Collin Morikawa primed for more success and Rory McIlroy’s career Grand Slam hopes: The golf agenda for 2022

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The pattern of golf over the last decade has been for the game’s elite players to enjoy short periods of major-winning success, and there is every reason to believe that will continue in 2022.

Rory McIlroy won four majors in three years after his first in 2011, before Jordan Spieth looked set for a period of domination after he secured three in as many years. He has not won a major since the Open in 2017 though, with Brooks Koepka then taking over the mantle at the top of the men’s game, winning back-to-back US Open and PGA Championship trophies.

This time last year it was Dustin Johnson looking imperious, coming off the back of a November win at The Masters, but he then failed to win a single tournament in 2021. He went unbeaten at the Ryder Cup in September though and has only played once since, so his form heading into January is a bit of a mystery.

Jon Rahm won his first major at the US Open earlier this year and it is the Spaniard and Collin Morikawa, ranked first and second in the world respectively, who appear most likely to become the next players to win golf’s biggest prizes in batches.

Rahm’s worst result at a major in 2021 was T8th, with Covid the only thing thing that could slow him down in the summer. He has four top-ten finishes at The Masters in a row, and is likely to be favourite for a first Green Jacket when the first tee-shot is hit on Thursday morning in April.

Morikawa has two wins in just eight major starts, including on his Open debut this year, and the 24-year-old is primed for a big 12 months. He capped off a stellar year with the Race to Dubai crown, and the best iron player in the world has earned comparisons to Tiger Woods after an incredible start to his career.

McIlroy will arrive at Augusta once again searching for a career Grand Slam - seven times he has unsuccessfully attempted to complete his set of majors at the tournament. The Northern Irishman’s six months working with coach Pete Cowen and impressive form towards the end of 2021 suggests he is on the path to producing his best golf.

Phil Mickelson at the US Open and Spieth at the PGA Championship are the other players closest to joining the five-member career Grand Slam club.

Much of the build-up to The Masters will likely be centred on whether Tiger Woods plays. The 46-year-old featured alongside his son Charlie just before Christmas at the PNC Championship, his first tournament since a serious car accident in February, and it remains to be seen what schedule he is capable of in 2022. Augusta’s undulating holes make it an extremely tough walk - potentially too tough for Woods at this stage of his recovery.

The 150th Open will take place in July at St Andrews. Big-hitter Bryson DeChambeau has described the course as his “golden ticket” and should conditions be calm, there is a chance his distance proves too much for the Old Course. He will hope the easing of his rivalry with Koepka brings an upturn in form.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It will be a home major for Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, who has the talent to establish himself as one of Europe’s best young players. Much is also expected of the Hojgaard twins, Rasmus and Nicolai, while Francesco Molinari will be desperate to end his slump ahead of a 2023 Ryder Cup in Italy.

The return to form of Spieth in 2021 was a welcome sight and he is expected to become a regular contender for majors again, particularly at The Masters and the Open where he has superb records. Justin Thomas will hope to find more consistency now he’s with caddie Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay, who worked with Mickelson for 25 years. An ice-cold putter held Thomas back for much of the year.

Sam Burns is on course to be become one of the world’s very best over the next 12 months, with two PGA Tour wins in 2021 as he finished the year ranked 11th in the world. The 25-year-old’s best result in a major is T29th, but that will surely be significantly improved in the near future.

The 2022 Presidents Cup, between a USA and International team, takes place in September. The Americans have not lost the team competition since 1998, and their sensational performance at the Ryder Cup showed there is no reason to believe that record will worsen anytime soon.

There are a couple of new changes to look out for on the PGA Tour. New restrictions on green-reading books are being introduced to give players less information when putting, while the maximum length of a driver has been reduced to 46 inches as golf’s ruling bodies look to address the issue of distance off the tee.

With Rahm and Morikawa battling for the world number one spot, a potentially in-form McIlroy, Johnson and Spieth among those looking to add to their major tallies, and Tiger Woods making his return to golf, there is plenty to be excited about heading into 2022.

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