It’s that time of year again when we start to think about who the best male golfer has been this year, and there are three standout candidates for that accolade in 2022.
Rory McIlroy might be the obvious choice for many after returning to the World No.1 position thanks to his successful title defences at the RBC Canadian Open and CJ Cup as well as winning both the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup and the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai.
McIlroy also finished inside the top eight in all four of the year’s Majors and will go into 2023 with renewed hope of ending his eight-year barren stretch in golf’s big four events following his 2014 PGA Championship triumph. In a year dominated by LIV Golf money, McIlroy managed to take home some $40m+ in winnings and bonuses, and looks his vibrant, confident self again on the golf course.
Scottie Scheffler also has an almighty case thanks to four victories including his first Major title at Augusta National. It’s hard to believe that this time last year he was without a PGA Tour victory, but he found a purple patch to seal four trophies in just six starts between mid-February and early April.
It catapulted him to the World No.1 position but the talented Texan hasn’t managed to bag a win since, losing the No.1 spot to Rory McIlroy in the process, whom he squandered a six-stroke lead to on the final day of the Tour Championship to lose the FedEx Cup.
Despite fantastic years from McIlroy and Scheffler in 2022, the player of the year simply has to be Cameron Smith. The Aussie has carried controversy with him since moving over to LIV Golf post-FedEx Cup but it cannot be argued that he hasn't had an exceptional year on the golf course, where he has cemented himself as one of the finest players to have come out of Australia this century. Had he not joined LIV and continued on the PGA Tour, Smith might have found himself topping the world rankings over these past few months.
His year started out with victory at the Tournament of Champions, where he broke the PGA Tour scoring record with a 34-under-par total to edge out World No.1 Jon Rahm by a single stroke. Just two months later he then picked up golf’s ‘unofficial fifth Major’ at TPC Sawgrass, outlasting one of the strongest fields in the game to win the record $3.6m first prize.
He followed that up with a T3 at Augusta and then three months later carded a final round 64 (-8) around St Andrews to break Rory McIlroy’s heart and seal the 150th Open - his first Major title. Rumours were circulating of his LIV Golf move even as early as his post-tournament press conference, and he finally joined Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed start-up after ending the PGA Tour season ranked 23rd.
Was his year set to fizzle out there? Anything but, really, as he won in his second LIV Golf start at Rich Harvest Farms in Chicago to pocket a $4m winner’s cheque. His LIV Golf season only consisted of five events but he was the lowest scorer at Doral in the Team Championship final round, where he carded a 65 (-7) in chasing down Dustin Johnson as his Punch GC team finished in second position.
Smith’s fifth win of the season then came back Down Under where he lifted the Australian PGA Championship for the third time. That was only his first OWGR-sanctioned tournament since leaving the PGA Tour for LIV Golf, with the Aussie currently sitting 3rd in the world rankings.
The 29-year-old from Brisbane has been a joy to watch throughout the year and golf’s civil war now sadly means that we’ll only see him teeing it up against the likes of McIlroy and Scheffler in each of the Major championships next year - unless LIV players cannot qualify.
You’d put a lot of money on one of those three lifting one of the four big ones in what is set to be a blockbuster year for the game.
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Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-6. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!
Elliott is currently playing:
Driver: Titleist TSR4
3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max
Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max
Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW
Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58
Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
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