Tiger Woods back, 150th Open Championship in St Andrews and players to watch in 2022
Another intriguing year for golf is promised in 2022, a year that should mark another return of Tiger Woods, a historic Open Championship and the appointment of two new captains for the Ryder Cup.
There’s a lot to look forward to, including the emergence of potential new superstars, innovative women’s football, and political power games to fend off disruptors who want to shatter the status quo.
Here’s what we can expect in 2022, including my predictions for the majors …
The return of the tiger
Aside from his successful and laughing appearance with his son Charlie at the PNC Championship in Florida last month, 2021 has been a barren year for Tiger Woods, who recently turned 46.
Woods spent most of his time recovering from a car crash in February that nearly resulted in the loss of his right leg. His return to Orlando surprised many and while young Charlie stole the show, the outing proved the 15-time major champion can still play.
Realistically, however, it may be some time before we see him compete at the highest level again. Woods would love to play the tournament he promotes, the Genesis Invitational in Riviera in February, but it might turn out too soon.
Likewise for another favorite stop at Bay Hill in March and would Augusta’s ripple prove too physically demanding in April?
I would be very tempted to support his return to the St Andrews Open in July. The Old Course should be forgiving enough and what better place to come back than golf country where Woods won two of his three Open titles?
Opening of the monument
Either way, this week will be exceptional as golf celebrates the 150th Open. The oldest and most historic of all major tournaments has come a long way since eight men first played at Prestwick and Willie Park won the challenge belt in 1860.
The Open is one of the biggest sporting events in the world and there will be a party air when Collin Morikawa sets out to defend the title he won on his Open debut last summer.
There will likely be a mini championship challenge the day before the main competition. At the very least, we can expect to see Woods appear there.
A few weeks later, the AIG Women’s Open will be played at Muirfield for the first time. Many golfers will tell you that the sport still has a long way to go on the road to equality.
In 2017, Muirfield was due to change its men-only membership policy and hosting the biggest women’s golf event in the UK could be another big step. Expect a lot of focus on Anna Nordqvist’s title defense in August.
The dilemma of the European harbor master’s office
There is no Ryder Cup this year, but Europe and the United States will want to appoint captains as soon as possible.
With favorite Lee Westwood having pulled out of the race to lead Europe in next year’s game in Italy, one of his former partners, Luke Donald, is the most likely candidate to succeed Padraig Harrington.
Others in the frame include 2016 Open champion Henrik Stenson and fellow Swede Robert Karlsson. He is highly regarded for his analytical skills and has been vice-captain for the last two matches.
Francesco Molinari has solid credentials for an Italian post while Graeme McDowell is another future captain, but more likely for Adare Manor in 2027.
Is it too early for Ian Poulter? Observers are also wondering if Europe could break away from the recent convention and offer the job to a successful former skipper such as Thomas Bjorn, who led the continent to success in Paris in 2018.
After the record-breaking USA 19-9 win at Whistling Straits, Zach Johnson is the favorite to succeed Steve Stricker in their quest for a first away win this century, but a certain Mr. Woods could also be interested.
Europe could make its choice this month during the tour stop in Abu Dhabi. Either way, the Middle East will prove to be an increasingly important ground in the geopolitics of golf.
Money, money, money
Much attention surrounds Greg Norman’s attempt to revolutionize professional gaming, aided by a wad of Saudi cash in the back pocket to undermine the status quo.
Clearances have already been reluctantly granted by the PGA Tour to allow some of their biggest stars to compete without sanction at the February Saudi International, which is now an Asian Tour event.
But the specter of a Saudi-funded rebel super league lingers and we can expect established circuits on both sides of the Atlantic to try to find more imaginative ways to please the best players.
The announcement of a lucrative post-FedEx Cup streak with millions guaranteed and potentially a team element is not beyond possibilities.
The PGA and DP World (formerly European) circuits have already acted with the renowned Genesis Scottish Open in July counting on both circuits. Expect plenty of big-name American stars to make the pitch at the Renaissance Club the week before the Open.
Golf will continue to grapple with this problem with the R&A and USGA courting the best circuits and manufacturers to come to an agreement on how to restrict the golf ball length of course.
Potentially, local rules will be approved more frequently for elite golf. Some will see it as a stealthy fork to ensure that old ties such as the Old Course in St Andrews remain relevant for decades to come.
I expect American Sam Burns to become a household name in 2022. Only Jon Rahm, Morikawa and Viktor Hovland collected more points in the world rankings than the largely unrecognized Burns last year.
Hovland looks set to fight for a first major tournament, while a resurgent Thomas Pieters, Irishman Seamus Power (up 357 places to 72 in the world) and Danish twins Hojgaard, Nicolai and Rasmus, are on the line. good way for great seasons this year.
After her major breakthrough in 2021, I’m interested to see if the exciting Patty Tavatanakit can maintain the progress that has led the Thai to the sidelines of the top 10 women.
Nelly Korda and Jin Young Ko are formidable pointers, while Irish Solheim Cup heroine Leona Maguire has gone from 177 to a career-high 40th in the past 12 months. It has the strengths to rank among the best in the world this year.
Finally it is neck and neck the time of the block. Wishing you a happy new year, here are my top predictions for 2022 – my apologies to all who were selected, but feel free to let me know your choices in the comments section.
March 31 – April 3: Chevron Championship, Mission Hills, Rancho Mirage Ca: Lydie Ko
April 7-10: The Masters, Augusta, Georgia: Jordan spieth
May 19-22: PGA United States Championship, Southern Hills Tulsa, Oklahoma: Viktor Hovland
June 2-5: US Open Women’s Southern Pines, North Carolina: Patty tavatanakit
June 16-19: US Open, The Country Club, Brookline, Boston, Massachusetts: Justin thomas
June 23-26: KPMG Women’s PGA, Congress, Bethesda, Maryland: Jin young ko
July 14-17: The Open, St Andrews, Scotland: Rory McIlroy
July 21-24: Evian Championship, Evian-les-Bains: Danielle Kang
August 4-7: AIG Women’s Open, Muirfield, Scotland: Nelly korda