This time of year used to be called the silly season in the game of professional golf. The official season would begin in January with the winner’s only event at Kapalua in Hawaii. We on the east coast would get prime time golf and watch the game’s best tee it up in paradise while we snuggled up in front of our fireplace. We get to see the players with their new equipment if they changed sponsors, or their new caddies, which happens from time to time. Fall golf used to mean “silly” but fun events like the Shark Shootout, Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge, the PNC Father-Son, and to go way back…The Skins Game around Thanksgiving. While some of these other charitable and laid back events still exist and are fun to watch, there is still meaningful and important golf being played. Events like Sanderson and Shriners in Las Vegas pay big bucks and are worth world ranking and FedEx Cup points. Thus, are legit PGA Tour events. Which is why we now have what we call a wraparound season.
If you blink you may miss the PGA Tour season. When you have the Tour Championship and then President’s or Ryder Cup, there’s about 2 weeks between the official end of the season and the start of the new one. I’d like there to be more of an offseason like the other sports but at the same time I enjoy all the televised golf we get. Plus, the best players often take a break after the playoffs and whatever team event occurs that fall, if they are so privileged to qualify. So come January the season may be well underway, but 2022 is a new year. No matter what we always plan to make the new year better than the last. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way but that’s always the plan; always the goal. Here are my predictions for the 2021/2022 PGA Tour season. Some bold. Some obvious. All just for fun discussion.
Tiger Woods plays a tournament I do think it will happen later than sooner, but the most recent pics of the GOAT standing upright on both feet while watching son Charlie hit balls is more than promising. That photo excited me so much I may send it out in my Christmas card this year. I much prefer it to the image of his car flipped over that median back in February. Tiger owes us nothing but I know he wants to return more than anyone. Just seeing him out n about within the game at some capacity is a gift for all of us.
Jason Kokrak makes the US President’s Cup team He sat 15th in points when Captain Steve Stricker made his 6 picks for the US Ryder Cup team. Stricks obviously did a marvelous job with a long overdue routing of the European squad. But I had Jay Kokrak as one of my picks with 2 wins in 2021 and taking down Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele in each win respectively. He also totally resurrected his game with the flatstick, improving from somewhere around 200th on tour to 6th in stroked gained putting. Combine that with being top-5 in driving distance and you have a recipe for another multi-win season and a USA uniform at Quail Hollow.
Rory will win a major Rory is missing something these days. Still one of the best in the world but he’s missing something to take him over the hump during one of those four weeks a year. I’m not sure if it’s a concrete thing. He does rank near the bottom of the tour on proximity to the hole with wedges. I’ve seen him miss a green from 100 yards. That is an issue that definitely needs buttoned up if you’re going to win a major. Rory clearly still has the fire, right? We saw how emotional he was after the Ryder Cup loss. I think he uses that fire to reignite the ball striking beast inside of him. He’s been super happy with his family life, baby daughter and wife. Perhaps he’s been too content? That can often happen. But after being embarrassed and getting waxed by the US in Wisconsin I think Rory wants to remind everyone exactly who he is. I think Brookline for the US Open and St. Andrews suit his game well. And of course Quail Hollow where he’s won twice.
Rickie Fowler returns to form Fowler is one of golf’s greatest ambassadors since Arnold Palmer. The game is lucky to have him and needs him to perform at the level at he’s capable. His fall from grace and struggles are due to swing changes. Butch Harmon was able to get the most our Fowler’s flat swing and his new coach has him trying to add some steepness. This has caused all kinds of inconsistencies and put tremendous pressure on Rickie’s best club…his putter. In his last 30 rounds of 2021 he made 25 double bogies. Hitting greens and getting it close to the hole has been the issue. Fowler is too good and too important to golf for this to continue and I look for a bounce back in a huge way. I know he was sick to miss the playoffs and the Ryder Cup. Once he has some strong finishes and sees a few top-10’s it could all snowball in the right direction, and all will be right with the world.
Lexi Thompson dominates LPGA Like Rory McIlroy, it’s been awhile for world-class player Lexi Thompson. But it’s not just a major drought; she hasn’t won a regular tour event in 2 years. She held the lead at this year’s US Open but a final round 75 had her finish one shot out of the playoff. She did make her 5th Solheim Cup team but played mediocre. Thompson has 14 career wins including a major and guess what…she’s only 26. She continues to be one of the biggest US stars in women’s golf and I look for her to have a 2022 season similar to what Nelly Korda accomplished in ’21.
Phil Mickelson wins the PGA Tour Champions Grand Slam I know this sounds crazy and outlandish but it’s extremely possible. Winning 4 majors in a single calendar year is a near impossible feat, but the Champions Tour has 5! Lefty has won 3 of his 4 starts on the over 50 circuit, and not only is he still one of the longest players on the PGA Tour, he is the longest player on the PGA Tour Champions. It’s not even a guarantee Philly plays all the senior majors next year, but it’s a fun and wild thought I just had to get on paper, ya know…in case it happens.
2022 Major Champions
Masters, Augusta National – Justin Thomas
PGA Championship, Quail Hollow – Rory McIlroy
US Open, Country Club at Brookline – Dustin Johnson
The Open Championship, Old Course St. Andrews – Xander Schauffele
2022 Rookie of the Year – Mito Pereira
It’s hard to call him a rookie with 7 starts on tour last year, but I don’t make the rules. In those 7 starts he had two top-6 finishes. He enjoyed 3 wins on the Korn Ferry Tour and was just shy of winning the Bronze for Chile at the Olympics. A lot of talent and already some big time experience for a rookie.
Enjoy the game and each other,
Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional