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Punch Shot: Predicting men's golf's major champions in 2022

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Last year was a stout list of men's major winners: Hideki Matsuyama at the Masters; Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship; Jon Rahm at the U.S. Open; and Collin Morikawa at The Open Championship.

And it's never too early to start thinking about who will follow them.

At publication, we are officially 92 days until the first round of the Masters Tournament. But why stop at predicting just this April's winner at Augusta National? In this edition of Punch Shot, our writers offer up their picks for each of the four men's major tournaments in 2022:

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Masters Tournament

April 7-10, Augusta National GC, Augusta, Georgia
Defending champion: Hideki Matsuyama

REX HOGGARD: Xander Schauffele. Winning your first major gets exponentially more difficult the longer it takes, but for Schauffele, it feels like it’s past time for him to join the club – and the Masters is as good place as any to start. Schauffele finished tied for third place last year at Augusta National and enjoyed plenty of championship seasoning in 2021, including his gold-medal winning performance in the Olympics and a solid week at the Ryder Cup.

RYAN LAVNER: Xander Schauffele. Already had a couple of close calls at Augusta, in 2019 and ’21, and claiming gold at the Olympics in dramatic fashion should give him the closer’s confidence he’s been missing. It’s X’s time to break through.

BRENTLEY ROMINE: Jordan Spieth. Even in his down years, Spieth managed to find himself a part of the conversation on the weekend at Augusta National. With his game back to elite status and fresh off a T-3 last year, methinks he wins as the favorite this time around, securing a second green jacket and adding fuel to the Grand Slam talk fire entering the PGA.

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PGA Championship

May 19-22, Southern Hills CC, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Defending champion: Phil Mickelson

HOGGARD: Collin Morikawa. There’s not a ton of recent history at Southern Hills for this year’s PGA Championship, but if the last two major championship winners at the Oklahoma layout – Tiger Woods at the 2007 PGA and Retief Goosen at the 2001 U.S. Open – have anything in common it’s ball-striking and long-iron play. Morikawa is the best long-iron player in the game right now and he’s transformed himself into an above-average putter. It’s a good combination for Southern Hills.

LAVNER: Brooks Koepka. Just playing the percentages here – he has five top-5s in his last seven PGA starts, no matter if the event was played in New York or Missouri or Wisconsin. King Koepka might not be as bulletproof in the big events as he was circa 2019, but if he’s healthy – a big if, given his history – he’s bound to be in the mix for major No. 5.

ROMINE: Viktor Hovland. Having been overshadowed by Morikawa, who has already secured a pair of major victories, Hovland, statistically speaking, holds his own against the Cal product. The former Oklahoma State standout is a better driver of the golf ball and actually led the Tour in approach proximity from 200-225 yards, which as Rex points out, will serve him well at Southern Hills, which is only about an hour or so from Stillwater.

Bryson DeChambeau
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U.S. Open

June 16-19, The Country Club, Brookline, Massachusetts
Defending champion: Jon Rahm

HOGGARD: Bryson DeChambeau. Again, there’s not a lot background on Brookline when it comes to picking this year’s U.S. Open champion but the theme is for a tight golf course that demands accuracy off the tee. The last time the nation’s championship went to one of those classic layouts was the displaced ’20 U.S. Open that was won by the hard-swinging DeChambeau.

LAVNER: Jon Rahm. Brookline hasn’t hosted a men’s Open since 1988, so it’s anyone’s guess how it will stand up to today’s elite. In that case, side with the world No. 1 and defending champion, who was composed and clutch while prevailing at a more difficult Torrey Pines layout.

ROMINE: Xander Schauffele. He's played in five of these things and his worst finish? Astonishingly, a T-7 last year at Torrey Pines. If that trend continues, we know Schauffele will at least be in contention on Sunday at Brookline. Here's to believing he finally gets it done on his sixth try.

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The Open Championship

July 14-17, St. Andrews Links (Old Course), St. Andrews, Scotland
Defending champion: Collin Morikawa

HOGGARD: Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman may be eight years removed from his last major victory, but there is something about St. Andrews that fits perfectly with McIlroy’s game. In 2010, it was a second-round 80 that cost McIlroy his shot on the Old Course, and he was the heavy favorite in 2015 before an untimely “kick-about” injury forced him to withdraw. Without another odd injury or a weird weather draw, he will find himself back in the mix.

LAVNER: Jordan Spieth. Seven years later, Spieth will get his revenge on the Old Course, after he nearly walked off with the third leg of the Grand Slam there in 2015. His genius makes him a danger man at every major, but particularly in The Open, with the imaginative shot-making required. At the Home of Golf, his comeback will be complete.

ROMINE: Matt Fitzpatrick. Not every year is going to produce a small straight of superstar major winners. Not to say that Fitzy isn't a star; with just one career major top-10, he's just not in the same category as Rahm, Spieth, McIlroy, etc. Last time the game's oldest major was contested at St. Andrews, Zach Johnson won. So, while Bryson and Co. bash their way around the Old Course, Fitzpatrick will plot his way around, hole a bunch of putts and steal his first major title in unexpected fashion.