In 2022, who will be the most exciting golfer? In a career that has been defined by comebacks, is it Tiger Woods and his search for another one? Does Jon Rahm hope to win two major championships in a row and atone for some of his close calls in 2021? Were you surprised to see Jordan Spieth make a comeback and reclaim his place in the world’s top-20?
The offseason in golf is short, but many players take time off in the fall and winter to assess where they are in their careers and what they might accomplish in the upcoming year. It’s time to take a look at the 10 most intriguing players heading into the new year.
Any number of adjectives may be inserted after “most,” but these are the men whose professional biographies are the most intriguing to read about. It’s possible that someone from outside the top 500 of the world may win two tournaments in February and suddenly find themselves on the list. For the time being, however, we’re talking about golfers who will be stars in 2022, or at the very least, those who are on the verge of being stars.
1. Tiger Woods
After the last month, it would be extremely disingenuous to have anyone else No. 1 here. If Tiger is active, and even remotely healthy, everything revolves around him, and it always will. The fact that his swing speed and ball speed were both top shelf at the PNC Championship a few weeks ago and that it’s been over a year since he played in an OWGR event, he’s an easy No. 1, especially with Augusta National and the Old Course at St. Andrews on deck in 2022.
2. Bryson DeChambeau
It’s difficult to unseat DeChambeau, and the only person capable of doing so is the greatest player of all time, who is still recovering from a tragic automobile accident. Even when he’s not playing well, DeChambeau is a blast to watch. He finished outside the top 10 in all four majors last year, and I’m curious what he does to make amends.
3. Collin Morikawa
Without that Open Championship win, I wouldn’t have Morikawa ranked as high as I do. When it comes to his first eight majors, we’re talking about a pace that hasn’t been seen in nearly a century (Bobby Jones did it in the 1920s). How many of his first ten can he get right? In his first dozen attempts, he made four errors. Even if Morikawa lacks DeChambeau’s level of content creation, his game is in a more stable position heading into the new year and is exciting to follow on its own merits going into 2022.
4. Jon Rahm
He resembles both of the men in front of him. He has a lot to say, and his overall game is superior to that of Morikawa. Oh, and he’s the best player on earth, yet his victory total in 2021 was abysmal compared to his stats. What’s the status of the correction? It’s also possible that someone who has followed in the footsteps of Rory McIlroy may take on an even greater presence in the sport in 2022 and beyond.
5. Jordan Spieth
Even though Jordan Spieth made a U-turn in 2021, he still seems unstable going into 2022, as Data Golf presented an interesting statistical comparison for Spieth this week (Freddie Couples). I think he’ll have another top-10 year, but I’m not as confident as I was, say, four years ago, in that prediction. Regardless of how things are going, he’s the kind of player that keeps you interested. Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy are just two of the 29 individuals who might join him in the four-major club.
6. Viktor Hovland
He maybe wouldn’t be on here if he was 30, but he’s 24 and youth wins out when it comes to intrigue. He also has three PGA Tour wins and is coming off another (unofficial) victory at the Hero World Challenge in December. I have yet to meet somebody in the sport who has anything but glowing things to say about him. Oh yeah, he’s maybe the single best ball-striker on the planet. So I’m very intrigued by Hovland in 2022.
7. Brooks Koepka
Speaking of clubs, Koepka can get to five major wins this year, which only 19 other men have done and only 12 have done since World War II. His golf, especially at non-majors, is not always the most exciting, but as a player and an historical figure, the intrigue is limitless. He’s also not afraid to say whatever is on is mind, which we found out just before last year’s Ryder Cup. Though his words can be abrasive, they often contain a load of truth.
8. Rory McIlroy
While I’m dubious about McIlroy winning a major, he’s too intertwined as the preeminent voice of the entire sport to leave off this list. He played terrifically at the end of 2021 following his emotional Ryder Cup, and he carries a gravity that few others in the sport currently emit. Any tournament he shows up at matters simply because he showed up. I’m intrigued to see if he can go on an extended run of world-class play similarly to how he did after his emotional missed cut at the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush when he went on a run of eight top 10s in his last 10 events.
9. Justin Thomas
You could make the argument — I probably wouldn’t, but you could — that he’s the best player in the world. J.T. admitted at the end of 2021 that the year was not a success for him – despite winning the Players – and he has more “I have to win this event” in him than most of the superstars in the sport, which means he could come out hot starting 2022. The part that I’ll be focused on with him is his major performance. Since winning the 2017 PGA Championship, he has just three top 10s in his last 14 appearances, which does not match up with where his talent level is at.
10. Matthew Wolff
There were at least five other guys I could have put in this spot — Will Zalatoris, Patrick Reed, Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele among them — but Wolff has that level of talent and I also have less of an idea what I’m getting from him. He could rack up two top 10s at majors like he did at the end of 2020, or he could be away from the game for long stretches like he was in 2021. Regardless, I’m extremely intrigued by how he performs, where (if) he contends and what the third full year of what has been a very successful career to date looks like.
Read the original article on CBS Sports.