There is a 45-day pause in the PGA Tour schedule. The LPGA has an eight-week hiatus between its seasons. During the lulls – and because, who doesn’t like a list during the holidays? – here are five things, based on what we saw in 2021, that we can look forward to in ’22.
A Legit LPGA Rivalry
As much as people praise parity, nothing is better in sports than dominance and rivalries – especially if you’re trying to draw attention to your league/tour.
The LPGA has had sparks of dominance and a smattering of players who appeared able to combine greatness with great fan appeal, but it hasn’t had a significant rivalry at the top since the days of Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb.
Nelly Korda vs. Jin Young Ko could be just what the tour needs as it kicks off a new era. Neither is Christina Kim in front of a microphone, but both are likable and still killers on the course. From a fan’s perspective, they are easy to root for, fun to watch and have the desire and ability to be better than everyone else in the game.
They were the only two players to hold world No. 1 this year and, combined, they won nine tournaments, one gold medal, Player of the Year honors, the money title and a major championship. Only one major? Good to have room for improvement in '22.
Tiger Woods’ Return
“Return” is neither objective nor subjective, because it has nothing to do with us at all. It’s up to Tiger’s body and motivation. It’s easy to say golf – certainly as it relates to playing again professionally – doesn’t matter after all he’s been through, but that really goes without saying. No one would think otherwise.
But ... as it relates to golf, and since he teased us last week on Twitter, we’re holding onto hope. Hopefully, he updates his health situation at his Hero World Challenge. Hopefully, he plays at some point – if not Riviera, then Augusta; if not Augusta, then St. Andrews; if not St. Andrews, perhaps PNC (’22, not ’21).
When and if he returns, whatever he deems a return, we’ll take it.
Major Championship Revivals
There were career comebacks at every turn this year. Perhaps that story arc can include major victories in ’22. Rory McIlroy hasn’t won one since 2014, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas since ’17. Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson haven’t won majors since ’16.
That’s not to mention those seeking major No. 1, like Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland and Tony Finau.
Or those who have endured long and difficult roads in trying to reach No. 2: Louis Oosthuizen (eight top-3s in majors since his ’10 Open win) and Lexi Thompson (six top-3s in majors since her ’14 Chevron win).
The Battle for No. 1
It might be a two-person scuffle for the top spot in the Rolex Rankings, but it’s more of a battle royale on the men’s side – at least, it could be.
Jon Rahm will be world No. 1 for most of ’22. Oh, I can see that.
Collin Morikawa will be world No. 1 for most of ’22. Oh, I can see that.
Dustin Johnson will be world No. 1 for most of ’22. Oh, I can see that.
Patrick Cantlay will be world No. 1 for most of ’22. Oh, I can see that.
Not hard to see Schauffele, Thomas or McIlroy be considered the best player in the game next year, either, regardless of world ranking.
Golf’s Continued Evolution
So, competition can make for a better product? Imagine that.
Well, the “better product” part is still TBD in terms of what fans will get out of all of this. But the threat of a Saudi-backed rival league – and the implementation of a new TV deal – has done wonders for the PGA Tour membership.
Players will compete for millions more dollars in prize money and receive millions more dollars in bonuses. Good time to be a Tour caddie, too.
We’re in the midst of a seismic shift in the golf landscape and the best players in the men’s game will be rewarded handsomely. Congrats to them. But fans don’t want to see more of the same, with just more money on offer. There needs to be more entertainment, more innovation, more global exposure, more inclusion, more support for the women's game. We’d like to see more than just more money for the already rich, in 2022.