The 2022 golf year is a mere two weeks away, which means that the Masters is just over 100 days away. In the first extended break from major championship golf since the sport returned in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone in this little niche world will be hungry for what are usually the 16 best rounds of golf played throughout the entire year.
There’s plenty to be excited about in 2022 when it comes to the four majors, too. After what I would call a mediocre — or perhaps slightly above-average — year for major venues, we get a set of tracks next year that’s maybe not elite but something closer to that. In addition to the annual pilgrimage everyone makes to Augusta National, majors will be played at Southern Hills in Tulsa (PGA), the Country Club in Boston (U.S. Open) and the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland (Open Championship).
Trying to accurately prognosticate who’s going to win majors when there are three or four holes left to play is often a fool’s errand, so of course we’re going to attempt the feat with several hundred days of buffer added in. While factors like health, course setup and who’s playing the best golf won’t disclose themselves until closer to these events, it’s still fun to try and call your shot at the end of the previous year.
This time last year, I picked the following golfers to win the four 2021 majors and put their final finish in parentheses below.
Masters: Bryson DeChambeau (T46)
PGA Championship: Matthew Wolff (DNP)
U.S. Open: Jon Rahm (1st)
Open Championship: Patrick Reed (MC)
So that’s three horrific predictions and one pretty good one. I’ll take that percentage every year with this much time between the picks and the actual events.
Now, here are my way-too-early-but-still-a-lot-of-fun 2022 major championship predictions.
Jon Rahm: The statistical level at which Rahm played in 2021 implied multiple wins, but he only took home one. These things don’t always course correct in the short-term, but I’m parlaying that with the reality that Rahm has been the best golfer in the world over the last five year. I’m also adding in his recent history at Augusta National — quietly, four straight top 10s — and picking him to join Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia as the four Spaniards to win the green jacket.
Dustin Johnson: Only Rahm and Koepka have more top 10s over the last three years. Additionally, D.J. has been in the top five after 54 holes in 13 majors since 2010 (thirteen!). He gives himself so many rips at the biggest tournaments in the world. Unsurprisingly, he’s also finished in the top 10 of at least one major in 12 of the last 13 years. He would fit in nicely with the run of PGA winners we’re on — Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson. His run might not come at this specific major (at a course that was recently renovated to be more of a championship test), but if you bet on him to win at least one major in 2022 — +320 according to Caesar’s Sportsbook, by the way — you’re almost certainly going to be glad you did at some point over the next nine months.
Brooks Koepka: At this point, blindly picking Koepka at the U.S. Open — where he’s lost to four golfers in his last four appearances, all at fairly different golf courses — is one of the safer bets in golf. Nobody has more top 10s at majors over the last three years (he has eight in 10 events and also 10 in his last 13 events). Though mild questions remain about his ability to close after he nearly gave away the 2019 PGA Championship, no questions remain about whether he’s going to get involved at majors and specifically at this major. After missing the cut at a 2021 Masters he probably should not have played in, he lost to just nine golfers in the last three majors of the year.
Jordan Spieth: His dominion, as I wrote during last year’s Open at Royal St. George’s, is not Augusta National but rather any Open venue they take this event. Even when he didn’t have his best stuff in those fallow years of despair, he still tilled the soil at Open Championships. After winning Royal Birkdale in 2017, he finished T9 in 2018 (while playing in the final pairing!), T20 in 2019 (with nothing) and then rebounded to finish second in 2021 at Royal St. George’s. Throw in a T4 in 2015 at the Old Course where he kept the grand slam alive for 71 holes and missed a three-way playoff by a single stroke, and he’s an easy pick to snag major championship No. 4.
It’s been eight years since the four majors were swept by golfers who had previously won major championships (Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson that year), and it almost certainly won’t happen again this time around. However, when you survey the landscape of pro golf and look at all the elite players who already have a major in the bag, it’s nearly impossible to sneak in a Corey Conners, Scottie Scheffler or even Patrick Cantlay as one of the four picks.
These events rarely go the way we presume they will (who could have envisioned Phil Mickelson winning the PGA Championship, even on Friday of that week?), but half the fun is trying to figure out who’s going to upend the outcome along the way. If even one of the golfers above wins one of the four majors, it will have been another tremendously entertaining year.
Here’s to another incredible major championship season in the world of golf.