Golf In 2022 – Preview Of The Pro Game
We consider the biggest events of the 2022 season and some significant political movements in the administration and funding of the elite game.
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Golf in 2022. After a barnstorming 2021, this season has a lot to live up to in terms of excitement in the professional game.
Related: Golf in 2021 - Key moments in the pro game
From a competitive perspective the focus will be on the Majors in both the men’s and women’s games, with an ever-growing pool of international talent contesting the most prestigious tournaments.
There may be no trans-Atlantic team contests on the calendar, but the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow in September will provide the international team a great opportunity to demonstrate the growing strength of golf across the globe. They’ll take on a U.S. side that should be as robust as the one that showed Europe a clean pair of heels at Whistling Straits last September.
Off course, 2022 will see some significant changes and investments that could have long-term effects for pro golf. The season could be a transitional one with a new competitive schedule starting to take shape.
Majors – Men
In standard style, the men’s Major season begins at Augusta with the 86th Masters Tournament from the 7th-10th of April. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama will defend. As it’s an invitation-only tournament, the field is smaller than most regular Tour events, and the other three Majors, with just 90-100 players teeing it up. Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have both won five Masters titles. Jack should be one of the honorary starters again this year and it will be interesting to see if Tiger Woods is an actual starter following an extended injury layoff.
The USPGA Championship will be played at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma from the 19th of May. Phil Mickelson will defend the Wanamaker Trophy, teeing up against one of the strongest fields in golf. First played in 1916, the USPGA was a matchplay event until 1958, since when it has been contested over 72 holes of strokeplay. Southern Hills has played host to four previous USPGA Championships, most recently in 2007 when Tiger held off Woody Austin and Ernie Els to take the title.
From the 16-19th of June, the U.S. Open will be played at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. Jon Rahm defends at a venue European golfing fans know all too well. It was at Brookline in 1999 that the States won an intense Ryder Cup that culminated in a U.S “pitch invasion” of the 17th green. It will be the first U.S. Open held at Brookline since Curtis Strange beat Nick Faldo in a playoff for the title there in 1988.
Finally, golf comes home for The 150th Open Championship at St Andrews from the 14th-17th of July. A sell-out, it’s set to be the golfing event of the year. Collin Morikawa will defend after his fine win at Royal St George’s, and the best in the world will be keen to add a rare accolade to their CVs – To become only the 25th player to be named “champion golfer of the year” at St Andrews.
Majors – Women
The 2022 women’s Majors kick off with the Chevron Championship at Mission Hills Country Club, California from the 31st of March to the 3rd of April. Formerly the ANA Inspiration, the event will move to a later date and a new venue (probably around Houston) from 2023. Patty Tavatanakit defends and players will compete for a purse of $5 million – a 60% rise from 2021.
On then to Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in North Carolina for the U.S. Women’s Open from the 2nd-6th of June. Yuka Saso defends at a venue that’s hosted the event three times previously. Taking the past champions at Pine Needles as a barometer, Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Cristie Kerr, we should see a worthy winner.
The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will be played at Congressional Country Club in Maryland from the 23rd-26th of June. Nelly Korda defends at a venue that has hosted three U.S. Opens and a PGA Championship over the decades.
The Evian Championship will once again be played at the Evian Resort, Evian Les Bains in July. With stunning views of the surrounding Alpine countryside, Minjee Lee will be defending champion in an event that has held Major status since 2013.
There’s a new venue for the AIG Women’s Open as it heads to Muirfield from the 4th-7th of August for the first time. As The R&A looks to close the gap in prize money between the men’s and women’s games, the purse at Muirfield will be $6.8 million. Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist will defend the title she claimed at Carnoustie in 2021.
There’s huge money in the elite professional game with various factions attempting to maintain, expand or gain their piece of the pie. The PGA Tour continues to offer players the opportunity for a series of bumper paydays. None more so than the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. Already with the biggest purse in any single tournament in professional golf, the prize fund has been increased to an obscene $20 million for 2022. When Justin Thomas defends his title from the 8th of March, he’ll be competing for a top prize of $3.6 million. Total prize fund on the 2022 PGA Tour will be an eye-popping $633 million.
The European Tour is fighting hard to keep pace and 2022 sees a new partnership for the circuit with DP World. 50 years since the foundation of the European Tour, it is, from 2022, called the DP World Tour. The objective of the partnership is to elevate the Tour and this means a full 12 month schedule of 47 tournaments with a total prize fund of $200 million – the highest in European Tour history. There will be a minimum fund of $2 million for each event and a prize fund of $10 million for the DP World Tour Championship. In addition, investment will be made in the Challenge Tour, grassroots golf and charitable causes.
Related: European Tour becomes DP World Tour
A Strategic Alliance?
2022 will also see the first year of a new strategic alliance between the European and PGA Tours. In it, the PGA Tour has acquired a minority investment stake in European Tour Productions (ETP), the European Tour’s Media Production company, which produces and distributes content internationally. The Tours will also work in partnership over a number of other areas including global scheduling, prize funds and playing opportunities for the respective memberships. It will be the first year that three tournaments are to be co-sanctioned by the PGA and European Tours, meaning both FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai points will be on offer to participants at the Barbasol Championship, the Barracuda Championship, and the Genesis Scottish Open. We may well see more players featuring in the season-long contests on both circuits.
Related: Players react to strategic alliance
Big Changes Ahead?
The influence of Saudi Arabia on professional golf looks set to remain a talking point into 2022 and beyond. A key reason for that is the foundation of a new company called Liv Golf Investments (LGI), of which former World Number 1 Greg Norman has been named Chief Executive Officer. LGI has penned a landmark deal that will see a series of 10 new events staged annually on the Asian Tour over the next 10 years, representing a total commitment of over $200million to support playing opportunities and prize funds. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the majority shareholder in LGI. The source of the investment may be controversial but LGI’s support for the Asian Tour will be a massive boost for elite golf in the Asia Pacific region and will play a significant role in growing the game globally.
There is speculation that the association between LGI and the Asian Tour is connected to the establishment of a Saudi-backed golf league. A source close to Golf Monthly has confirmed the existence of a new league and that Greg Norman will be its commissioner. Rumours of a new league have been circulating for some time, but it now looks likely to come to fruition. If it does, and attracts enough of the top players, it could mean a significant shake-up of the way the season is structured at the top level of men’s professional golf.
The Asian Tour has also struck a 10-year partnership with Golf Saudi, the organisers of the Saudi International, which is now the flagship event on the Asian Tour. The 2022 Saudi International will feature the strongest field in the history of the Asian Tour when it’s played at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, near Jeddah in early February. Carrying a prize fund of $5 million, the starting line-up includes, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Phil Mickelson, along with many other star names.
In addition, the Saudi Arabian Oil Company Aramco is already a significant sponsor in the women’s game with the Aramco Team Series offering $4 million in prize money. There’s also the Aramco Saudi Ladies International, won in 2021 by Lydia Ko. The investment by Saudi Arabia’s PIF in sport has raised eyebrows with many suggesting the country is “sportwashing,” to deflect from questions over their human rights record. Whatever the objective, it seems money talks and that, whether we like it or not, the Saudis will have a significant part to play in the immediate future of the pro game.
Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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