
39. Lucky Luke (2023-10-11)
38. Postmortem (2023-10-04)
37. Ryder Cup (2023-09-27)
36. Letzig Returns (2023-09-20)
35. That's a Wrap (2023-08-29)
34. Pick 6 (2023-08-23)
33. Tale of Two Glovers (2023-08-16)
32. Forecasting the FedEx (2023-08-09)
31. Postseason (2023-08-01)
30. Major Letdown (2023-07-25)
29. Underdogs (2023-07-19)
28. Up and Down (2023-07-11)
27. Validation for Rickie (2023-07-05)
26. The Ams Strike Back (2023-06-27)
25. Wyndham Rewarded (2023-06-20)
24. The Show Rolls On (2023-06-13)
23. Scottie's Scaries (2023-06-08)
22. Grillo, Mi Amigo (2023-05-30)
21. Major Koepka (2023-05-23)
20. Glory's Second Shot (2023-05-16)
19. We Meet Again.. (2023-05-09)
18. Big Tone (2023-05-01)
17. Health Check (2023-04-24)
16. Live From Harbour Town (2023-04-17)
15. Phil Thrills (2023-04-11)
14. Down Magnolia Lane We Go (2023-04-03)
13. Peaking for Augusta (2023-03-27)
12. Fall of The DeChambino (2023-03-21)
11. Top Scheff (2023-03-13)
10. Fore Right! (2023-03-06)
9. CH3.. Wins? (2023-02-28)
8. The Rahm Slam (2023-02-21)
7. Garbage Time (2023-02-14)
6. Little Misery (2023-02-07)
5. Rory Returns (2023-01-30)
4. Rahm Threat (2023-01-23)
3. Rising Maverick (2023-01-16)
2. Morikawa's Meltdown (2023-01-09)
1. Introducing Letzig (2023-01-02)

Programming Note

This will (likely) be our last issue of 2023—thank you to everyone who read and subscribed to the newsletter this past year! See you in 2024.


LIV Fever

Somewhat incredibly, the top LIV golfer by adjusted strokes-gained over the last 12 months is only ranked 32nd (Brooks Koepka at +1.1). There are several LIV players close to BK—Cam Smith at 35th, Bryson at 37th, and four others in the top 50—but the fact that no LIV golfer cracked the top 31 in SG this year is surprising.

Our first reaction to this was that maybe it really is harder for the top players to gain strokes consistently on LIV—perhaps due to courses that don’t separate as much on skill, or some other quirk of their format and schedule. When looking at where the top 10 LIV golfers in 2023 gained their (adjusted) strokes, the breakdown looks like this: 67% of their yearlong SG gains occurred at LIV events (and 64% of their rounds), 27% at majors (18% of rounds), and 6% at events on other tours (18% of rounds). So it doesn't seem like LIV rounds prevented the top LIV players from gaining more strokes.

A second thought was that maybe this result wasn’t that unexpected. At the beginning of 2023, there were 3 LIV golfers who we expected to be in the top 30 of SG this year—Dustin Johnson (ranked 9th), Cam Smith (12th), Joaquin Niemann (16th)—and several others just outside the top 30 who wouldn’t require a big improvement in 2023 to move in. However, when simulating the 2023 season using their start-of-year skill levels and assuming 60 rounds played (the average number for LIV players this year), it was very unlikely for zero LIV players to have an SG average above 1.1 (it happened in just 0.1% of simulations, or 1 in 1000).

The plot below shows how the skill level of every LIV golfer changed in 2023:

The top 7 LIV players heading into 2023 all saw their skill levels fall, while the tour's average fell by 0.2 strokes per round. An overall decrease in skill is possible because LIV golfers still played 1/3 of their rounds in non-LIV events—where we can compare their performances against other professionals. As a result of this non-LIV play, LIV's estimated field strength declined slowly throughout the 2023 season—from +0.1 to -0.1—as LIV players performed worse than expected against their non-LIV opponents (with majors being the exception).

So, what should we make of all this? The absence of LIV golfers in the Top 30 SG performers in 2023 is likely due to a combination of real declines in skill and bad luck. While many LIV golfers had solid years—there were 8 players ranked between 32-52 in 2023 SG—it seems uncontroversial to say that no LIV golfer had a great year when considering all of their rounds (obviously many players above Koepka on the SG list would trade their seasons for his, however). One small silver lining to Jon Rahm joining LIV (if the move does in fact materialize) is that we will be able to see how one of the most consistently elite golfers performs while playing the LIV schedule. If Rahm isn’t able to gain at least 2 strokes per round—which he’s done in each of the last 5 years—then we will have to start seriously considering the idea that it’s harder to gain strokes at an elite level while playing on LIV.


Hello World

In his debut season as a professional golfer, Ludvig Aberg averaged +1.4 strokes-gained per round and notched two wins. He finished the year ranked 13th in our rankings, and 32nd in the OWGR.

Here are the top debut seasons, by true strokes-gained per round, since 2010:

Adrien Dumont de Chassart also had a strong rookie season in 2023, quietly posting the 16th-best season since 2010—although he was still a full shot worse per round than Aberg.


Rankings Update

After a dominant win at last week's Hero World Challenge, Scottie Scheffler jumped both Viktor Hovland and Rory McIlroy in our rankings to finish the year as the unanimous number one player in world. It marked the end of an historic tee-to-green season for Scheffler, who now has the second-best season-long T2G average in the strokes-gained era at +2.98 per round.

Top 10 (see all)
Player DG OWGR
Scottie Scheffler 1 2 1
Viktor Hovland 2 1 4
Rory McIlroy 3 1 2
Xander Schauffele 4 6
Collin Morikawa 5 3 14
Jon Rahm 6 1 3
Patrick Cantlay 7 1 5
Max Homa 8 1 7
Tommy Fleetwood 9 13
Tyrrell Hatton 10 12
Notables
Ludvig Aberg 13 1 32
Min Woo Lee 19 1 35 3
Justin Thomas 20 8 26 1
Bryson DeChambeau 28 5 152 3
Joaquin Niemann 30 2 59 23
Dean Burmester 33 9 77 29
Cameron Smith 40 5 23 3
Brooks Koepka 45 4 17

Dean Burmester won back-to-back events on the DP World Tour to go from 154 to 77 in the OWGR (and 74 to 33 in DG). As a LIV player, these sanctioned wins contribute vital world ranking points towards Burmester's quest to qualify for the 2024 major championships. The big-hitting South African is going for three in a row this week at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

After a frustrating 2023 season Joaquin Niemann won the Australian Open last week, his first win since the 2022 Genesis Invitational (sigh.. simpler times). Unlike other LIV stars, Niemann doesn't have any major championship exemptions. While this win got him back to 59th in the OWGR, he's going to miss the end-of-year top-50 cutoff to qualify for the 2024 Masters—Joaco will need to clean up on the Asian tour in early 2024 to snag a spot.


Player Feature


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Past Issues
57. Bryson 4.0 (2024-06-19)
56. Newsletter No. 56 (2024-06-12)
55. Valhalla Delivers? (2024-05-22)
54. Major Expectations (2024-05-15)
53. Major Moves (2024-04-17)
52. Masters Tidbits (2024-04-10)
51. On Site at The Players (2024-03-21)
50. Still Top Scheff (2024-03-13)
48. Taylor Triumphs (2024-02-15)
47. DG PIP Rankings (2024-02-07)
46. California Kids (2024-01-23)
45. Yuan Goes Yard (2024-01-17)
44. Brain Drain (2024-01-03)
43. LIV Fever (2023-12-06)
42. Nothing Major (2023-11-15)
41. Driving Machine (2023-11-08)
40. How's Traffic? (2023-10-18)
39. Lucky Luke (2023-10-11)
38. Postmortem (2023-10-04)
37. Ryder Cup (2023-09-27)
36. Letzig Returns (2023-09-20)
35. That's a Wrap (2023-08-29)
34. Pick 6 (2023-08-23)
33. Tale of Two Glovers (2023-08-16)
32. Forecasting the FedEx (2023-08-09)
31. Postseason (2023-08-01)
30. Major Letdown (2023-07-25)
29. Underdogs (2023-07-19)
28. Up and Down (2023-07-11)
27. Validation for Rickie (2023-07-05)
26. The Ams Strike Back (2023-06-27)
25. Wyndham Rewarded (2023-06-20)
24. The Show Rolls On (2023-06-13)
23. Scottie's Scaries (2023-06-08)
22. Grillo, Mi Amigo (2023-05-30)
21. Major Koepka (2023-05-23)
20. Glory's Second Shot (2023-05-16)
19. We Meet Again.. (2023-05-09)
18. Big Tone (2023-05-01)
17. Health Check (2023-04-24)
16. Live From Harbour Town (2023-04-17)
15. Phil Thrills (2023-04-11)
14. Down Magnolia Lane We Go (2023-04-03)
13. Peaking for Augusta (2023-03-27)
12. Fall of The DeChambino (2023-03-21)
11. Top Scheff (2023-03-13)
10. Fore Right! (2023-03-06)
9. CH3.. Wins? (2023-02-28)
8. The Rahm Slam (2023-02-21)
7. Garbage Time (2023-02-14)
6. Little Misery (2023-02-07)
5. Rory Returns (2023-01-30)
4. Rahm Threat (2023-01-23)
3. Rising Maverick (2023-01-16)
2. Morikawa's Meltdown (2023-01-09)
1. Introducing Letzig (2023-01-02)