Ones To Watch 2022

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

Sports speculation is a favorite pastime around the world.

Every sport has their prognosticators, but Masters fans invented their own prediction mechanism, the Calcutta Party, very early on in the life of the tournament. First of all, it’s a party! It can be among your golf group, your bridge club or even your polo club (we did that in 2006).

You start by playing a significant size crowd with cocktails. Then you get a popular member of the group who knows about golf and the Masters and is enough of an entertainer to hold everyone’s attention. The emcee hands out a list of this year’s invitees and then begins an auction of the players. The key is that once you pick a player (or group of players) you have your favorite(s) for the rest of the week. It focuses your mind, so you can cheer a little louder for “your guy.”

The Calcutta Party is an Augusta tradition.  As the tournament approaches, Masters fans — and “experts” — spend countless hours picking favorites, and talking it over with others.

Here are our Top 10 prospects to win a 2022 Green Jacket. These 10 men have proven their mettle, won’t get swallowed by the moment or have been playing exceptionally well in the past several months.

World Golf Rankings as of February 20, 2022

 


JON RAHM | World Golf Ranking 1

Ranked No. 1 in the world, Jon Rahm, 27, might be a Masters favorite along the lines of great Spanish golfers, including two-time Masters Champions Severianos Ballesteros (1980 & 1983), Jose Maria Olazabal (1994 & 1999) and Sergio Garcia (2017). Rahm is also the reigning U.S. Open Champion. He finished tied for third in The Open Championship last year and his best finishes in the other major championships were ties for fourth in the 2018 PGA and Masters Championships. He has won six times on the PGA Tour while winning seven European Tour titles and is the current holder of the PGA Player of the Year Award as well as both the Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson awards. Like Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, Rahm combines exceptional length off the tee with a seemingly magical touch on the greens. Those talents combined with his Spanish disposition and his bulked-up size, Rahm will surely win a Masters, if not in 2022, then certainly soon. And at his 6’2”, 220 lb. “tight end” stature, Rahm is surely not easily injured. With his wife, the former Kelley Cahill and their young son, Rahm resides in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he began his streak of 60 weeks (the longest ever) ranked as the World No. 1 Amateur while he and Kelley were students at Arizona State University.


VIKTOR HOVLAND | World Golf Ranking 4

Viktor Hovland has already won the Hero World Challenge and the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba as part of the current 2021-22 season. Another of the vintage year 1997-born golfers, Hovland became the first Norwegian to win on the PGA tour at the 2020 Puerto Rico Open. He also became the first Norwegian to win on the European Tour at the 2021 BMW International Open. He won the Mayakoba Golf Classic in both 2020 and 2021. Also registering as the first golfer from Norway to do so, Hovland won the 2018 U.S. Amateur. It is easy to observe while watching PGA Tour telecasts that Hovland has close friendships with many of the other pre-25-year-old players on tour, no doubt earned through the college tournaments he played as a member of the perennial Oklahoma State University team. His amateur victory earned an invitation to the 2019 Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championships. After commendable showings as an amateur at the Masters and the U.S. Open, Hovland gave up his amateur status to play in the Travelers Championship in June 2019. Hovland set a PGA Tour record for most consecutive rounds in the 60s with 19! On the thoroughly beaten European Ryder Cup Team in 2021, Hovland managed a full point with two ties, including one in the Sunday singles matches versus Collin Morikawa. He reached No. 3 on the World Golf Rankings in early 2022 with a win at the Dubai Desert Classic after a final-round 66 and a birdie on the first extra hole. All of the new crop of young phenoms on tour treat Hovland as a friend and a threat. You’ll probably know more about him after this year’s Masters.


XANDER SCHAUFFELE | World Golf Ranking 8

Gold medalist at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and ranked No. 5 in the golf world, Xander Schauffele became the first rookie in history to win the PGA Tour Championship (after finishing 5th at the U.S. Open and a win at The Greenbrier) and was voted “rookie of the year” in 2017 by his peers. In 2018, Schauffele finished tied for 2nd at both The Players Championship and The Open Championship at Carnoustie, Scotland. The European native also went on to win the World Golf Championship — HSBC Champions and finished 4th in the European Order of Merit (money list). In the first tournament of 2019, Schauffele won the Sentry Tournament of Champions, shooting a 62 in the final round. He then finished 2nd to Tiger Woods by a stroke at the Masters. That summer he tied for 3rd at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and a solo 2nd at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta in the 2019 Tour Championship. In the narrow 16–14 U.S. victory in The Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne in Australia, Schauffele had a 3-2-0 record including a singles victory over Australian champion Adam Scott. The tables were turned the following year in international play during the United States’ overwhelming 19-9 victory in the Ryder Cup where Schauffele went 3-1-0, but that one was a loss in the singles match to European hero Rory Mcllroy. In five starts at the U.S. Open, Schauffele has never finished worse than T7 and in the past three Masters he has finished tied for 2nd and tied for 3rd. Traditionally there has been a significant difference in the preparation of the courses for the U.S. Open and the Masters. Xander Schauffele has already shown that he can play them both.


JORDAN SPIETH | World Golf Ranking 14

Jordan Spieth is an enigma to sports fans. Where did this kid come from? Where did he go? Is he really back? And does that mean he will recapture his spectacular early form? Still just 28, Spieth was a mere 21 years old in 2015 when he won the Masters, the U.S. Open, the FedEx Cup Championship and was second in the PGA Championship, shaking up the pecking order on the PGA Tour. And, he brought several friends with him who could play a bit, too. The PGA remains the lone major trophy Spieth has yet to collect after winning The Open Championship in 2017 at Royal Birkdale in England. His victory in Augusta tied the tournament record 270 (-18) set by Tiger Woods in 1997, making him the second youngest Masters winner, second to Woods. Later that summer Spieth won the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., by one stroke over Louis Oosthuizen and Dustin Johnson. Still just 21, the victory made Spieth the youngest to win the U.S. Open in 92 years, since Bobby Jones in 1923. He earned his first World No. 1 ranking with his second-place finish to Jason Day at the PGA. To most fans Spieth’s first sign of mortality came on the back nine of the 2016 Masters when leading by five strokes as he turned for home, he shot an astounding five-over 41 to lose the Green Jacket to Englishman Danny Willett by three strokes. A series of lackluster finishes in 2017 puzzled fans but he saved his season with victory at The Open Championship and was in contention for the Tour Championship to the final day. The next three years were a slide of ever-worsening finishes and several missed cuts, peppered with the occasional bright spots. He had a rousing 3rd at the 2018 Masters but most of the rest of the year and the next were a continued slide. He finished 2019 at 44th in the World Rankings for the second consecutive year and after 2020 he had failed to win an event for three years. Starting 2021 with several solid top 10 finishes, Spieth won the Valero Texas Open in his home state. In his next start, Spieth finished 3rd in the 2021 Masters and 2nd at The Open Championship, two shots behind Collin Morikawa — rising to 14th in the world. If Spieth is on a comeback, the Masters would be the best place to stake that claim.


JUSTIN THOMAS | World Golf Ranking 7

Justin Thomas, a mainstay of the PGA Tour’s last Young Turks, now 28, remains a formidable figure on tour along with fellow alumni Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger, Will Zalatoris, Victor Hovland and Jon Rahm. He turned professional in 2013 and won his first tournament at the 2014 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship as a member of the Web.com Tour which proved a link to his earning his PGA Tour card for 2015. That November he notched his first PGA Tour victory at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, narrowly defeating established star Adam Scott. He defended that title a year later and then went on to star status in the U.S., winning the opening SBS Tournament of Champions in January 2017. The next week he entered rare territory when he became the seventh player in PGA Tour history to shoot a 59. He needed to make eagle on his first and last holes (Nos. 10 and 9), even finding room for a bogey before a streak of eight pars in 10 holes. That summer Thomas broke two U.S. Open records in the third round when he shot a 9-under 63. Thomas then won his first major championship, the PGA Championship, by two strokes. He finished with two more wins that fall, by two strokes over close friend Spieth at the Dell Technologies Championship and in a playoff over Marc Leishman in the CJ Cup. He produced two victories in 2019 and 2020 with his latest win in March 2021 at The Players Championship by one stroke over Englishman Lee Westwood. Like Spieth, and most of the rest of his class, Thomas is very popular with Masters patrons and that support has always been a major factor at Augusta. With so many younger golfers playing so well around the world, odds are that the roars will return to the hills and valleys at Augusta National and Thomas’ reactions are a little more enthusiastic than most.


HIDEKI MATSUYAMA | World Golf Ranking 10

Hideki Matsuyama, 30, is our reigning Masters Champion, making him the first Japanese professional to win a men’s major golf championship. Several Japanese women have held major titles. His eight victories on the PGA Tour make him the most successful male Japanese golfer in the history of the U.S. Tour. He has 17 worldwide wins and has won two World Golf Championships, by seven strokes over Daniel Berger and Henrik Stenson in the WGC-HSBC in 2016 and by five strokes over Zach Johnson in the 2017 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He reached the No. 2 spot in the World Golf Rankings in 2017 after finishing second in the U.S. Open and five years after reaching the No. 1 position in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Later that year Matsuyama won the Bridgestone, shooting a record-tying 61 in the final round. In 2019, Matsuyama gave a valiant effort to the International Team in the Presidents Cup in Australia. Though his team lost to the Americans 14–16, he halved his singles match with Tony Finau and scored 2.5 points with a 2-1-1 showing. In both 2010 and 2011, he won the Asian Amateur Championship which carries with it an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament. Following his Masters victory last year, he won the ZOZO Championship in October and the Sony Open in Hawaii. This February he stood in 10th spot in the World Golf Rankings. Matsuyama married his wife Mei in 2017, and they have a daughter, Kanna. At the conclusion of the tournament, Matsuyama’s caddie, Shota Hayafuji, bowed to the 18th fairway of the Augusta course as a gesture of Japanese respect.


PATRICK CANTLAY | World Golf Ranking 3

With a name as Irish as Patrick Cantlay, and now nicknamed Patty Ice, it must have been a party in Long Beach, Calif., when he was born to parents named Stephen and Colleen on St. Patrick’s Day in 1992. Few young men have ever fashioned such a brilliant amateur career, which included leading the World Amateur Golf Ranking for 55 weeks — a record at the time — and when he finished second in the 2011 U.S. Amateur Championship he was invited to the Masters where he finished low amateur in a tie for 47th. He turned professional in 2012 and won his first pro tournament at the 2013 Colombia Championship on the Web.com Tour and earned his 2014 PGA Tour card. But a serious back injury kept him out for most of the next three seasons. In an abbreviated 2017 season with just 12 starts, he managed to qualify for the Tour Championship. In his second start in 2018 Cantlay won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open for his first PGA Tour victory. The quality of his play from that point can be defined by the quality of the men who finished second in his five victories: Adam Scott by two strokes in the 2019 Memorial Tournament, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas by one stroke in the 2020 ZOZO Championship, and in 2021 he defeated Collin Morikawa in a playoff for the Memorial Tournament, Bryson DeChambeau in a playoff for the BMW Championship during the PGA Tour playoffs and Jon Rahm by one stroke to win the Tour Championship. He finished 2021 in 2nd place on the Tour Money List. This year Cantlay lost at the WM Phoenix Open in a playoff with Scottie Scheffler. As of mid-February, Cantlay sat at 3rd in the World Rankings. After coming back to the fairways after serious injury and personal tragedy, Cantlay seems to stalk the course like a man on a serious mission.


DUSTIN JOHNSON | World Golf Ranking 9

South Carolina’s favorite golfer has matured into a crushing opponent on the golf course when all of his many talents are working together in any given week. No more than half-a-dozen men in the world can hit a drive as far and as straight as Dustin Johnson, few can match his ingenuity and his deft touch on the toughest shots around the greens and when he is really on it he just doesn’t miss putts. He has always been in the limelight. In his day at the Coastal Carolina University, Johnson was the dominant celebrity at the Myrtle Beach hotspots. He is married to Wayne Gretskey’s glamorous daughter, Paulina, and the galleries cheer for him as for few others. Johnson won two amateur tournaments while a student and turned professional in 2007, moving to the PGA Tour the following year. During his rookie year, Johson won the Turning Stone Resort Championship and won his second event at the 2009 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. His third PGA victory came in defending his Pebble Beach title in 2010. He finished the year with a victory at the BMW Championship during the Tour Playoffs. Johnson has won two major tournaments, the 2016 U.S. Open and the 2020 Masters Tournament, played in November after the COVID-19 pandemic shuffled a lot of schedules. He has won 24 PGA Tour tournaments, including four in 2020, and has three wins on the European tour. Including his victory in 2020, Thomas has finished in the top 10 in five of the past six Masters Tournaments.


COLLIN MORIKAWA | World Golf Ranking 2

To illustrate what a bolt of lightning Collin Morikawa has been on the PGA Tour, he has played in only eight major championships and has already won two of them! Until last year Bobby Jones in 1926 was the only golfer to have ever managed the same feat. In November, he won the European Tour’s season ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai. In so doing, he also became the first American to win the Race to Dubai, their Tour Championship. Many golf fans assume that Collin Morikawa is Japanese, but he was born and bred in Berkeley, Calif., (Feb. 6, 1997) to parents named Debbie and Blaine. The California native graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2019 with a degree in business administration. Morikawa is engaged to his girlfriend Katherine Zhu. After three weeks as the World’s No. 1 Amateur Golfer, he began his PGA Tour career with 22 consecutive made cuts, second only to Tiger Woods’ 25-cut streak at the start of a professional career. In 2019, Morikawa won the fourth tournament he entered, the Barracuda Championship. On July 12, 2020, Morikawa defeated Justin Thomas in a playoff to win his second PGA Tour title at the Workday Charity Open. He had to rally from three strokes down with three holes to play to make a playoff with Thomas and then had to make a 25-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole. He won on the third extra hole. The next month, Morikawa won the 2020 PGA Championship to win a major in his second major start. Eleven months later he won the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s Club in Kent, England, by two strokes over Jordan Spieth.


RORY MCILORY | World Golf Ranking 5

Rory McIlroy is certainly among the most popular golfers in the world and, no doubt, among the most talented. At 32 years old McIlroy has 20 victories in the U.S. and a dozen more around the world. But he may be best known for the one he lost — the 2011 Masters Tournament. He was four strokes ahead with nine to play and then shot a 7-over 43 on the back nine to finish tied for 15th. After several more disappointing tournaments the 21-year-old Northern Irishman astounded the golf world by winning the U.S. Open by eight strokes over Australian star Jason Day. The next year he won the PGA Championship, again by eight strokes, this time over Englishman David Lynn. Two years later he won two majors, The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool by two strokes over Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia. A month later McIlroy won a second PGA Championship and a fourth major title, this time by a single stroke over Phil Mickelson. The highest achievement in golf is considered to be a career that includes the Grand Slam — victories in the four major tournaments: the Masters, the U.S. Open, The Open Championship and the PGA Championship. From the moment of his Open Championship victory, eight tournaments counting the coming one, winning the Masters is the one obstacle that separates the name of McIlroy from being highly admired and from his being added to the list of Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. The reverence that golf fans hold for those six men is a podium for the ages. It is a step up McIlroy is still likely to take. For most of the history of golf the early 30s were a player’s prime time, that is before the golf world was invaded by two youth waves named Spieth, Thomas, Cantlay, Rahm, Morikama, Hovland, Matsuyama, Schauffele and their other college buddies. McIlroy certainly has the game that the Augusta National demands and Masters patrons come alive as they watch history being made.

Appears in the April 2022 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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