Dark Horses 2022

By Stephen Delaney Hale | Photos courtesy of the Augusta National Golf Club

“In the past year the PGA Tour seems to have turned some kind of scoring corner, whether it is driving it very long and straight, hitting approach putts stiff at the cup and making putts — whatever the length. I can almost hear the roars now!

Having written this column I think now for the 33rd year, I believe this is the first time that this list doesn’t include either Phil Mickelson nor Tiger Woods to end the week as Masters Champion — again. It was someone else’s print article in 1986 that declared that Jack Nicklaus no longer had the game to win the Masters. Jack posted that article to his refrigerator door all week and went out and played the tournament of a century. I would be honored if I were proven so wrong about either Phil or Tiger.”

– Stephen Delaney Hale

 


JUSTIN ROSE | World Golf Ranking 45

Golf fans have known and rooted for Justin Rose since the first time we saw him at the 1998 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in his home country of England. Playing as an 18-year-old amateur and having been in contention all week, Rose charmed the galleries with his boyish good humor. Having finally lost touch with the lead on the 72nd hole, Rose faced a very difficult shot to the green out of deep rough. Holing the shot for an eagle, and finishing in fourth place for the tournament, Rose’s jubilant celebration was shared by the gallery and millions watching around the world. He has become a seasoned professional, having won the 2013 U.S. Open at the famed Merion Golf Club and has twice finished second at the Masters, tied with Phil Mickelson behind champion Jordan Spieth in 2015 and losing in a playoff to Sergio Garcia two years later. He has eight finishes in the Top 10 in Augusta, including 7th last year. Rose has 11 PGA Tour victories and eight in Europe, five more around the world, along with his Olympic Gold Medal at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. He also has two World Golf Championship victories and won the 2018 FedEx Cup Playoffs while he was ranked as World No. 1.


WILL ZALATORIS | World Golf Ranking 30

Will Zalatoris, 25, of San Francisco and Wake Forest is younger than the latest wave of youngsters on the Tour. Zalatoris is quickly making a name for himself with his clubs — especially his putter — although he missed some crucial putts coming home last April when he finished second by one stroke at the 2021 Masters and followed that up with a tie for eighth at the PGA Championship last year. He turned pro in 2018 and his only professional victory to this point has been the 2020 TPC Colorado Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour. That paved the way for him to play the U.S. Open where he finished 6th and within a few more good finishes he had graduated to the PGA Tour. He has made the cut just three times in major championships and all have resulted in a tie for eighth or better. It seems that because of his near-perfect swing Phil Mickelson has taken him under his wing and is teaching him the other things he needs to know to win golf tournaments besides that smooth swing. Golf enthusiasts say that Zalatoris is one to watch on tour and at the Masters.


BRYSON DECHAMBEAU | World Golf Ranking 12

Most prognosticators might place Bryson DeChambeau as even more of a favorite for the 2022 Masters Tournament. He is sitting at No. 12 in the World Golf Rankings. A math whiz since he was a kid, DeChambeau threw conventional wisdom about the golf swing out the window and wrote his own rules. For instance, all of his clubs are the same length and, for the most part, he uses the same swing for all of them. He won twice in 2020, at the Rocket Mortgage Classic by three strokes over Mathew Wolff and followed that in the fall with his first major victory at the U.S. Open, this time by six strokes and once again with Wolff in second. In 2020, DeChambeau lead the Tour in driving distance averaging 323.7 yards per drive. With the win at the U.S. Open, he became the third player in history, after Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, to win the NCAA Individual Championship, the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open during a career. His Arnold Palmer Invitational win came in March 2021 by a single stroke over Lee Westwood.


LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN | World Golf Ranking 13

Louis Oosthuizen, 39, of South Africa, won the 2010 Open Championship on the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland by seven strokes over Englishman Lee Westwood and by eight over an elite grouping of Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Paul Casey of England. Oosthuizen has finished runner-up in all four major championships, a distinction he shares with Jack Nicklaus and very few others. Those near misses came at the 2012 Masters, the 2015 and 2021 U.S. Open, the 2015 Open Championship and the PGA Championships in 2017 and 2021. Those two major second place finishes last year, plus a tie for 3rd at The Open Championship, helped Oosthuizen rise to No. 10 in the World Golf Rankings at the end of 2021. He currently sits at No. 13. The 2012 Masters second place finish came after Bubba Watson made what is still considered one of the greatest recovery shots in major championship history, out of the forest to the right of the fairway, then slicing 40 yards to finish close to the pin where he made par for the win. Playing with Watson, Oosthuizen had made double-eagle 2 on the 2nd hole early that Sunday. It was the second double-eagle (golfers call it an albatross) in Masters history along with “the shot heard round the world,” by Gene Sarazen on No. 15 on Sunday to tie for the lead. Oosthuizen turned the tie into a victory over shocked leader Craig Wood in the 36-hole playoff by five strokes the following day.


SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER | World Golf Ranking 6

Representing the latest wave of great young talent on golf courses around the country and the world is Scottie Scheffler. The 25 year-old is out to carve his niche in a crowded field. With high expectations following him out of the University of Texas Golf Team, Scheffler won twice in 2019 on the Korn Ferry Tour. He shot a 30 on the back nine at the Evans Scholars Invitational in May 2019, and then won the playoff over Marcelo Rozo. In August 2019, he won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship on the Ohio State University course with a two shot victory. That event was part of the Korn Ferry Tour finals, earning him the Player of the Year award and a fully exempt PGA Tour card for the 2020 season. In August 2020, Scheffler finished tied for fourth at the 2020 PGA Championship. Later that month, he shot a 12-under 59 at The Northern Trust, which tied for the second lowest score in PGA Tour history. Less than three years out of college, Scheffler was picked for the U.S. Ryder Cup Team where he earned 2.5 points including a win in his Sunday singles match against World No. 1 Jon Rahm. Less than two months into 2022, he posted his first PGA Tour victory at the 2022 WM Phoenix Open in a playoff against Patrick Cantlay. In the seven times he has entered a major championship, Scheffler finished tied for eighth or better in four of them.

Appears in the April 2022 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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