10 players to watch for 2023 Charles Schwab Cup
5 Min Read
Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour
An epic chase for the 2022 Charles Schwab Cup came down to two competitors, New Zealand’s Steven Alker and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington. Each won four times last season; Harrington won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, in record-setting fashion, to put as much heat on Alker as he could.
But the unflappable Alker hung in there through four rounds and finished third in the finale, securing his first Schwab Cup.
Alker, 51, has taken PGA TOUR Champions by storm. He felt like he could compete if he got the opportunity to play, and he parlayed Monday-qualifying success into instant tournament success.
Now he has 33 tournaments under his belt since turning 50 on July 28, 2021, and even he is gobsmacked by how well he has done. No one could have predicted 28 top 10s, five victories and a Schwab Cup in that span.
Alker has the attention of everyone on PGA TOUR Champions. He has been the man to beat; no ifs, ands or buts.
Here is one man’s list of the top 10 challengers for the Charles Schwab Cup in 2023:
10. Jim Furyk (30th in 2022). After a wildly successful rookie season that included winning his first two starts and finishing second in the Schwab Cup race, Furyk all but disappeared in 2022. He had only four top 10s in 19 starts compared to 18 top 10s in 26 starts the previous year. His game was a mess for the first six months of the year, when he was just as liable to finish in the 60s as the top 25. Then he tested positive for COVID-19 at the Kaulig Companies Championship and missed four events. The forced break gave him time to tinker with a new driver at home, and the worm finally turned when Furyk returned; he had eight top 25s in his final 10 events, including playoff finishes of T11, T13 and T8.
9. Retief Goosen (12). The South African native has played in 76 PGA TOUR Champions events and has won only twice. If you had been given an over/under on wins for him at that number, you’d have bet the over 100 times out of 100. Goosen had six top 10s in his first eight events last season including a victory at the Hoag Classic. But that also tells you how he finished the season (one top 10 in his final 10 events). He certainly still has the firepower to finish 2023 like he started 2022.
8. Steve Stricker (3). Yes, he’ll very likely rank higher in the Schwab Cup standings. The thing is, he doesn’t particularly focus about the Playoffs or the Schwab Cup. No disrespect intended; Stricker plays at his whim, not at that of the calendar. He skipped the Playoffs entirely in 2022; that makes it rather difficult to win the Schwab Cup. He played only 12 times last season, but he won three of his last four starts.
7. Bernhard Langer (6). The man whose name is synonymous with the Schwab Cup probably won’t win it again. This might sound blasphemous given the fact he won a Playoffs event in November, but he said he’s not likely to play as many events in 2023 as he has in the past. Fewer events means less room for error. It’s best never to doubt Langer, but he’s 65. His focus probably will be more on breaking Hale Irwin’s all-time record for wins than adding another Schwab Cup.
6. Thongchai Jaidee (7). The native of Thailand not only picked up his first PGA TOUR Champions victory last season at the American Family Insurance Championship, but he was runner-up twice more and had a T3. He had a fine showing in the Playoffs, going T22, T2 and T12. Had Jaidee played enough rounds to qualify for the year-ending stats (he barely missed with 21 events), he’d have ranked third in driving distance, fifth in greens in regulation and second in putting average.
5. Miuel Angel Jimenez (5). “The Mechanic” is 58 now, but he has won at least once in each of the past eight seasons and at least twice in each of the past four. He won three times last year and remains a threat every time he tees it up.
4. Jerry Kelly (4). The Wisconsin native hit a hot stretch last year where he won three times in six events and had two other top-seven finishes. He led PGA TOUR Champions in driving accuracy and was second in greens in regulation. So basically he just grinds along until his putter gets hot, and when it does, he’s hard to beat.
3. Stewart Cink (N/A). Not all the big-name rookies who’ve joined PGA TOUR Champions after successful PGA TOUR careers have found immediate success in recent years (e.g. Goosen, David Toms). But something says Cink is more likely to replicate Furyk’s rookie year. He’s still active on the PGA TOUR; he made 13 of 25 cuts in the 2021-22 season with two top-10s and has made three cuts in five events in the current season. He doesn’t turn 50 until May 21, but that’s plenty of time to be a factor in the Schwab Cup race if he plays a dozen or so times.
2. Steven Alker (1). No one is predicting any noticeable drop-off from Alker. He really has proven that he’s this good. He deserves every accolade that has come his way. But titles are hard to defend, and the guy who finished second last year got a taste and is thirsty for more.
1. Padraig Harrington (2). The Irishman played in only 19 events last year to Alker’s 23. He won four times and finished runner-up four times. He won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship by seven strokes. It says here the ’23 Cup belongs to him.