First and foremost, what a start to the year it has been following the Rolex series events in the Middle East with wins for Thomas Pieters at Abu Dhabi and Viktor Hovland in Dubai. It promises to be a fascinating one in the realm of professional golf, with regards to both the wealth of top players and what’s going on off the course. What we can be certain of, though, is that the Major Championships will produce high levels of drama and excitement, so let me start my first column of the year with my picks for golf’s big four in 2022.
I know I’ve said it before and it hasn’t ended up happening, but I think Rory McIlroy will win The Masters despite what happened in Dubai on that final hole. You may say that wanting to witness something historic is clouding my judgement. History tells us that form is important heading to Augusta, so look for Rory to win between now and then. I’m not sure anyone in the world would be a more popular Masters Champion than Mr McIlroy.
At the USPGA Championship, I think we’ll see Brooks Koepka come good again. Obviously he has a fantastic record in the event and he seems to be rounding into some sort of form after a bit of a slump – relatively speaking, of course. He’s struggled with injuries of late, but hopefully that’s all behind him now and he can pick up where he left off in the big four. I think Brooks is in for a huge year, I really do.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, my pick for the US Open is Collin Morikawa. For me, US Opens suit his style of play. Last year’s event at Torrey Pines wasn’t his ideal set-up as it favoured the big hitters slightly more than a standard US Open, but he should find The Country Club at Brookline more to his liking.
I think Morikawa will then go back-to-back at The Open Championship. He’s one of those really clever golfers who thinks smart on the course and backs that up with a combination of incredible skill and the ability to turn it on when it matters the most. I’m really intrigued to see what happens to Morikawa next year with the expectation levels as high as they are at the moment, both from himself and the media. He’ll be World No.1 at the end of the year and will spend most of 2022 at the top of the rankings, in my view.
Away from the Majors, I think big years could be in store for the Hojgaard twins and I have a feeling Justin Rose will have a good 2022. I’m also expecting a lot from Min Woo Lee, who has just broken into the world’s top 50. If he can improve his putting – the only weakness I can see in his game – then I think he’ll be inside the world’s top 20 come the end of 2022. I rate him that highly. His sister and defending Evian Championship victor Minjee is also poised for more of the same.
Another set of siblings I will be keeping an eye on are the Korda sisters. Nelly had a phenomenal 2021, winning four times, including her maiden Major Championship, and pushing Jin Young Ko all the way in the LPGA Tour’s season-long race. Jessica will no doubt be inspired by her sister’s accomplishments as well. The women’s game is in a very good place right now, with another dramatic Solheim Cup just months ago and prize pools increasing all the time. I’m excited to see the jostling for position at the top of the rankings and a host of new players coming through. I’m really enjoying the LET and LPGA right now.
Perhaps the biggest storyline at the moment, though, is when Tiger Woods will return to competitive action. I believe he’ll make it to the 150th Open at St Andrews, but I’m not so sure about The Masters. Never say never with Tiger, but I can’t see how he wins another Major from here. I think, at this point, even one more PGA Tour title to take him clear of Sam Snead is extremely unlikely. But the guy never stops amazing us, so we’ll see.
With or without Tiger, this year promises be a cracker.
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One of the most popular faces from Sky Sports' award-winning golf team, Wayne has been a columnist for Golf Monthly since 2010, penning a monthly opinion piece in our magazine where he discusses all the hot topics from the professional game. A former two-time winner on the European Tour, Wayne has represented Australia in both the Alfred Dunhill and World Cup.
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