Scheffler, Rahm, and Rory: Assessing golf’s new Triumvirate

Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm, 2023 WM Phoenix Open,Syndication: Arizona Republic
Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm, 2023 WM Phoenix Open,Syndication: Arizona Republic /
1 of 7

There’s a new triumvirate dominating the PGA Tour, and in the process ringing down the echoes of great threesomes of the past.

Among them, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, and Scottie Scheffler have already won a half dozen times this young season. They rank first, second, and seventh on the official money list – McIlroy’s only made five starts – with more than $24 million in combined payouts.

Rahm and Scheffler are first and second in Strokes Gained, McIlroy leads in driving distance, Rahm has made more birdies than any other player and Scheffler leads in greens in regulation.

If you were playing a major Championship right now, all three would be vying for the role of pre-event favorite.

The concept of a dominant triumvirate – three players sharing primacy – is an age-old one in golf. It dates back to the turn of the 20th century when Britishers Harry Vardon, John Taylor, and James Braid monopolized the game.

The names changed over time but the concept of a triumvirate didn’t. In the 1920s it was Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, and Gene Sarazen. In the 1940s, it was Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, and Ben Hogan. The 1960s had Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player.

If they keep going as they have, the current triumvirate of Scheffler, Rahm, and McIlroy may soon earn a place among those legendary groups of previous seasons.  Here’s a look at how the performance of the 2023 triumvirate compares with some of the great trios of the past half-century.

For purposes of providing perspective, it is probably best to begin in the present.

Scheffler, Rahm, and Rory: Golf’s New Triumvirate

Triumvirate, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy, 2023 Players Championship, Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports /

Scottie Scheffler-Jon Rahm-Rory McIlroy

It’s early enough in the 2023 season that data remains flexible. But it’s late enough that valid judgments can begin to be made, and those judgments suggest that the current Triumvirate will compare favorably with those of both the recent and distant past.

An excellent yardstick for measuring dominance among one’s contemporaries is a stat not yet incorporated into the official PGA Tour lexicon called Relative Stroke Average. In essence, it asks how many strokes a player required compared to a Tour average of 1.00.

Since golf is a game where less is more, a Relative Stroke Average below 1.00 is preferable.

For most current Tour pros, the problem is that the field is so competitive, so evenly balanced out, that even the best find it difficult to produce a Relative Stroke Average very much below that field average. But our Triumvirate very much holds its own.

Rahm presently stands at No.1 in scoring average on Tour at 68.90, the average being a fraction below 71.26 strokes. That gives Rahm a Relative Scoring Average of .967. Put another way, Rahm can accomplish in 967 strokes what it takes an average Tour player 1,000 strokes to accomplish.

Second on that list is Scheffler, whose 69.1 scoring average for the season works out to a .970 Relative Scoring Average. Same principle: Scheffler only needs 970 strokes to cover the holes it takes the average Tour player 1,000 strokes to cover.

With a Relative Scoring Average of .978, McIlroy only ranks seventh on the current list. He was second behind only Rahm until shooting 76-73 and missing the cut at the Players. McIlroy’s light 2023 schedule – the Players was only his fifth effort of the season – means that one or two bad rounds can work a number on a player’s stats.

Still, the Relative Stroke Average of the current Triumvirate stands at .972 to date. As we are about to demonstrate, that’s an imposing level of dominance by a threesome.