Five big stories from the fall
November 20, 2022
By Sean Martin , PGATOUR.COM
- Tom Kim became the first player since Tiger Woods to win twice before turning 21 at the Shriners Children's Open. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Another year is in the books. Sunday’s final round of The RSM Classic was the last official PGA TOUR round of 2022.
The year concluded with the nine fall events that mark the beginning of the 2022-23 schedule. As usual, the fall saw a mixture of first-time winners and stars who added to their resumes. The latest class of Korn Ferry Tour graduates had ample opportunity to display its skills, and the U.S. Team continued its success with a Presidents Cup victory at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club.
Seamus Power ended the fall as the top player in the FedExCup. His success is a testament to patience, as the 35-year-old Irishman is playing the best golf of his career. He won his second TOUR title at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship and closed the calendar with two more top-5 finishes. Power, who competed alongside Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry in amateur golf, could be teammates with them at next year’s Ryder Cup after cracking the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
As Thanksgiving approaches, here’s a quick rundown of five stories you may have missed from the fall. They include Rory McIlroy’s return to the top of the golf world, the game’s newest sensation, a wild win for one of the game’s most popular players and a major champion’s comeback.
1. RORY RETURNS TO NO.1
Rory McIlroy won his third FedExCup in August. A victory in his next start, at THE CJ CUP in South Carolina, put McIlroy back atop the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I've worked so hard over the last 12 months to get back to this place,” McIlroy said. “I feel like I'm enjoying the game as much as I ever have. I played with that joy and it's definitely showed over these last few months.
“It's a big achievement. I'm really proud of myself right now.”
McIlroy has reached No. 1 in the world nine times. He was No. 1 when the PGA TOUR schedule stopped for three months at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he lost the top ranking to Jon Rahm when the Spaniard won the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday later that year.
McIlroy began his most recent FedExCup-winning campaign with a victory at THE CJ CUP at Las Vegas’ Summit Club. He followed with incredible consistency, finishing in the top 10 in more than half his starts, including two more wins at the RBC Canadian Open and TOUR Championship. He led the TOUR in Strokes Gained: Total (+2.12) and scoring average (68.7).
McIlroy is the first player to win the FedExCup three times. Now he’s trying to become the first player to successfully defend the Cup.
How did he begin his defense? With another win at THE CJ CUP. For good measure, he won the DP World Tour’s season-long points race in November. It was the fourth time he finished the year as the DP World Tour’s top player.
Rory McIlroy’s late birdie burst secures win at THE CJ CUP
2. TOM KIM, GOLF’S ASCENDANT STAR
The celebrations were entertaining. The performances were historic.
Even though his team lost to the U.S., Tom Kim’s exuberant displays produced many of the highlights from this year’s Presidents Cup. The pinnacle was his putter-slamming celebration after he sank a 10-foot birdie putt to win a tight Saturday afternoon Four-ball match. He set up the winning birdie by striping a 2-iron approach from some 240 yards.
"I was already thinking in the back of my mind, 'If this goes in, what am I going to do? How am I going to celebrate?'" Kim said.
What did he do for an encore? Win the Shriners Children’s Open in his next start, beating former FedExCup champ Patrick Cantlay in the final round at TPC Summerlin. Kim was just the third player since 1974 to win on TOUR without making a score of bogey or worse, and he’s the first since Tiger Woods to win twice before turning 21. This came after his win in August in the Wyndham Championship, where he became the first player since 1983 (when the TOUR began keeping hole-by-hole records) to win after recording a quadruple-bogey or worse on the opening hole of a tournament.
“I’m having fun playing on the PGA TOUR,” said Kim, who’s fourth in the FedExCup. “It’s awesome.”
And we’re having fun watching.
Tom Kim's clutch birdie on No. 18 wins Four-ball match at Presidents Cup
3. HOMA’S HOLE-OUT
The first tournament of the season surely had one of the wildest finishes we’ll see this season.
A chip-in and unlikely three-putt on the Fortinet Championship’s 72nd hole led to another title for Max Homa, whose career continues on its upward trajectory out of the depths.
Homa arrived at Silverado’s par-5 18th hole one shot back of Danny Willett. When Willett hit his third shot inside 4 feet and Homa missed the green with his 30-yard bunker shot, it looked like Willett would earn his first PGA TOUR title since the 2016 Masters. Homa chipped in his next shot for birdie, however, and Willett proceeded to three-putt.
“That was crazy,” Homa said. “I still don’t really know what happened. It was one of those weekends you just had to hang around.”
It was Homa’s fifth PGA TOUR victory and fourth in his past 45 TOUR starts.
The victory was the beginning of an eventful fall for one of the TOUR’s most popular players. He took an overnight flight from California to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Presidents Cup, where he represented the United States for the first time as a professional. He went 4-0-0 for the victorious U.S. Team, calling it the “best week of golf I could imagine.”
Homa finished in the top 25 in his next two starts before shutting it down for the birth of his first child. He and his wife Lacey welcomed a son, Cam, on Oct. 30.
Max Homa wins Fortinet in bizarre finish
4. A ROOKIE’S RAPID RISE
Taylor Montgomery had to endure an agonizing finish to his Korn Ferry Tour campaign in 2021. A year later, he couldn’t have asked for a much better start to his PGA TOUR career.
The top 25 in the Korn Ferry Tour’s points standings after both the Regular Season and the Korn Ferry Tour Finals earn PGA TOUR cards. Montgomery finished 26th … in both. A pair of missed cuts – including a second-round 85 at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship – led to him falling outside of the top 25 in each finale.
This year, Montgomery locked up his card early with his consistent play. Then he carried a strong finish to his Korn Ferry Tour campaign – top-15s in nine of his final 10 starts, including six finishes of fourth or better – into his rookie season on PGA TOUR. It started with a third-place finish at the Fortinet Championship and kept on rolling. Montgomery finished in the top 15 in all but one of his seven fall starts. He ranks 11th in the FedExCup entering the new year. He also won the RSM Birdies Fore Love competition after making the most birdies or better in the fall season.
He’s done it with an impressive combination of power and touch. He averages 309 yards off the tee and ranks 13th Strokes Gained: Putting.
Las Vegas native Taylor Montgomery on why he is such a good putter
5. KEEGAN’S COMEBACK
Success came quickly for Keegan Bradley, who won three times in his first two seasons on TOUR. He won the first major he ever competed in, the 2011 PGA Championship, becoming just the third man in a century to win in his major debut.
A professional golf career is rarely a linear progression, however. Bradley has won twice in the 10 years since claiming the 2012 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, enduring two lengthy winless droughts. The latest came to an end this fall, with a victory in THE ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in Japan that brought the New Englander who prides himself on toughness to tears. It was his first win since the 2018 BMW Championship.
“I’ve been crying since I finished,” he said. “I can’t remember the last time I cried. I talked to my wife on the phone a second ago, FaceTime. I can’t keep it together; I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
In early 2021, Bradley had fallen outside the top 150 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since his rookie season on TOUR.
Bradley was back on the upward swing before his victory in Japan. He finished T5 in this year’s PLAYERS Championship and then was runner-up at the Wells Fargo Championship in May, which got him back inside the top 50 of the world ranking and qualified him for the U.S. Open in his native New England. He finished T7 at Brookline for his first top-10 in a major in eight years.
As it often does with Bradley, it came back to the putter. Bradley enlisted the help of noted putting coach Phil Kenyon last fall and in 2022 gained strokes on the greens for the first time since 2014.
“It means a lot,” he said. “There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. Even if you play perfectly, doesn’t mean you’re going to win. But for me, I feel like I should be contending for tournaments, I want to be contending to play on Ryder Cup, Presidents Cups teams, majors. You know, this is going to go a long way.”
Keegan Bradley's winning highlights from ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP