In two weeks, all of golf’s attention will be on the Ryder Cup matches in Rome.
In the meantime, though, there’s a big tournament that begins Thursday: the BMW PGA Championship at the Wentworth Club in Surrey, England.
As usual, the field is packed with top contenders. Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and the defending champion, Shane Lowry, are all set to play before they join Team Europe, which will try to capture the Cup for the fifth time in the last seven competitions.
Here are five other players to keep an eye on.
In 2014, the future could not have looked brighter for Scott. The year before, he became the first golfer from Australia to win the Masters Tournament, and he had now ascended to No. 1 in the world. In his early 30s, Scott, possessing one of the best swings in the game, was still in his prime.
Those days are gone.
Scott, 43, who has 14 victories on the PGA Tour, hasn’t won since the Genesis Invitational in early 2020. At the majors, he hasn’t finished in the Top 10 since tying for seventh in the 2019 United States Open at Pebble Beach. His best showing in the majors this year was a tie for 29th in the P.G.A. Championship at Oak Hill near Rochester, N.Y.
Still, there is reason to believe that he’s not done just yet. From May through August, Scott, ranked No. 43, finished in the Top 10 in four of his nine starts, coming up just short of qualifying for the FedEx Cup playoffs.
He tied for 14th at Wentworth in 2021 and tied for 42nd in 2022.
A bright future may also await Ludvig Aberg of Sweden.
Aberg, 23, who turned professional three months ago, won the Omega European Masters in Switzerland earlier this month. The next day, he was one of the Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald’s six picks to be a member of Team Europe.
Formerly the world’s top-ranked amateur, he caught Donald’s attention in January during a tournament in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
“He was drawn alongside [the vice captain] Edoardo Molinari that week, and he let me know how impressed he was with this young guy from Sweden,” Donald told Golf Digest.
“And it was my job as captain to keep my options open for anyone to make the team,” he added.
Aberg, who played golf at Texas Tech, became the first player to secure his tour card in the United States by finishing first on the 2023 PGA Tour University Ranking. He has made the cut in six of his seven tour starts since turning pro, his best performance a tie for fourth at the John Deere Classic.
For Tom Kim of South Korea, 21, who is making his debut in this tournament, the future may be here already. Kim, ranked No. 18, qualified for the Tour Championship at East Lake, the final event of the playoffs, and finished in a tie for 20th.
He had an impressive 2022-23 season, recording nine Top 10 finishes in 26 starts, including a victory at the Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas, a tie for second at the British Open at Royal Liverpool and a tie for eighth in the U.S. Open at the Los Angeles Country Club. At the Shriners event, Kim became the first player since Tiger Woods in 1996 to win twice on the PGA Tour before turning 21.
Kim, who has been a professional since he was 15, is an entertaining player and provided one of the most amusing moments of the year when he fell in the mud at Oak Hill and washed his clothes off in the creek.
Rahm, ranked No. 3, needs to get back in form and fast — for his own sake and for the sake of Team Europe.
The No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs, he tied for 37th and 31st in the first two events and closed at East Lake with another disappointing showing to tie for 18th in the final standings. Rahm, who is from Spain, didn’t win once in 10 appearances after his comeback victory over Brooks Koepka in the Masters. In fact, from May through August, he compiled only two Top 10 results, one of those being a tie for second at Royal Liverpool.
Rahm, 28, who had held the top spot for 30 consecutive weeks, is not a fan of the current playoff format.
“You can win every single tournament up until this one,” he told reporters at East Lake. “You have a bad week, you finish 30th, and now you’ll forever be known as 30th in the FedEx Cup this season. I don’t think that’s very fair.”
Rahm tied for second with McIlroy at last year’s event at Wentworth, a stroke behind Lowry.
While he won’t be on the U.S. squad heading to Rome, it’s still a big week for Horschel, 36, who won this event in 2021. He finished in the Top 10 only three times in 22 starts this past season on the PGA Tour.
One of those Top 10 results came in his final tournament, the Wyndham Championship, when he finished fourth. Horschel, ranked No. 50, turned in a career-low 62 in the second round and followed with a 63 to enjoy a share of the lead after 54 holes. A victory would have put him in the playoffs, but he faltered with a 72.
His season’s low point was an 84 in the first round at the Memorial Tournament in early June. He rebounded the next day with a 72 but did not make the cut.
“Listen, we all struggle at this game, and I’m not the first PGA Tour pro to play bad for an extended stretch,” Horschel told Golf Digest in June. “There are some people that think we should play well every week right. But golf’s a tough game. Life’s a tough game.”