Who won January? The PGA’s Top 10 most dominant players

Max Homa, 2023 Farmers Insurance Open,Mandatory Credit: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports
Max Homa, 2023 Farmers Insurance Open,Mandatory Credit: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2022-23 PGA Tour season got going in earnest during January. Four events of significance, including a ramped-up Sentry Tournament of Champions, attracted fields that occupied many of the game’s front-rank stars.

We know the tournament winners: Jon Rahm at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Si Woo Kim at the Sony Open, Rahm again at the Amex, and Max Homa at this past weekend’s Farmers.

But who won the month as a whole? Of the hundreds of PGA Tour pros who teed it up during January, which ones were most consistently dominant? Who brings the most January momentum with them into February, to Florida and beyond?

We can answer that question by looking for the players who generated the best average standard deviation of their performance across at least two of the month’s four PGA Tour events.

Standard deviation is a superb tool for gauging relative exceptionality because it values a player not merely for his raw score but for the degree to which he outshone his competition.

Since golf is a game where less is more, the most negative standard deviations are the best. Although the numbers can vary slightly, as a general proposition a player who achieves a score that is one standard deviation better than the field will probably have finished among the week’s top 10. Get to two standard deviations and you’re a championship contender.

A showing that is three standard deviations better than the field would be sufficiently extraordinary in that it is likely to rank among the year’s top 10 or 15. For this just-concluded January on the PGA Tour, the most dominant individual effort was turned in by Homa in capturing the Farmers. His two-stroke victory over Keegan Bradley works out to 2.53 standard deviations superior to the four-round field average.

So which players actually had the best month based on average standard deviation? It’s an eclectic list mixing some of the game’s best-known stars with a couple of up-and-comers and one or two full-out surprises.

From 10th to first, here’s how they ranked on the PGA Tour during January, with their average standard deviation listed.

January’s Top 10 players on the PGA Tour

10. Taylor Montgomery, -0.79.

Off to the best start of his career, the 28-year-old UNLV graduate started all three events for which he was eligible and landed a pair of top 15s.

Montgomery tied for 12th at the Sony, finished solo fifth at the Amex – with a score that beat the field average by 1.37 standard deviations — and tied for 31st at the Farmers.

That brought his season earnings close to $2 million, about 10 times what he had won in the totality of his two previous seasons.

9. Scottie Scheffler, -0.94.

The defending Masters champion limited himself to two appearances, those being at the TOC and at the Amex. He tied for seventh at Kapalua with a score that worked out to 0.83 standard deviations better than the field, and tied for 11th in the desert, 1.04 standard deviations better than the field.

8. Si Woo Kim, -0.99.

Kim opened the 2023 portion of his season in the best way possible, winning the Sony Open at Waialae.

The victory came by one stroke over Hayden Buckley and measured 2.36 standard deviations better than the four-round field average. Kim followed that with finishes of T22 and T25 at The American Express and Farmers Insurance Open.

7. Tony Finau, -1.01.

Finau played in three of the four January events and was top 10 in two of those three. He started the year with a tie for seventh at the Sentry TOC at Kapalua, and followed that with a T16 in the desert at the Amex.

This past weekend at the Farmers he tied for ninth with statistically his best effort, coming in a full 1.37 standard deviations better than the field average.

6. Jason Day, -1.09.

Day eased into 2023, skipping Hawaii altogether and only making two starts. They were both solid if not spectacular. He tied for 18th at the Amex and tied for seventh at Torrey Pines, the latter with a score of 280 that was 1.56 standard deviations better than the field.

5. Xander Schauffele, -1.24.

Like Day, Schauffele skipped Hawaii, then did well when he did play. He tied for third at the Amex, just two shots behind Rahm and 1.68 standard deviations superior to the four-round average. This past week at the Farmers he tied for 13th.

4. Chris Kirk, -1.65.

If January had a breakout star, it was Kirk. A 37-year-old veteran with four wins to his credit but none since 2015, Kirk finished third in both of his starts, at the Sony and Amex. He presently ranks top 10 in FedEx Cup points; if Kirk can stay there it will be his highest seasonal finish in a decade.

3. Collin Morikawa, -1.75.

Morikawa started twice and made championship runs in both events. He was runner-up to Rahm at Kapalua, then third to Homa at the Farmers, three strokes in arrears.

2. Max Homa, -1.86.

Homa’s two starts were both indicative of a rising star. He tied for third at Kapalua, then delivered a Sunday 66 at Torrey Pines that held off Keegan Bradley for a two-stroke victory.

It was the sixth win of his career and second of the current season. The first came at the Fortinet Championship at Silverado back in September. Looking for a longshot winner to bet to win a 2023 Major? Look at Homa.

1. Jon Rahm, -1.86.

Carried to a third digit, Homa’s average January standard deviation was fractionally better than Rahm’s. But Rahm’s month has to be judged superior because he made one more January start than Homa, and won it.

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Beyond his two victories at the Sentry and Amex, Rahm tied for seventh this past weekend at the Farmers with a score that beat the field average by 1.56 standard deviations.

For the record, that was his worst showing of the month. Given all that, the case for designating Rahm as having had the better January is an easy one to make.