The drama that consumed the golf world in 2022 became content for Netflix in 2023 when the eight-episode “Full Swing” documentary hit screens last month. Much like its spiritual forefather, F1’s “Drive to Survive,” “Full Swing” transformed players into celebrities, introducing the wider world to the obsessed Justin Thomas, the swing-and-cash-checks Dustin Johnson, the joyous goofball Joel Dahmen, the data-minded Matt Fitzpatrick, and so many more.
Now that we’re rolling into the heart of the 2023 season, it’s time to catch up with the characters — sorry, players — that we followed through the episodes of “Full Swing.” We’ll rank them throughout the 2023 season based on a highly sophisticated algorithm that combines on-course performance, general vibes, and actions that will end up in Season 2. We’ve got a clear leader already …
1. Scottie Scheffler: Episode 2, “Win or Go Home,” was remarkable because of the downfall of Brooks Koepka. (More on that later.) Scheffler was an afterthought in his own episode, which fits because he’s still overlooked on Tour — right up until the moment he just absolutely wrecks shop, like he did this past weekend at Sawgrass. Call him boring if you want, but call him “Sir” when you do.
2. Jordan Spieth: The downbeat tone of what would become Episode 2 forced producers to move “Frenemies,” the Spieth-Thomas episode, into the leadoff spot. Wise choice. Spieth spent the 2010s as golf’s Golden Child, and although he’s fallen off that pace, he still possesses the ability to turn a routine tournament into an Event — like this past weekend, where he made the cut basically by bouncing a shot off a fan’s knee.
What are the odds?! @JordanSpieth’s tee shot was heading into the water before his ball hit a fan and ricocheted back in the fairway.
It likely would have made the difference in Spieth making the cut @THEPLAYERSChamp. https://t.co/W3dqAnl30I pic.twitter.com/IRiHzRS30N
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 10, 2023
3. Rory McIlroy: The season finale “Everything Has Led to This” focused not just on McIlroy’s tragic fall in last year’s Open Championship, but how he’s become the PGA Tour’s white knight in its ongoing battle against LIV Golf. “I'd love to get back to being a golfer, yeah,” he said after missing the cut this week at The Players. “Honestly it's been a busy sort of six or eight months.” Bad for him, but good for “Full Swing” viewers.
4. Joel Dahmen: The undisputed star of “Full Swing” was Dahmen, the merry weirdo whose joy-slash-disbelief at his own success was a stark contrast to the ironclad, arrogant security of most of the other players. He didn’t do anything particularly significant at The Players, but he didn’t need to; he’s already a gallery favorite because of his star turn in the documentary. “It’s hard to get used to,” he told Golf.com. “Especially when I’ve been over par for most of the tournament.”
5. Collin Morikawa: Morikawa suffered a bit in comparison to the freewheeling Tony Finau in Episode 6, “Don’t Get Bitter, Get Better,” his methodical approach a sharp contrast to the familial chaos of the Finau crew. Morikawa stormed out to the top of the leaderboard at TPC Sawgrass this weekend, but slipped a bit off the pace, finishing T13 after two wobbly rounds.
6. Sahith Theegala: Barely made the cut, then fell apart on the weekend at the Players. But the co-star of Episode 7, “Golf is Hard,” gets the nod here because of his persistent quotability. When asked if he felt he’s a Top 30 player in the world, he didn’t hesitate. “I’m not. I'm overrated. You're telling me there's only 28 guys better than me? No way. There are parts of my game that are good. But then there are other parts that suck."
7. Tony Finau: Powered by a strong Saturday 66, Finau finished T19 at the Players. Not a bad recovery given his first-day dunk at the Island Green:
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 9, 2023
Everybody’s just waiting to see the entire Finau crew in little caddy unis at the Par 3 contest, of course.
8. Justin Thomas: Unremarkable, if symmetrical, weekend for the reigning PGA champion: 73-73-71-71. His relentless drive in the first ep drew a few social media laughs — he was more intense than many of the Formula 1 drivers who risk death at every turn — but he acknowledged that the overall effect was positive and he’s on board for Season 2. “I've heard a lot of good things out from the outside or from some friends,” he said prior to The Players, “so I guess that's good enough for me.”
9. Ian Poulter: The LIV-iest of the LIV golfers in “Full Swing,” Poulter was unapologetic about his desires in Episode 3, “Money or Legacy.” At the LIV season’s first event in February, Poulter finished 12th and pocketed $405,000. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but if Poulter had shot the same -4 at the 2022 PGA Tour event held just a couple months before at the same site, he would have taken home … about $17,000. Not a bad upgrade.
10. Matt Fitzpatrick: In Episode 5, “American Dreams,” Fitzpatrick was shown documenting literally every single shot he’s ever hit. The good news this weekend: He only had to track half as many as he usually does, since he missed the cut and went home early. He’ll get better.
11. Mito Pereira: The most heartbreaking story of both “Full Swing” and the 2022 season in general thanks to his 72nd-hole loss at the PGA Championship. Finished 15th at his first LIV event, which is not quite a replacement.
12. Brooks Koepka: The most tragic fall of “Full Swing” belongs to Koepka, who appeared adrift and lost as Scheffler won last year’s Masters. He finished T27 at the LIV Mayakoba event, and he’ll have his eye on a better performance at Augusta in a few weeks.
13. Dustin Johnson: Pretty much the only LIV defector that’s escaped unscathed, mainly because he was upfront about his motivations — the money, man, the money — and he resigned from the PGA Tour. Won the whole thing last year and took home $35 million, so a T35 finish in the first LIV event of the year isn’t exactly going to concern him.
The next LIV event tees off this weekend in Tucson. Several “Full Swing” notables, including Thomas, Spieth and Fitzpatrick, will play the Tour’s next stop at the Valspar Championship. Three weeks from now, they’ll all come together at The Masters … and that’s where the fireworks will begin.