This week’s Fortinet Championship kicks off the 2021-22 PGA Tour season, which means it’s time for 10 (somewhat) hot takes and semi-bold predictions:
Brooks Koepka wins a major. OK, maybe that doesn’t exactly sound like a scalding hot take but considering Koepka’s last few months - his last top-10 finish was in July at The Open - and another nagging injury, there are question marks.
But if we’ve learned anything about Koepka, other than his assassin-like talent to end a Twitter beef, it’s his ability to overcome injury. He’s also proven that when he’s healthy, he is an unstoppable force.
Rory McIlroy will not win a major. This is a head-not-heart deal. McIlroy is easy to cheer for and he clearly still has the game to win a Grand Slam event, but history isn’t on his side here.
Since he won his last major in 2014, McIlroy has had a handful of chances but each time he finds a way to squander the opportunity, like at this year’s U.S. Open where he closed with a 73 to finish tied for seventh. He will get close, but major No. 5 will continue to elude him.
Tiger Woods will attend a golf event. Based on the current lack of information flowing from Tiger’s camp this is, at best, a guess, but it is an educated guess.
While it remains unknown if Woods will play competitive golf this season following a harrowing car crash earlier this year, he is set to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in March at The Players Championship. The Class of ’21 induction was postponed a year because of the pandemic, which should give Tiger enough time to recover and attend.
Patrick Cantlay will lead the Tour in approach shots from inside 150 yards. Random take, agreed, but following his FedExCup-winning campaign, the erudite Cantlay quickly shifted his focus to the next season and new challenges. Specific challenges.
“Moving forward at least for the little while, I'd like to work on shots inside 150 [yards], I feel like is one of the areas of my game that I can improve and I'm looking forward to getting better in that area,” he said.
The Country Club proves to be the year’s best major venue. It’s going to be tough company with Augusta National and St. Andrews in the lineup but The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, returns to the Grand Slam rotation with a nod to classic architecture.
Brookline will be hosting its fourth U.S. Open. The three previous editions were won by Francis Ouimet (1913), Julius Boros (1963) and Curtis Strange (1988). There was also the dramatic 1999 Ryder Cup. In short, The Country Club delivers.
The Tour’s curious Player Impact Program is altered. Based on the current climate of questions and concerns about the circuit’s PIP, some sort of course change seems inevitable.
The program is veiled in secrecy with plenty of questions about how it works. Primarily among those concerns is how negative press/attention is factored out of the equation. The Tour will likely continue to keep the inner workings of the program a well-guarded secret, but something has to change.
Bryson DeChambeau makes headlines. Again, given the year DeChambeau has had this probably isn’t a stretch, but it’s how he will make headlines that will be telling.
DeChambeau ended up in the news for too many of the wrong reasons in ’21 and, to be fair, some of that attention was not self-inflicted. But as the Tour draws a line on fan behavior it’s now up to the curious 27-year-old to change his own narrative.
Overtime extravaganza. There were 14 sudden-death playoffs during the 2020-21 season, four shy of the Tour record. That record is broken in 2021-22.
There will be even more depth on Tour this season as the circuit welcomes a full class from the Korn Ferry Tour and with that added talent will come thinner margins. It’s that parity that will lead to even more Sunday shootouts.
The International team will lose the Presidents Cup. The hot take here is that the outcome will be close, thanks to an influx of more young and talented players onto the International team.
The U.S. team is still demonstrably better and will win, which is still a problem, but the ’22 matches will be a step in the right direction for the Internationals.
Jon Rahm wins the FedExCup (and Jack Nicklaus Trophy). Following what we can only assume was a close race for the Player of the Year award with Cantlay, the Spaniard ends up on the right side of strokes-based scoring at East Lake and the season-ending vote.
Had it not been for strokes-based scoring, Rahm would have finished 72 holes at the finale tied with Kevin Na. Instead, he lost to Cantlay by a stroke and in the Player of the Year voting.