If you’d told me at the beginning of 2021 that Phil Mickelson would win more majors than Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka (as well as roughly 7.9 billion other people) combined, I’d have waved you off. Same if you’d told me that Tiger Woods wouldn’t play a single PGA Tour event, Bryson DeChambeau would contend in a Long Drive Championship, Patrick Reed wouldn’t make the U.S. Ryder Cup Team or that yelling “Brooksy” could get you ejected from East Lake.
What’s the point? The point is that plenty of weird stuff is going to happen this golf year. Some we’ve got a solid handle on. The rest we can only hope surprises us. So here are 22 predictions for the 2022 PGA Tour season, beginning with our safest, most concrete bets and then get increasingly more absurd.
1. The U.S. Team will win the Presidents Cup.
Let’s start on an extremely sturdy limb: Team USA will beat their International opponents in the Presidents Cup because they basically always do. And although their 2019 victory in Australia required a Sunday comeback, a burnt-out Royal Melbourne was decidedly unfriendly to the visiting American side. This year’s event at Quail Hollow should be better-suited for their big-stadium styles of play. Plus the U.S. has 12 players in the top 16 in the world. The International team has one.
That’s not to diminish the intriguing possibilities for the International side, though. Here’s how that team could look:
Min Woo Lee
And that ignores plenty of intriguing candidates like Cameron Davis, Sebastian Munoz, Si Woo Kim, Garrick Higgo, Mito Pereira, Erik van Rooyen and others. But when you’re staring down a super-side on the U.S. Team, it’s tough to keep up regardless.
2. Tiger Woods will play a PGA Tour event.
Other than occasional paparazzi shots from doctors’ appointments, we’ll likely next see Woods in public at the Genesis Invitational in February, where he could return to the scene of his crash and turn the page, one year later. After that we should see Woods at the Players Championship for his World Golf Hall of Fame induction.
I doubt he’ll play before Augusta National, and even that could be a long shot. But if he continues to progress on his current schedule, we’re going to see Tiger Woods tee it up on the PGA Tour in 2022. Count on it.
3a. Tiger Woods will win the PIP.
Do we even know for sure that Woods hasn’t won the 2021 PIP, for that matter? Sure, Phil Mickelson has been talking a big game, but still…
Regardless, even if we see another Mickelson major run in 2022 (crosses fingers), if Woods plays even one event on the PGA Tour plus the new-fan-favorite PNC Championship, he’s got this one in the bag.
3b. You’ll start listening to the Drop Zone podcast more frequently.
Good news: Drop Zone stock is still available for a reasonable price. There’s room on the bandwagon. Check out the embedded pod below or on Apple or on Spotify to listen to our extremely fun gameified season preview, which includes several bold predictions and an all-new stock market golf game. We’re delighted to have you aboard!
4. We’re destined for some delicious hot-mic moments.
We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of Justin Thomas’ unfortunate hot-mic moment from last Tournament of Champions. We’ve just passed the two-year anniversary of Patrick Cantlay’s extremely entertaining hot-mic moment at the 2020 TOC. But this year? We’re getting more. That’s because we’re getting much more golf, period, thanks to the new ESPN+ deal which is revolutionizing PGA Tour Live, basically quadrupling the amount of streaming coverage and getting more cameras — and more microphones — on players when they might not quite expect it.
5. ESPN+ is going to rule.
It’s cheaper than the old PGA Tour Live. When you sign up, you get every other piece of ESPN+ content, too. The streams will show more groups, more players, more hours, and they’ll be synthesized like a broadcast, which should help pacing. Look, nobody is going to argue that Thursdays and Fridays on the PGA Tour are edge-of-your-seat television. But the core demographic of “yeah, lemme throw this on in the background at work and maybe bet on a few matchups while I’m at it” should find this change extremely satisfying.
6. The Genesis Scottish Open will be the schedule’s best addition.
It’s always been a joy to get a taste of ‘cross-the-pond golf in the lead-up to the Open Championship, but the crescendo will feel even better now that it’s official. The PGA Tour-European Tour (DP World Tour, we should say) Strategic Alliance has yielded something great: The Genesis Scottish Open, a PGA Tour event the week before the Open at St. Andrews. The final rounds will be broadcast on CBS and everything! Everybody loves to watch Scottish golf. Now we have more of it. Sure, next year we can get greedy about holding this event at a linksier course, but let’s take this step by step and celebrate the wins where they come.
7. Patrick Cantlay is going to win a major championship
We haven’t seen Cantlay play a round of stroke-play golf since the Tour Championship, and he hasn’t finished better than T15 in any of his last nine majors, but we’re assuming he has been doing a little practicing and is otherwise the same stone-cold killer that showed up in the playoffs and Ryder Cup. As such, I like his chances to bag a big one more than anybody else on Tour this year.
8. Mito Pereira is going to win PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
After a bizarre 2021 with basically zero actual PGA Tour “rookies” we have a healthy crop of 27 this season! It’s going to be a crowded field filled with talented Korn Ferry Tour graduates but the best of ’em all will be Mito Pereira — this season, at least. He’s already logged six made cuts in seven starts and is going to edge out Taylor Pendrith and Cameron Young to finish in the top spot. Then he can celebrate with an all-Chilean pairing alongside Joaquin Niemann at the Presidents Cup.
9. Tiger and Charlie Woods will win the PNC Championship.
They nearly won this one, after all, and in another year they should be that much better.
10. Martin Trainer is going to retain his PGA Tour card
It’s put-up-or-shut-up time for my former employer Martin Trainer. He won the 2019 Puerto Rico Open and rode out his winner’s exemption for the rest of the ’18-’19 season, plus the ’19-’20 and ’20-’21 seasons, and then took advantage of a Covid extension to keep status this year. But in the 70 starts following that victory he recorded exactly zero top-25 finishes on Tour. He missed roughly a zillion cuts. He endured the questioning that comes with being a struggling full-time professional golfer. But at the end of this season, that winner’s exemption will expire, which means he’ll need to retain his Tour card on the basis of his play.
Good news! In that 71st start since his victory, Trainer looked like a golfer reborn. He held the 54-hole lead and even owned the lead on the back nine on Sunday before several Jason Kokrak birdies (plus a couple Trainer bogeys) left him T5 for the week, his second-best PGA Tour start ever. A few more showings like that and our embattled Tour pro will be playoff-bound with a 2022-23 card under his belt.
11. Viktor Hovland will win the Mexico Open.
Take a look at Viktor Hovland’s professional wins: Two at Mayakoba, a seaside town in Mexico. One in Puerto Rico. Another at this year’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. He’s golf’s Resort King. So when the Tour announced the addition of this year’s Mexico Open, and when it became clear that event would be held at Vidanta Vallarta, an oceanside course in Vallarta, Mexico, an immediate favorite emerged. They can get a head start inscribing Hovland’s name on the trophy.
As long as he actually plays the event.
12. The Saudi Golf League will continue to be more smoke than fire.
Until a rival league siphons off several big names from the PGA Tour, they just won’t find much traction. And thus far, they haven’t siphoned off several big names. The Tour seems to have ceded ground in certain battles, like approving waivers for pros to head to this year’s Saudi International, but they seem in good position to win the war — or at least this iteration.
13. Bryson vs. Brooks will continue, just not so overtly.
There was a notion that this fall’s Match between Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka would put the whole thing to bed. And maybe it did in like, a branding sense. But a close watch of the proceedings suggests that nothing actually got resolved. These two didn’t really communicate in any meaningful way. They certainly didn’t connect. With Koepka’s continued surliness and DeChambeau’s expanded influencer/vlogger/Long Drive status, their gap in personalities only seems to be getting wider. As a result I don’t think we’ll get any Mich Ultra ads on the subject — but there’s going to be spiciness nonetheless. Especially if we finally get the tournament pairing in contention we’ve been wishing for.
14. The Tour’s Netflix show is going to be a game-changer.
The effect of Netflix’s Drive to Survive series on Formula 1 fandom has been well-documented. Can the PGA Tour replicate some percentage of that success with its upcoming behind-the-scenes show? I think so.
Sure, the PGA Tour is better established on American soil than F1, but there’s a whole lot of room for golf’s audience to grow. Netflix, as I understand it, commands a hefty audience. And so whenever the Tour show — which has already begun filming interviews with a high-powered cast — is actually released, I think golf should expect to see significant positive effects across the board. PIP points for everyone!
15. Bones Mackay is going to win the MVC.
That’s “Most Valuable Caddie,” if you’re voting at home. Mackay had filled in on Justin Thomas’ bag for a few starts in the past, but this fall he took over from Jimmy Johnson full time. Why the MVC award? Because Thomas, for the first time in his career, looked off in 2021. Yes, he won the Players Championship. Yes, he was No. 2 in the world as recently as June. But he was off on the greens and looked more frustrated than we’re used to seeing him. Those both *seem* like areas where a confident, experienced, self-assured caddie could help.
But that brings us to the other reason Bones will win the MVC: We don’t actually have any idea how to measure a caddie’s effectiveness! Because he’s a household name (in golf nerd households, at least) Mackay is more likely to get credit with fictitious voters for this fictitious award. Many congratulations headed his way.
16. This is the year we stop comparing golfers to football players.
While Bryson DeChambeau has been bulking up and introducing us to new semi-mythic characters from the long drive world like golfer-slash-Viking Martin Borgmeier or Thor-lookalike Kyle Berkshire, each of whom can carry driver about the length of your average par-4, something has quietly been happening: the best golfers in the world are still pretty small.
Six of the top nine golfers in the world are 5’10 or less. Six of the top nine golfers in the world weigh 170 pounds or less. If you gathered them in an elevator you would have no worries about capacity nor structural integrity. These are athletes, for sure! But they’re skilled athletes with incredible balance, hand-eye coordination and flexibility.
Why is this a bold prediction? Because we’re probably going to forget about it pretty soon. The big-fella golf prospects always garner a disproportionate amount of attention, and there’s no doubt that crops of 130 mph-swingers are on the way. But when it comes to winning golf tournaments, for every Finau, DeChambeau and Koepka there’s a lithe sniper like Morikawa, Schauffele or Ancer shooting up the leaderboard.
17. Max Homa is going to make the U.S. Presidents Cup team.
He was reasonably close to making last year’s Ryder Cup, and when he didn’t it only took Homa about a week to go out and win the Fortinet Championship. Homa’s season was decidedly uneven but 2022 will bring much-needed consistency, pleasing Homa’s Twitter fans. Here’s who will join him on the team:
As I reach the end of that list I realize I’ve left off Scottie Scheffler, but I don’t know who I can boot. Luckily I’ll be wrong in more ways that just that one.
18. Someone’s going to win the Career Grand Slam.
Only five pros have done it: Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen. But a few more are close, and this is the year. Maybe it will be Rory McIlroy at Augusta National. The idea of Jordan Spieth winning at Southern Hills sounds plausible. Phil Mickelson winning the U.S. Open at Brookline seems only marginally more likely than Koepka winning both the Masters and the Open Championship, or Morikawa winning the Masters and the U.S. Open. Maybe J.T. will win three of ’em. Maybe Schauffele will do ’em all in one year. One way or another, it’s happening.
19. Viktor Hovland AND Matthew Wolff will have better seasons than Collin Morikawa.
What did we decide to call these guys again — the Big Three? The Little Three? The Young Three? Either way, Morikawa has jumped out to a seemingly insurmountable career lead, claiming two majors, five Tour wins, a European Tour title, Ryder Cup heroics and likely soon the title of World No. 1. It’s going to be impressive, then, to watch his compatriots battle back with some stellar play of their own. Matthew Wolff is decidedly back, and even if he plays a limited schedule of events I expect that he’ll contend as often as not and plow his way back towards the top 10 in the world.
Hovland finished 2021 better than anyone, winning in Mayakoba and the Bahamas in his final two starts, so all he has to do is more of [gestures vaguely] that.
This isn’t me hating on Morikawa, who is obviously a terrific player and owns the most important and durable of all golf skills: elite iron play. But as they tiptoe towards their mid-20s the back-and-forth between the Three Musketeers will continue.
20. By year’s end, the top three players in the world will be Europeans.
While we’re buying Hovland stock, let’s unleash a proper prediction: At the end of the year, despite the grousing about a Ryder Cup blowout and American dominance, the OWGR will look like this:
1. Jon Rahm
2. Viktor Hovland
3. Rory McIlroy
Plot twist: There won’t be another Euro inside the top 20. Still, that elite squad will fly the flag for the continent. That’s pretty good, right?
21. Xander Schauffele’s dad will fill up an entire bathtub with dollar bills, set it up behind the 18th green at East Lake and watch contentedly from the tub, lighting a cigar with a bill while his son hits his approach shot, sealing a Tour Championship victory and that sweet FedEx Cup money.
The prize fund has jacked up to $75 million now, which includes an $18 million payday for the winner. Hey, you’re telling me you can’t picture it?
22. Tiger Woods will win the Open Championship.
We’re done doubting this guy.