Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy are indisputably the two best golfers in the world. The only question that hangs over this season is where they slot at the top,. Rahm and McIlroy have won seven of their last 14 combined global events, which is just unfathomable. That can't happen, and yet it's exactly what is happening. To accentuate that, the duo has combined for 13 top-five finishes in those last 14 starts across multiple tours.
Last time we ranked the best golfers in the world, McIlroy was No. 1 and Rahm was No. 2, but they have now flipped even though McIlroy won his most recent (and only) start on the DP World Tour in 2023. This should tell you just how good Rahm has been (we'll touch more on that below).
While you could probably rank those two players at the top and not rank anyone else in the top 10 to give you better context for just how good they've been, we still slotted in the other 16 golfer behind them knowing that the gulf between Rahm, McIlroy and everybody else is as vast as it's been between two players and the rest of the world in a long, long time.
The Power 18 provides insight as to how golfers are currently performing with benefit given to their play over recent events. It is a wider lens than simply what happened at the last tournament to be played but more narrow than the Official World Golf Rankings, which take into account how more than 2,000 golfers perform across an entire season.
The Power 18
|This is a toss up, but I'm going Rahm over McIlroy simply because he has three wins in his last five starts while McIlroy only has two. Rahm is not even having the best 50-round run of his career, which is wild, but it's been good enough that in three solid PGA Tour events so far in 2023, he's only lost to a total of two other golfers. Previous rank: 2|
|It tells you everything you need to know about Rahm that McIlroy has won three times in his last seven starts and his worst result in that period of time is a fourth-place finish, and he's still not in the No. 1 spot. If you take the timeline back to everybody's last 50 rounds, McIlroy narrowly outpaces Rahm in terms of overall total strokes gained per round. Previous: 1|
|It's gotten a bit obscured because he hasn't won, but Morikawa now has three consecutive top 10s and is poised to win at either TPC Scottsdale, or perhaps more relevantly, Riviera and the Genesis Invitational in February. Previous: 13|
|It's not just the win at Torrey Pines last week but also his consistency over the last year. The Farmers Insurance Open win is simply emblematic of how he's been playing. Of players still competing on the PGA Tour, he's No. 10 in strokes gained over the last 12 months. Previous: 12|
|In his last five starts, Finau has four top 10s and a victory. Given that he's third in strokes gained overall in the last six months, he has as good a claim as anyone as best player in the world other than McIlroy and Rahm. Previous: 4|
|The former No. 1 player in the world quietly has five consecutive top 11 finishes. If not for his torrid run in 2022, during which he won four tournaments in three months, we would likely be talking more about the momentum he's taking into a similar stretch this time around. Previous: 6|
|Schauffele had a strange withdrawal at the Tournament of Champions to start the year but has bounced back with a pair of top 15s in his next two starts. Outside of that WD with a balky back, he has been excellent for the last few months and ranks third behind Rahm and McIlroy in strokes gained over the last three months. Previous: 5|
|Im has four top 20s in his last five starts. While he hasn't won since fall 2021, all the ingredients are there for him to do so. I've made this argument often over the last few months, but Im and Cameron Young are the the two players who don't have a win over the last 13 months -- and in Young's case, ever -- that I'm the most convinced are going to win at some point in 2023. Previous: 11|
|Kim has had a quietly strong campaign with four top 10s in his last five starts. Only three golfers -- Rahm, Taylor Montgomery and Sahith Theegala -- have more top 10s on the PGA Tour this season (four) than Kim (three). Previous: 14|
|J.T. hasn't done much so far this year, so he's coasting a bit on reputation but remains one of the most dangerous players in the world and his floor is extraordinary. Still, his quality of play has been better than two guys ahead of him (Im and Kim), so it's not as if he's dropped off the planet. He's trending in the wrong direction, but that could change in the span of just a few days. Previous: 7|
|Cantlay was ranked inside the top five in our first 2023 iteration, but he's had a very average start (for him) to the year with no top 10 finishes in two starts at the Tournament of Champions and The American Express. Cantlay's ceiling remains just as high as it was before, and his season will almost always be primarily defined by what he does at the major championships (which to this point has not been much), but he falls back after stalling a bit out of the gate in 2023. Previous: 3|
|Hovland won in December and then finished T18 at the Tournament of Champions. His recent resume hasn't been lengthy, but that win over one of the best tiny fields in the world in the Bahamas to end 2022 buoys him on this list. He'll be defined, like many others, by how he plays in the upcoming elevated events slate. Previous: 8|
|Two top twos in his last five starts including a win a the Zozo Championship and a near win at the Farmers Insurance Open last week. Bradley is building a legitimate resume for the Ryder Cup in Rome later this year. Previous: NR|
|It's also difficult to know what to do with Smith given how little he's played over the last few months. It's true that he's won in his last two starts, but it's also true that he only has one top 20 in his last five starts. I still believe Cam is one of the best players in the world, just maybe not No. 4, which is where he's currently ranked. Previous: NR|
|Hatton didn't have the result he desired at the Dubai Desert Classic, but his run of good play dating back to the CJ Cup last year is solid. It includes a T2 a the DP World Tour Championship and a T7 at the Abu Dhabi Championship. The question as always with Hatton is how good play on the DP World Tour will translate on the PGA Tour and at major championships, but he's off to a nice start so far in 2023. Previous: NR|
|Noren is quietly playing terrific golf. He has three straight top fives across two different tours and ranks No. 12 in total strokes gained per round over everyone's last 20 rounds. Noren has real stakes, even early in the year, with the Ryder Cup on the horizon and Europe at a potential deficit when it comes to eligible players. Previous: NR|
|Niemann is the last of the group that it's difficult to know where they're headed. He has seven consecutive top 20s but also hasn't played since the middle of October. There's an unknown there, but it's undeniable that he ended 2022 playing some of the best golf of anybody in the world. Previous: NR|
|Day always plays well at Torrey Pines, so take his recent performances with a grain of salt, but he's looked like a top-25 player over the last few months. In addition to his T7 at Torrey, he also has three other top 21 finishes in his last five PGA Tour starts. He's striking the ball well and hitting his irons much better than he has the last three years. Whether that continues will determine whether he stays on this list. Previous: NR|