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

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The women's game saw four first-time major winners in 2021 as well as Anna Nordqvist capturing  career No. 3. In addition to Nordqvist's triumph at the AIG Women's Open, Patty Tavatanakit won the Chevron Championship (formerly the ANA Inspiration), Yuka Saso won the U.S. Women's Open, Nelly Korda captured the KPMG Women's PGA and Minjee Lee took the Amundi Evian Championship.

With those five majors again up for grabs in 2022, who are the early picks to prevail? Our writers offer up their predictions:

Chevron Championship

March 31 - April 3, Mission Hills C.C., Rancho Mirage, California
Defending champion: Patty Tavatanakit

BRENTLEY ROMINE: Nelly Korda. She's come close at Mission Hills in recent years, including in 2020 when she led or co-led after each round before falling in a playoff. This course is built for her – it's too bad this will be the final edition before the year's first major relocates to Houston.

MERCER BAGGS: Nelly Korda. Not much of a limb here, but it’s impossible to look beyond her. Not only is she the No. 1 player in the world, but she has finished inside the top 3 in her last two starts at Mission Hills. Look for Nelly to make the final leap into Poppie’s Pond.

MAX SCHREIBER: Lydia Ko. A year removed from ending a 1,084-day winless drought and winning the Vare Trophy, the 24-year-old looks to notch her third major and first since 2016, which came at this event. But amid her six-year winless lull, Ko still fared well at Mission Hills. She placed solo second last year, sixth in 2020 and had top-20s in '17 and '18. 

U.S. Women's Open

June 2-5, Pine Needles Lodge and G.C., Southern Pines, North Carolina
Defending champion: Yuka Saso

ROMINE: Pauline Roussin-Bouchard. Call me crazy, but I believe the trend of first-timers continues. In the past 15 U.S. Women's Opens, 13 winners were first-time major champs, including each of the past three. The powerful Frenchwoman is fresh off two first-team All-American seasons at South Carolina and immediately will be one of – if not the – longest player on the LPGA this year. If the USGA tightens up the landing areas as expected, it will benefit Roussin-Bouchard to be hitting wedges from unkept lies rather than mid-irons.

BAGGS: Nasa Hataoka. She is the best player in the world without a major, at sixth in the Rolex Rankings. Asian-born players have had significant success in this major and the Japanese star was runner-up in 2021.

SCHREIBER: Nelly Korda. On the same greens where Annika Sorenstam grabbed her second major in 1996, Korda, who projected to the forefront of the sport last year and won her first major two years younger than Sorenstam did, will continue to put the world on notice with her second major in one of golf's most grueling events. 

KPMG Women's PGA Championship

June 23-26, Congressional C.C., Bethesda, Maryland
Defending champion: Nelly Korda

ROMINE: Jin Young Ko. It's easy to pick Nelly or Jin Young at any one of these majors, but if Ko only wins one, it's most likely to happen here. She's the best approach player in the game and after close-calls at Mission Hills and Pine Needles (I'll go ahead and pencil her in for runner-up finishes), she's hungrier than ever to win this week. On a big golf course, one of the tour's biggest stars shows up.

BAGGS: Jin Young Ko. Wouldn’t be surprised if Ko already has a major by this point in the year (she’s a past Chevron winner). Her KPMG record isn’t great – by her standards – but Congressional, this year’s venue, produces top-flight champions and that’s exactly what Ko is.

SCHREIBER: Danielle Kang. Despite winning the Vare Trophy and becoming the world No. 2 in 2020, last year was her first winless season since '16. But the KPMG typically serves her well. Her lone major win came there in 2017 and she finished T-5 in '19 and '21. Though '21 was a down year for Kang, she still posted nine top-10s, was fourth in putting average and seventh in GIR putts. She's also been recently working with swing guru Butch Harmon as she aims to rewrite her career trajectory by winning another major. 

Amundi Evian Championship

July 14-17, Evian Resort G.C., Evian-les-Bains, France
Defending champion: Minjee Lee

ROMINE: Lydia Ko. This has historically been her best major with a win (2015) and five other top-10s, including a T-6 last year. With her struggles seemingly behind her, Ko will have plenty of chances to add to her two career major titles this season, though it's most likely she does so in France.

BAGGS: Atthaya Thitikul. This major produces an array of champions, so it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see the teenage Thai (she’ll be 19 on Feb. 20) prevail. She will be a rookie on the LPGA this year, but has already claimed the LET Order of Merit and finished fifth at the ’21 Evian.

SCHREIBER: Jin Young Ko. To close out last season, she put on a clinic - winning three of the LPGA's final four events to edge Nelly Korda for Player of the Year, Ko's second time winning the award in the last three years. However, she hasn't won a major since 2019, the year in which she claimed her only two, one of which came in France. It's a good bet that she'll win her third this year. 

AIG Women's Open

Aug. 4-7, Muirfield, East Lothian, Scotland
Defending champion: Anna Nordqvist

ROMINE: Leona Maguire. It's taken some time, but the former Duke superstar and two-time Annika Award winner has become a contender on the LPGA. Though she hasn't won, she has pushed her way inside the top 50 in the Rolex Rankings. On an unfamiliar course, it's likely those with extensive links experience will do well. That includes the Irish sensation.

BAGGS: Jin Young Ko. She skipped last year’s Open to focus on refining her game post-Olympics and didn’t play in 2020 because of the pandemic, but she has a pair of top-3s in three Open starts. Muirfield will play host to the women for the first time and, like Congressional, it has a list of Hall-of-Fame winners. Ko, again, fits the bill.

SCHREIBER: Atthaya Thitikul. In six of the last eight years, The Open has claimed a player's first major and all eight were first-time Open winners. That theme will continue this year. The teenage phenom will grab her first major at 19, just as Yuka Saso did last year and a year younger than fellow Thai Ariya Jutanugarn did in the '16 Open.