2023 Olympic Golf Ranking Year in Review
A four-year cycle of golf in the Olympics draws parallels to a four-day, 72-hole golf tournament in many ways. Where a third round would often be referenced as “Moving Day” in the golf world, a year prior to the Olympics could often be thought of as “Moving Year” for athletes looking to jockey for position entering the final stretch. And so it was for golfers in 2023, with many opportunities to climb the ladder of the Olympic Golf Ranking (OGR) as next summer’s 2024 Paris Olympics draws nearer.
Perhaps most impressive in 2023 were the stars that emerged on the biggest stages who previously could have only dreamed of creating an Olympic legacy.
Lilia Vu, a member of the United States Solheim Cup team in 2023, is the perfect example. When qualification closed for the last Olympics in June of 2021 (postponed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic), Vu was in the midst of a strong Symetra Tour campaign, leading to an LPGA card that fall, but still sat outside the top 400 in the world. Fast forward two years and Vu has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top-ranked player in the world with four wins and two major titles under her belt in 2023 alone.
Right on her heels is China’s Ruoning Yin, who was just a teenager the last time golf Olympic Golf took place two years ago in Tokyo. Yin had begun to make a name for herself as a rookie on the China LPGA Tour, but still sat outside the top 300 when the qualification window closed in 2021 for the Tokyo Olympics, and just inside the top 150 when the calendar flipped to 2023. Then came a breathtaking stretch of top 10s and two wins, including her first major victory at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Vu and Yin have emerged as two of the powerhouses of the women’s game over the course of “Moving Year,” and set themselves up to compete with other Olympic legends such as medalists Nelly Korda (2020 Gold) and Lydia Ko (2016 Silver; 2020 Bronze).
While the top of the men’s game has remained remarkably consistent over the past calendar year with three names taking turns at the top – Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy – it was just two years ago that Scheffler was in the midst of a steady but unspectacular climb, and Xander Schauffele was winning Olympic Gold. Scheffler had yet to win a tournament at the highest level; it was 2022 that saw the Texan win his first, second, third and fourth PGA Tour events in a two-month span and rise to World No. 1 with a Green Jacket in tow. After missing a chance to reach Olympian status two years ago, Scheffler is now in the strongest position to earn a trip to Paris next summer.
Both Rahm and McIlroy have reason to chase an Olympic legacy in 2024. Rahm was set to compete in his first Olympics in 2021 as the top-ranked player in the world before he was sidelined by a positive test for COVID-19 just before the competition. McIlroy competed and performed well, but narrowly missed medaling after falling in a seven-for-one playoff for Olympic Bronze to Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan.
Beyond the top of the OGR, 2023 will be remembered for a number of signature performances. Colombia’s Camilo Villegas went runner-up, win in back-to-back weeks to leap into the Ranking. Allisen Corpuz won the U.S. Women’s Open to do the same. South Korea’s Sungjae Im and Tom Kim won Gold at the Asian Games. Spain’s Carlota Ciganda starred in her hometown Solheim Cup. Sweden’s Ludvig Åberg was in college six months ago, and has since crashed the Ryder Cup, the PGA Tour and the OGR.
While there is still time for players to make a move in the early parts of 2024, 2023’s “Moving Year” is coming to a close. This time next year, 60 men and 60 women will have become Olympians, and six will forever be enshrined as Olympic medalists.