The Genesis Invitational - Final Round
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The top 10 players in the world have been, well, all over the place to start 2024. I mean that not only figuratively -- there has been good play and terrible play -- but also literally. Rory McIlroy played in the UAE in January, Jon Rahm has been in Mexico and Las Vegas and many of the rest of the top 10 have been playing Hawaii, California and Arizona.

With just 50 days left until the Masters tees off, it seems like a good time to check on the best players in the world. Instead of using the Official World Golf Rankings, though -- which are beneficial for sorting entry into major championships but perhaps lack when it comes to determining the best players -- we're going to use the Data Golf rankings, which look purely at who has been the best at scoring relative to the field in which they're playing.

The benefit here is that this includes LIV Golf players like Rahm, whereas the OWGR does not give out points for LIV events (for many justifiable reasons). Regardless, there is a lot of overlap. Of the top 10 in the Data Golf rankings, six are in the top 10 of the OWGR and all 10 are in the top 17.

Let's get into it.

Top 10
Scheffler has had a strange year thus far. He is so clearly the best player in the world, and yet it feels like he cannot win a golf tournament because he can't putt it in the Pacific Ocean. In five West Coast starts, he finished in the top 17 in all five but lost strokes putting in three. In the two where he gained strokes, he barely gained strokes and finished T6 and T3. Going to Florida, his putting is one of the top storylines. As Rory McIlroy implied on the CBS broadcast Sunday: if he figures it out, it could be over. OWGR: 1
Schauffele quietly had four top 10s on the West Coast swing and has risen to No. 2 in the Data Golf rankings. He's currently the only player other than Scheffler whose DG Index is 2.0 or higher (think of it like he's averaging 2.0 strokes gained per round for his last 150 rounds). That's a monstrous number, but like Scheffler, he has failed to capitalize. Schauffele's last win came in the summer of 2022. OWGR: 5
It was a weird January and February for McIlroy, who looked like he was going to pick up where he left off with a runner up and win in Dubai to start 2024. Then he went to the West Coast and put up all kinds of crooked numbers that pushed him outside the top 10 in both the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Genesis Invitational. He's hitting driver as well as he always does, but he has not given himself enough opportunity to score with his iron play. Two or three early holes have almost completely taken him out of his two PGA Tour events. OWGR: 2
Rahm has not won since the Masters last year -- which feels odd. The start to his LIV career has been good but not great given the level of play of which he's capable. He finished T3 at Mayakoba and eighth in Vegas. And while he seemed to bring some real gravity to LIV Golf in general, he does not enter March with the same momentum he had last year when he won three times and went on to take the Masters in April. OWGR: 3
Hovland seems to be slumping a bit. Physically, I think he'll be fine despite a T22-T58-T19 start to the year, but I was more concerned by what Geoff Shackelford wrote recently about his disposition during the Genesis Invitational when he said Hovland, "gave the impression of someone desperately searching for something. Coming off his sensational 2023, every time I happened upon the FedExCup champion he exuded a mix of frustration, anxiety, neuroses and borderline misery (until holing out a bunker shot for birdie Sunday at the 10th)." He withdrew from Phoenix and was not his usual ball-striking self in three other events. I trust that he'll figure it out, but he's a yellow flag for me going to Florida. OWGR: 4
I've written extensively about Cantlay's West Coast swing, which was somehow simultaneously encouraging and discouraging. The good: three top 12s, and he's leading the PGA Tour in first-round scoring average. The bad: two finishes outside the top 50, and he's 151st in final round scoring average. I trust that he'll keep mixing it up in Florida and perhaps at the Masters, but it's difficult to trust that he's going to win anything at the current moment. OWGR: 6
This is where Data Golf diverges from the OWGR. Morikawa is ranked No. 14 in the OWGR but No. 7 in the Data Golf rankings. His West Coast swing was good but maybe slightly disappointing given his breakthrough at the Zozo Championship in the fall. Overall, he hit the ball well and had three top 20s in four starts. One thing to consider, though, is that he's currently losing a lot of distance off the tee. Morikawa is normally about Tour average when it comes to length, but he's fallen off that pace a bit this season. It's early, but my concerns about his ability to play in intense weather (like what we saw at Pebble Beach) remain. OWGR: 14
It was an up-and-down seven weeks for Fleetwood as well. After a poor performance in Hawaii, he won in Dubai, had two other decent showings and then popped back up at the Genesis with a T10. He has again become a menace at the major championships, and I'm excited to see him at some of the premier ball-striking events (and courses) this year, starting with TPC Sawgrass and the Players Championship. OWGR: 12
Burns quietly had the most consistently good West Coast swing of maybe anyone. After a T33 in Hawaii, he put together four straight top 10 finishes, and now he heads to his beloved Florida. I'm intrigued by him at both Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass. OWGR: 18
After playing well in Hawaii, Hatton exited for LIV in February and finished in the top 12 in both LIV events. He's playing some of the best golf of his life right now and is somebody Max Homa recently called the most underrated player in the world. OWGR: 17