2022 PGA and LPGA Tour storylines to follow

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The 2021-22 golf season is a go, and there are plenty of intriguing storylines to follow both on the PGA and LPGA Tours. Here are 18 stories worth keeping an eye on this season.

 

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COVID still in the bag

COVID still in the bag

Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY Sports

The 2021-22 PGA Tour schedule is well underway, And, once again, it’s happening under the lingering cloud of the coronavirus pandemic. While spectators have long since returned to the course to watch the best players in the world navigate some of the greatest courses on the planet, COVID-19 is still obviously an obstacle to clear. Cameron Champ withdrew from the Sentry Tournament of Champions recently because of a “breakthrough” case of the COVID. We’re certain that won’t be the last such incident, but things have simmered down since the Omicron variant surge. Let’s hope we’re in for more normal, better days.  

 

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Playing on Tiger time

Playing on Tiger time

Jeremy Reper/USA TODAY Sports

Arguably the biggest question entering the 2022 golf season is when — or if — Tiger Woods returns to competitive play? It’s coming up on a year of that terrible February 2021 car accident, in which Woods suffered a serious leg injury that essentially ended his full-time competitive golf career. However, Woods returned to the course in late 2021, playing with his son Charlie at the PNC Championship. Still, when he actually competes in a tournament on his own is really anybody’s guess. The Masters? Memorial? U.S. Open? In 2022 at all? We just don’t know. But of course, we will be watching closely.

 

What about Rory?

Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

Naturally, the Tiger Watch will be front and center in 2022. But, it’s also worth keeping an eye on Rory McIlroy. He’s still among the  top-10 golfers in the world but has not won a major since 2014. McIlroy is a four-time major winner and needs only to throw on the green jacket to complete golf’s grand slam. Why should golf fans believe McIlroy is capable of winning another major? Because he was the PGA Player of the Year in 2019, won two tournaments in 2021, and tied for seventh at the U.S. Open last season.

 

Lefty's encore

Allan Henry/USA TODAY Sports

 

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None of Tim’s concern

None of Tim's concern

Meghan McCarthy/Palm Beach Daily News via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Speaking of Mickelson, it will be interesting to see if his PGA status will take a hit following some disparaging comments of Tour commissioner Jay Monahan. Meanwhile, Monahan continues his attempt to push the PGA Tour forward amid talks of another professional, and potentially more lucrative, 10-event golf league with questionable Saudi Arabian ties and run by legend Greg Norman, providing a rival for the old guard. Both are certainly worth keeping note of if any developments surface. If anything, it’s worth a little drama.

 

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First (major) win is the toughest

First (major) win is the toughest

Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

Every season we try to figure out which PGA golfer has the best chance of winning his first major championship. In 2021, Hideki Matsuyama (Masters) and Jon Rahm (U.S. Open) finally got that monkey off their respective backs. So, which first-timer will get it down in ’22? The easy money might be on Patrick Cantlay. The reigning PGA Player of the Year won three times in 2021, including the BMW and Tour Championship to claim the FedEx Cup title. Cantlay hasn’t placed in the top 10 of a major since 2019, but he’s also one of the best golfers in the world.

 

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PGA dumps Trump for Southern Hills

PGA dumps Trump for Southern Hills

J.P. Wilson/Icon Sportswire

Speaking of major championships, Tulsa’s Southern Hills will host the 2020 PGA Championship from May 19–22. The tournament was originally supposed to be hosted by Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey, but that was scrapped following the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. The PGA of America and the Trump Organization reached a settlement after the twice-impeached former president whined about the move and his company called the decision to move the event a “breach of a binding contract.” Expect to hear plenty about this controversy leading up to the event.

 

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Muirfield to host first women’s British

Muirfield to host first women's British

Richard Sellers/Sportsphoto/Photoshot/Icon Sportswire

In 2017, Scotland’s famed Muirfield club, which goes back to 1744, voted to finally allow women into its order of membership. The process wasn’t all that pleasant to get to that point, but it was a long overdue point of progress. In August, the course will host the AIG Women’s Open Championship — marking the first time female golfers will compete in a major on the historic track. Muirfield hosted the men’s Open Championship 16 times. Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist is the reigning Open champion.

 

End of an era

Vickie Connor/The Desert Sun via Imagn Content Services, LLC

While women’s golf ushers in somewhat of a new era with Muirfield hosting the AIG, a true end of an era will take place come April. The Chevron Championship, formerly known as the ANA Inspiration, one of five majors on the LPGA Tour circuit, will be played a final time at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif, this season. The tournament, founded by beloved entertainer Dinah Shore in 1972, and where the winner hops into Poppie’s Pond, will be moved to the Houston area in 2023. The tournament, played in the Coachella Valley desert, is as much a part of women’s game as the golfers who helped build the LPGA Tour.

 

Make it rain

Ray Carlin/Icon Sportswire

This has the potential to be a banner year for the LPGA Tour. It certainly will be the richest. The best women’s golfers in the world will be competing for an $85.7 million total purse — the biggest total in the history of the Tour. According to the LPGA, nine of the 34 official tournaments increased their monetary purse prize this year. The 2022 season schedule features international stops in Singapore, Thailand, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Canada, China, and Japan.

 

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Korda keeps going

Korda keeps going

Jeremy Reper/USA TODAY Sports

It was quite the 2021 season for American Nelly Korda. She won four times on the LPGA Tour during the 2021 calendar year, including the Women’s PGA Championship in June. Then, in September, Korda was part of the U.S. Solheim Cup team and brought home gold as medalist of the women’s Olympic golf tournament in Tokyo. With all that, Korda began the 2022 season as the No. 1 ranked women’s golfer in the world. It would be a tall order to think Korda will be as successful on Tour this season, but there might not be a more confident player on the LPGA Tour than Korda. Of course…  

 

Tally Ko

Andrew West/The News-Press/USA TODAY NETWORK

… South Korea’s Jin Young Ko, currently sitting at No. 1, might also be feeling pretty good about herself — and her game. Why not? In 2021, Ko won five times on the LPGA Tour, topped the money list with more than $3.5 million in earnings, and earned the tour’s player of the year honor for a second time. It’s one of the greatest individual seasons in the history of the Tour, and one for anybody, including Ko, to top. The rivalry between Ko and Korda will also be something to keep an eye on in 2022. 

 

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Stricker’s scary situation

Stricker's scary situation

Garry Smits/Florida Times-Union/USA TODAY NETWORK

 

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Brooks vs. Bryson: The Saga Continues

Brooks vs. Bryson: The Saga Continues

David Becker/Getty Images

What was once a nice little rivalry between two of golf’s brightest young stars, turned into sour grapes between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau. From slow play to “Brooksy” to the makeup at the Ryder Cup to “The Match,” this is a rivalry made more for Hollywood than the PGA Tour. While the dynamic between these two has been entertaining, how much more Do we really need to see? After all, these guys are adult professionals and role models to many. Maybe it’s time to grow up.

 

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Is Spieth really back?

Is Spieth really back?

Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

Another notable 2021 story worth following up this year is whether Jordan Spieth has really turned things around. With a victory at the 2021 Texas Open, the three-time major winner won his first PGA Tour event since 2017. He also tied finished third at the Open Championship tied for second at the Masters and finished sixth on the ’21 PGA Tour Money List. Spieth currently sits 15th in the World Golf Ranking, leading many pundits to believe he could be even better in 2022.

 

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FedExCup gets tweaking

FedExCup gets tweaking

Adam Hagy/USA TODAY Sports

The FedEx Cup Playoffs have added an element of late-season excitement to the PGA Tour. Or, at least, a reason for Tour pros to take things seriously after major play has finished. This season, the playoffs will be worth $75 million — up from $60 million. In 2021, Patrick Cantlay won $15 million as FedEx champ, but this year’s winner will take home a cool $18 million. Also, the PGA Tour will make its first stop in the state of Delaware. Wilmington Country Club’s South Course will play host to the penultimate playoff event at the BMW Championship.

 

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U.S. would Love to continue Presidents Cup run

U.S. would Love to continue Presidents Cup run

Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

After winning the delayed Ryder Cup in 2021, the United States gets the chance to extend its dominance in Presidents Cup play this season. The Americans have won the last eight consecutive Presidents Cups, and haven’t lost the event since 1998. Charlotte, N.C.’s Quail Hollow Club will play host to this year’s event Sept. 19-25. Which is fitting since North Carolina native Davis Love III will serve as U.S. captain . South African Trevor Immelman will guide the International squad.

 

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Who (will finish) No. 1?

Who (will finish) No. 1?

Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

As the 2022 calendar year tees off, Spain’s Jon Rahm currently sits atop the World Golf Ranking. Will that be the case when ’22 comes to an end? This season, perhaps unlike any other in recent memory, has a host of elite golfers worthy of vying for the title of World’s No. 1. Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa (No. 2), Patrick Cantlay (No. 4), and Holland’s Viktor Hovland (No. 3) are some of the game’s rather young stars that should be in contention, while old hats like Dustin Johnson (No. 9), Justin Thomas (No. 8) and even Rory McIlroy (No. 6) will be in the conversation.

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.



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