The 2022 PGA Tour Is In Full Swing
One of the things I like about the PGA TOUR is how it starts each January in Hawaii and works its way east, the tournaments getting bigger along the way.
It’s not by accident that the TOUR’s top events are carefully sprinkled across the calendar and it truly starts in February with Tiger Woods’ signature event, the Genesis Open, an invitational that attracts global talent to the fabulous Riviera Country Club layout in Pacific Palisades, California.
Now the TOUR heads to its Florida swing, and we’ll have six consecutive months that feature at least one event that the players truly gear up to play.
In March, it’s THE PLAYERS at TPC Sawgrass, April brings the season’s first major at The Masters, May is now home to the PGA Championship, The Open in July concludes the four major championships and the FedExCup Playoffs close the year by crowning a season-long champion in August.
In future weeks I’ll give you some young guys to watch, but this week I’ll focus on what I expect in 2022 from the top players on the PGA TOUR, subject to change as soon as one of them misses a cut.
TOUR’S TOP DOGS
*All photos provided by Marc Serota
He looks like an accountant, plays like an assassin. When Cantlay made his stirring run to the 2021 FedExCup title, many wondered if he’d take the money and battle complacency. It only takes a small slip to disappear on the PGA TOUR. But far from it, Cantlay looks ready for battle. Seems to be on the leader board every week, with three top 10s already in 2022. An emerging rivalry with world No. 1 Jon Rahm is fun to watch. The next step for Cantlay: Win a major.
The internet is buzzing this week over Rahm going to another putter for the final round of the Genesis, which can be an indication a player is searching. I don’t see that in this case. Rahm is a tremendous putter who was not seeing putts go in lately, so he probably just wanted a different look. Enjoy it while you can, fellow TOUR players, because when Rahm’s putter is on, he is a very tough out. I would bet the defending U.S. Open champ will win one of the four majors this year.
Morikawa already has two majors and he’s the best irons player in the world, and by a pretty substantial margin. My favorite thing about Morikawa is he never lets up. He’s never just “out there,” he stays focused and is highly competitive. His putting can be a bit up and down, but you hardly notice because he hits his iron shots so close to the hole. In the past two years he has won The Open, a PGA Championship and turned in a dominant Ryder Cup performance. One of the few players you are tempted to bet every time he is in the field.
Previously known as the best player yet to win on TOUR, Scheffler unloaded that millstone by winning the 2022 WM Phoenix Open. He’s got it all and he can get unbelievably hot. Some guys post low rounds by not making mistakes, some overcome them with birdies and eagles. That’s Scheffler. He’s poised to make the biggest move up this year of any U.S. player.
He’s already the first Norwegian player to win on the PGA TOUR, and also on the European Tour. At age 24 Hovland has three TOUR wins, top 25 finishes in three majors and he, along with Jon Rahm, has emerged as a cornerstone of Europe’s Ryder Cup teams. And don’t forget he won the U.S. Amateur in 2018. Hovland is a joy to watch because he finds a lot of joy in golf. At No. 4 in the rankings he currently is the best player in the world under age 25, though 23-year-old Joaquin Niemann is quickly moving up that list.
Almost seems strange to think of him as a TOUR veteran, but this is Thomas’ 10th season as a pro. And what a career he is having with 14 TOUR victories and a major. Most players would be happy to win once in their careers, and we take JT a bit for granted. Thomas just wins, and after seeing him go through a couple of so-so seasons in terms of scoring – yet still pick up victories – I see him poised for a strong 2022. Thomas wants majors and he almost seems like a guy who can’t help but win another if he can just relax and play golf.
Personally he is one of my favorites. I like how he conducts himself and I like the things he has to say. Had a chance to chat with him for a bit in 2019 and, once you meet Xander, you can’t help but like him. His caddy Austin Kaiser is a great guy too. Apart from all of that, the Tokyo Olympics gold medal winner has a lot of game. Schauffele can do it all and he’s still coming into his own. He’s not afraid to win. My prediction is he will claim either a major or THE PLAYERS this season.
DJ had won at least one event on TOUR every season for 13 years, but that streak is over and his most recent win is the 2020 Masters, played in November 2020. With Johnson at this point, it’s about maintaining the desire. He’s already got two majors and qualifies for the World Golf Hall of Fame with 20-plus TOUR victories. He has little left to prove except going for the career grand slam by winning The Open and PGA Championship. Maybe a reinvigorated Johnson gets one of the two this year?
Another guy already destined for the Hall of Fame. Twenty wins on TOUR, 14 more on the European Tour, four major championship titles – and he’s only 32! McIlroy is a threat to win any time he plays – if he’s got the putter rolling. In the past few years, as McIlroy settled into married life and became a father, I wondered how much competitive fire he still has. He’s so good that when he’s not scoring well it can look like he’s going through the motions. But I’m impressed with the leadership role McIlroy has taken among TOUR players and I see him eyeing 2022 with a lot of excitement. He remains one of the best ball strikers and shot makers in the game.
I have him here because his ceiling remains very high. Why? Smith can get red-hot and I’ve seen it happen. I was following his group at the 2021 Northern Trust when Smith had a putt on 18 to shoot 59, and let me tell you that 60 seemed like a walk in the park for the talented Australian. He’s got such a solid game and he’s shown the ability to play well over extended periods of time. One of those players who when he gets rolling, it seems like he birdies every hole. A few months ago I might have listed Bryson DeChambeau here, but his hyper-speed golf swing seems to already be taking a toll on his body, while Smith’s classic action is built to last. He’s got four TOUR wins and 2022 sees Slammin’ Cam take it to the next level.