After coming through the COVID-19 pandemic relatively unscathed, there was a lot to enjoy about golf in 2021, well apart from Team US’ emphatic Ryder Cup victory over Team Europe. Nevertheless, there was plenty of fresh talent that surfaced, and the game is in an exciting place.
But what can we expect in 2022? Free Bets dusts off the crystal ball, and makes six predictions for what could happen across the Majors over the next 12 months.
Eye of the Tiger
Apart from a brief appearance at an exhibition tournament playing alongside his son, Charlie, Tiger Woods, barely swung a club in anger in 2021. Rather Woods spent most of last year recuperating from a serious car crash in February, which he was rather fortunate to survive.
He is expected to make a dramatic return to the game, and there has been speculation about when we could see him back out on the course. A few dates have been earmarked, including The Genesis Invitational in February, as well as the Arnold Palmer Invitational, with the latter serving as good practise ahead of The Masters in April.
While Woods has been a peripheral figure over the past year, there are quite a few players, especially the younger generation, who hold him in high regard. Woods has transcended the game in a way few others have. His return will be a big boost for the PGA Tour, as he is one of the most pre-eminent players of his generation, and he is still a big drawer for fans. And for those looking to make an audacious punt, you can get odds of 50/1 with bet365 for Woods to win the Masters. Although Woods has work to do to overtake Jack Nicklaus’ long-standing record of 18 Majors, Augusta has been a home from home for Woods, who has slipped into the Green Jacket on five occasions.
There will be a new tour on the block in 2022 – the Saudi International. Greg Norman is heading the tour, which has already pumped $200million of investment to compete effectively with the PGA Tour and European Tour.
Naturally, there has been some scepticism, and there are fears that Saudi involvement in the game could threaten the PGA Tour. Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson will be among the players taking part in the Saudi International in February. While it could put them at odds with the PGA Tour, it will be interesting to see if a third tour can co-exist… maybe we might be surprised!
Viktor Hovland to land his first Major
Viktor Hovland may only be 24 years old, but he has been playing with a maturity beyond his years. He was one of the rare bright spots of Team Europe at the Ryder Cup, and he has already amassed $9m dollars prize money. He has also been a model of consistency, having made 50 of the 57 cuts of tournaments he has placed upon. When you factor in that he’s won three times on the PGA Tour, and he has had 12 Top 10 finishes, he is on an upward trajectory, and at times, it seems like he has ice running through his veins, such is his calm demeanour.
With St Andrews – the home of golf – to host the 150th edition of the British Open in the summer, perhaps there could be a first-time winner. Hovland is trading at 22/1 with Paddy Power to claim the Claret Jug, which looks like decent value.
More Collin Morikawa magic
Collin Morikawa has been heralded as the new Tiger. With two Majors in the bag at the age of 24, he is already developing a healthy knack for delivering on the biggest stage, and it is hard not to make comparisons with a certain Tiger.
He is the sort of player, who has an insatiable appetite for winning, and he doesn’t mind playing the role of the hunted. While it is still early days in his career, Morikawa’s short game is a joy to watch, and 2022 could well bring him more success in both the Majors and the World Golf Championships. Morikawa is currently at 12/1 with Paddy Power to win the US Open, and he was born to win the game’s biggest prizes.
Watch out for Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith has made huge strides over the past 18 months, and he is currently hovering just outside of the world’s top 20, but he looks primed to win a Major. He has performed well at The Masters in recent years, earning himself a T2 in 2020, and a T5 two years before that.
He can handle himself well with the big putts, and he has a bit of cheekiness that has done him no harm. Smith is trying to make a name for himself, and don’t be surprised if you see him in the winners’ circle a few times this year.
Bryson De Chambeau could go off the boil
At times, you wonder how much DeChambeau’s feud with Brooks Koepka took out of him. Of course, there were times when DeChambeau wasn’t at his very best, but with the explosion of new talent coming to the fore on the PGA Tour, DeChambeau could find himself under pressure to deliver the goods.
Nevertheless, what you can expect are some more monster drives. DeChambeau is always setting the bar in this regard, and off the tee, it is difficult to find someone who can match him here.