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January 2, 2024

Rahm, Vu, Stricker named players of the year

By Alabama Golf News Staff
Jon Rahm GWAA POY 2023

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jon Rahm, Lilia Vu and Steve Stricker, three players who made a mark on this year’s biggest stages in golf, have been voted 2023 Players of the Year in their respective divisions by the Golf Writers Association of America.

All three were dominant on their respective tours and were major forces in the 2023 season. Spain’s Rahm, 29, the GWAA’s Male Player of the Year, captured his first Masters, playing through difficult conditions to become the only player to reach double-digits under par. It was the second major title for Rahm (2021 U.S. Open) and it arrived on the tail of three early-season PGA Tour victories: Sentry Tournament of Champions, The American Express and The Genesis Invitational.

“I am very grateful to have received this award,” Rahm said in a statement released by his manager. “Our writers carefully follow every event and shot throughout the year, so being chosen as the Player of the Year by them is something I am going to cherish.”

Jon Rahm finished top-10 in 10 of his 20 PGA Tour starts in 2023 and was a key player in urope’s Ryder Cup victory in Italy. Rahm received 48.9 percent of the first-place votes, beating a field of finalists that included FedEx Cup champion Viktor Hovland of Norway (33 percent) and Texas’ Scottie Scheffler (18.1 percent), a two-time winner and 2022 GWAA Male Player of the Year.

Vu, 26, a former standout at UCLA, listed two major titles among her four 2023 LPGA victories. She collected her first LPGA win at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February, then followed by winning two majors – the Chevron Championship and AIG Women’s Open – before capping her season by winning The Annika driven by Gainbridge at Pelican, where she rose to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings.

“I think it’s just been wild,” Vu said at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, where she clinched LPGA Rolex Player of the Year honors. Vu became only the second American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to win Rolex Player of the Year, joining Stacy Lewis, who won the award in 2014.

“I came in (to 2023) with no expectations because last year I had too many, and was hard on myself,” Vu said. “I’m trying to enjoy every moment and be grateful I’m out here.”

Vu edged Angel Yin in a playoff to win at Chevron and coasted to a six-shot victory at the AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath in England, where she closed strongly with a final round of 67. She finished third among LPGA players in scoring in 2023 and played in her first Solheim Cup. She earned 72.9 percent of the GWAA’s first-place votes, defeating two other 2023 major winners and fellow finalists: France’s Celine Boutier (Amundi Evian Championship) and China’s Ruoning Yin (KMPG Women’s PGA Championship).

Stricker, 56, whose 2022 season was slowed by a mysterious illness that kept him out of competition until May, completely dominated the PGA Tour Champions in 2023. In 16 starts, he won six times and was runner-up in five other events.

Three of Stricker’s victories were senior majors: Regions Tradition, Kaulig Companies Championship (formerly the Senior Players) and KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. In his fourth major start (U.S. Senior Open) Stricker finished runner-up to Bernhard Langer at SentryWorld, in his home state of Wisconsin.

Stricker’s 2023 on-course earnings ($3.96 million) marked a single-season PGA Tour Champions record, as did his stroke average (67.54). Stricker wrapped up the season-long Charles Schwab Cup despite not appearing in the Playoffs. He cited two special highlights from his 2023 season.

This marked the first time for any of the three winners to be honored as Player of the Year by the Golf Writers Association of America, an organization that was founded in 1946 to promote camaraderie among those who cover the game and to improve working conditions at tournaments. All three will be honored at the 50th annual ISPS Handa GWAA Dinner which takes place in Augusta, Georgia, on April 10, the eve of the 88th Masters.

Have a story idea or a news item to report to Alabama Golf News? Email gregg@alabamagolfnews.com

Featured image courtesy of the Jon Rahm website

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