PGA Tour Player of the Year: Jon Rahm or Viktor Hovland?

Viktor Hovland, 2023 Tour Championship, East Lake,(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Viktor Hovland, 2023 Tour Championship, East Lake,(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

After finishing the 2022/23 PGA Tour season in style, does Viktor Hovland deserve Player of the Year honors?

It’s an interesting question that would have seemed far-fetched if asked three months ago when Jon Rahm was running rampant and picking off PGA Tour wins as if he was taking candy from a baby.

Following his triumphant win at Augusta and the Masters in April, Jon Rahm may very well go on to win the PGA Tour Player of the Year award, and deservedly so. But now, following Viktor Hovland’s incredible run through the 2023 FedEx Cup Playoffs which culminated with him lifting the FedEx Cup on Sunday, it’s at least worthy of debate.

The PGA Tour Player of the Year Award, also known as the Jack Nicklaus Award, is awarded to the player each year who has had the best season on tour; as voted on by the Tour’s membership. Last year, that honor went to Scottie Scheffler following his incredible year during which he won four times; including the 2022 Masters.

In 2020-2021, Patrick Cantlay was awarded Player of the Year honors following his own four-win season which included back-to-back wins during the FedEx Cup Playoffs on his way to lifting the FedEx Cup.

The case for Viktor Hovland

On Sunday at the 2022/23 PGA Tour season finale, Tour Championship, Viktor Hovland won for a third time this season. It was the Norweigan’s second win in as many weeks following his historic win at the BMW Championship where he set the course record with a Sunday-61 at Olympia Fields.

This weekend in Atlanta, Viktor made more history. The newly crowned FedEx Cup champion continued his exceptional play with a bogey-free final round of 63 on his way to a five-stroke victory over his closest competition.

Hovland held off a hard-charging Xander Schauffele down the stretch with his flawless play and he became the first Norweigan to win the FedEx Cup. In addition, he became the fifth player to win both of the final two events in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and per ESPN Stats & Info, at just 25 years old he became the youngest to ever accomplish the feat.

Viktor Hovland finishes the season with three wins, having previously won the Memorial Tournament in June prior to his tear through this year’s playoffs. The 25-year-old recorded eight Top 10s on the PGA Tour this season, including finishes of T-3 at THE PLAYERS Championship in March, T-7 at the Masters in April, and a runner-up finish to PGA Champion Brooks Koepka at Oak Hill in May.

Late surge enough to propel Viktor Hovland past Rahm?

Jon Rahm kicked off 2023 with his stunning comeback victory over Collin Morikawa at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. From there, he went on to win in his very next start at The American Express in California.

After finishing T3 at the WM Phoenix Open in February, Rahm picked off another big event in his very next start when he won Tiger’s event, the Genesis Invitational. The Spaniard’s historic week at the iconic Riviera Country Club saw him reclaim the top spot in the Official World Ranking at the time.

Less than two months later, the 2021 U.S. Open winner added his second career major with his sensational win at the Masters. 

Jon Rahm cooled off a bit in the latter part of the season prior to finishing runner-up at the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool last month. The four-time winner on the season finished outside of the top 30 in both of the first FedEx Cup Playoff events before ending the 2022/23 PGA Tour season with a T18 finish at this weekend’s Tour Championship.

On top of his win at the Masters and his runner-up at The Open, Jon recorded finishes of T-50th at the PGA Championship, and T10 at the U.S. Open, in the year’s other two majors. In all, he collected ten Top 10s on the PGA Tour this season.

The verdict

Similar to both Scheffler and Cantlay before him, who went on to win PGA Tour Player of the Year honors, Rahm recorded four wins this season on the PGA Tour.

Viktor Hovland, meanwhile, also shares similarities with Cantlay in that he won multiple times during the postseason including eventually lifting the FedEx Cup.

Jon Rahm’s Masters win including an additional two top 10s on the season probably gives him the slight edge over Viktor on this occasion.

However, whereas Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler faded away, Hovland has at the very least given the voters something to think about in the coming days.

Next. The race for the FedEx Cup. dark

A race for the Jack Nicklaus Award which has looked very much one-sided for the majority of the season could very well have some late drama if recent performances hold any kind of weight in the end.

If that’s the case, Viktor Hovland may well be awarded PGA Tour Player of the Year when it’s all said and done.