By Mathieu Wood
The 2022-23 season on the DP World Tour was punctuated by several players emerging to prominence as they made their breakthrough.
Across 46 tournaments in 24 different countries, performance was as high as ever as the stars of the game competed on a global stage across 185 days of competition.
Among the many storylines in a memorable campaign were the breakthroughs into the winner’s circle for several who appear set to enjoy long careers at the top of the game.
As the year draws towards a close, we profile six DP World Tour members who made their mark on the 2023 Race to Dubai.
- Age: 24
- Official World Golf Ranking: 32
This time last year, only the most ardent observer would have known of Ludvig Åberg. Now, however, he is a household name.
After a stellar amateur career, culminating with him becoming the first player to join the PGA TOUR directly from college via PGA TOUR University in June, Åberg made an immediate impression as a professional. In his fourth start in the paid ranks stateside he finished in a tie for fourth at the John Deere Classic.
But it was perhaps a week earlier at the Rocket Mortgage Classic that he offered sight of his potential. Playing alongside European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald, Åberg stood in the top five after each of the first two rounds.
His rapid rise to recognition continued with back-to-back starts on European soil, winning his maiden DP World Tour title at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland.
The very next day he was rewarded with a Captain’s Pick by Donald, who described him as a “generational” talent. Well, after being in contention at the prestigious BMW PGA Championship, Åberg delivered a fearless performance on the biggest of stages at the Ryder Cup.
Across his four matches, he delivered two points, including a 9&7 win alongside Viktor Hovland against Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka – the biggest victory in an 18-hole match in Ryder Cup history.
After becoming the quickest player to compete in a Ryder Cup after turning professional, Åberg focused his attentions on the PGA TOUR fall schedule. His rise showed no signs of slowing down and he claimed his first PGA TOUR title in record-setting fashion at the RSM Classic in November.
Having started the year at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic ranked outside the world’s top 3000, the 24-year-old finishes it comfortably inside the top 50. He is indisputably one of golf’s superstars.
- Age: 25
- Official World Golf Ranking: 71
It’s been quite the year for Swedish golf talent in the men’s game. Åberg’s former international amateur teammate Vincent Norrman is another to have enjoyed a breakthrough campaign.
Having made his professional debut on the DP World Tour at the BMW International Open in 2021, Norrman played almost exclusively stateside in 2022, earning his PGA TOUR card via the Korn Ferry Tour.
But it is firmly in 2023 that he has earned wider recognition. Victory at the Barbasol Championship in a play-off in July saw him earn his first DP World Tour and PGA TOUR titles.
Less than two months later, he claimed his second professional victory at the Irish Open as a final-round 65 saw him charge through the field and win by one shot at The K Club.
They were performances that had certainly alerted his ability to his more experienced European counterparts on Tour.
Having been ranked just inside the top 300 on the Official World Golf Ranking prior to the Barbasol Championship, he had climbed inside the top 100 with his victory at the island of Ireland's national open.
A top 20 followed on his Rolex Series debut at the BMW PGA Championship. This was a player making great strides.
And he added further credence to the belief he will become an integral component in a new cohort of young European golfers who will enjoy success internationally, boosted by him having playing rights on both sides of the Atlantic.
- Age: 21
- Official World Golf Ranking: 79
It’s not just Åberg who has enjoyed a remarkable rise in 2023.
Having earned his playing privileges on the DP World Tour for the first time through Qualifying School last year, Ryo Hisatsune enjoyed a memorable maiden campaign.
The Japanese started his career on the DP World Tour in style by sharing second place at the season-opening Fortinet Australian PGA Championship last November.
That was followed by top tens in consecutive starts at the Hero Indian Open and Magical Kenya Open Presented by Absa in early 2023.
His highlight came shortly after turning 21, he won his first DP World Tour title at the Cazoo Open de France – becoming just the third Japanese winner in DP World Tour history after Isao Aoki and Hideki Matsuyama.
Hisatsune recorded seven other top-ten finishes as he finished his debut campaign in 17th position on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex.
He ended the season by sharing 18th position in the DP World Tour Championship as he secured dual membership with the PGA TOUR for the 2024 season, taking the tenth and final available card.
His achievements saw him recognised as the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, beating a strong list of contenders to the prestigious award.
- Age: 31
- Official World Golf Ranking: 96
While some make an early impact as a professional, for others their breakthrough can come after years of graft.
Like Åberg, Norrman and Hisatsune, Matthieu Pavon can look forward to playing on both the DP World Tour and PGA TOUR next season.
For the Frenchman, it is perhaps a realisation he didn’t believe would come his way.
He has played on the DP World Tour since 2016, and while he has finished in the top 100 on the Race to Dubai in every year barring one, a title had eluded him.
That was until the acciona Open de España presented by Madrid when he powered to a wire-to-wire victory in the Spanish capital.
He already had four top-tens in 2023, but his triumph in Spain provided him an added boost of confidence that he used in the remainder of the season.
Despite the disappointment of falling away in the final round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge, the 31-year-old showed his mental strength to bounce back with a share of fifth at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
And in doing so, he climbed from outside to inside the top 10 of the Race to Dubai Rankings – PGA TOUR Eligibility ranking in the final week.
First win on tour ✅— Matthieu Pavon (@matthieupavon) November 23, 2023
Top 30 race to dubai ✅
Top 100 OWGR ✅
Earn PGA Tour Card ✅
Rendons cette saison 2024 encore plus spéciale !
Merci à toutes et à tous pour votre bienveillance et votre soutien ! 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/0pyFqJ0m5d
- Age: 25
- Official World Golf Ranking: 140
There were two winners on the DP World Tour from New Zealand in 2023.
One was a familiar figure in Ryan Fox while the other was a player competing in his first full season on the DP World Tour.
Daniel Hillier graduated from the European Challenge Tour at the end of last season and made the most of it, emerging as one of 18 first-time winners on the 2023 Race to Dubai.
His winning moment came at the Betfred British Masters hosted by Sir Nick Faldo, after he went eagle-birdie-eagle in a three-hole stretch on the back nine in the final round at The Belfry.
After an indifferent start to the season, he found his groove in Europe, registering top fives at the KLM Open and the BMW International Open before his triumph in England – a result that earned him qualification for The 151st Open.
While results were hard to come by after that, Hillier rediscovered his form with three consecutive top-20s across events in Spain and Qatar.
Those results in turn went a long way to ensuring he made it to the DP World Tour Championship as one of the top 50 on the Race to Dubai.
He would finish the campaign 30th on the season-long rankings, the highest placed Challenge Tour graduate.
- Age: 24
- Official World Golf Ranking: 151
Having only turned professional midway through 2022, Dan Bradbury made headlines last November with a wire-to-wire victory on the opening weekend of the season.
Coming into the Joburg Open with no status, he became the player with the lowest position on the Official World Golf Ranking to win a DP World Tour event, starting the week 1,397th.
As if the silverware wasn't enough, his life-changing first victory in what was just his third start on the DP World Tour also secured him a spot in the field for The Open at Hoylake.
The Englishman made every cut in his first seven starts, with his fantastic run only coming to an end at the Thailand Classic.
During that time, he impressed at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic as he played in the same group as eventual winner Rory McIlroy in both the third and fourth rounds.
There have been plenty more highs since, including three holes-in-one – matching the record across a single season.
A sequence of four consecutive top 20s towards the end of the season culminated with his debut appearance at the DP World Tour Championship.
He finished the 2022-23 season 36th on the Race to Dubai and he has since climbed the world rankings with an encouraging start to the new campaign.