As the PGA Tour gets set to kick off the 2022 season at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, there are a number of questions in golf that need to be answered. Here are some of the most interesting:
When will Tiger return?
Tiger Woods teased us all by teeing it up in the PNC Challenge alongside son Charlie, playing well enough in the better-ball competition to finish second. Despite spending three months in a bed following his February car crash, Woods showed remarkable ability to hit precise shots right through the bag. Clearly, he wasn’t ready for the PGA Tour at that point, but it did give hope that his return might be sooner than expected. The obvious comeback tournament would be the Masters, but a hilly course such as Augusta National might not suit a guy with a weak leg. Perhaps the PGA Championship May at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., which, despite its name, is relatively flat? Or even better, the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. It’s flat as a pancake and one of Woods’ personal favourites.
Will the Saudi Golf League get off the ground?
The talk of a rival league to the PGA Tour cooled down over the holiday break but is expected to keep making noise as the new year unfolds. One of the more interesting developments was the PGA Tour giving exemptions for a gaggle of players to tee it up in the Saudi International. That was unexpected since the PGA Tour seemed to be dead set against it earlier in the year. Will the proposed new tour ever get off the ground? If it does, who will be the first player to announce a commitment to the new circuit?
Is the rivalry between Brooks and Bryson over?
The rivalry between the two big, beefy players played out over most of last year, mostly through social media. Some suggested that it was all aimed at getting a hunk of the Player Impact Program money, while others believed it was a genuine dislike triggered by different approaches to the game and life. It reached a crescendo with two forced hugs at the Ryder Cup and a boring 12-hole match in Las Vegas that was dominated by Koepka. But is the bitter back-and-forth now over? Or will the two continue to take shots at each other across Instagram and fairways?
Is the best rivalry in golf on the LPGA Tour?
Forget Bryson and Brooks, is one of the best rivalries in golf in the women’s game? Nelly Korda and Jin Young Ko sit first and second respectively on the Rolex Rankings after spectacular seasons in 2021. Korda won four times, including the Olympic gold medal and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Ko won four of her last seven starts, including the CME Group Tour Championship, and was never out of the top 10 in that stretch. She also had a remarkable streak of hitting 63 greens consecutively. There’s no animosity between these two, thankfully, and their battle is limited to the golf course.
Can the Internationals compete at the Presidents Cup?
Bumped back a year from its original date due to the pandemic, the U.S-versus-International competition is set to be played at Quail Hollow in September. Judging by the performance of the American squad at the last Ryder Cup, the rest-of-the-world team will be in tough. Still, as Captain Ernie Els showed last time in Australia, the cast of International players can produce some solid competition, perhaps even greater than the last European lineup. For Canadian fans, there is a legitimate chance two players from north of the 49th could be on the team. As the new year starts, Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes are in good position to earn places in Captain Trevor Immelman’s lineup. Making the team is high on the list of goals for both players. But the question is, will they and the others on his team have enough to handle the talented American gang?
Who will be No. 1?
Jon Rahm lodged himself into the top spot on the Official World Golf Ranking after the Open Championship and remained there through the end of the season. But can he hold on to that position? There are several possible contenders for the throne, including Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay and DeChambeau. Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson, a couple of guys who have been there before, might also lay claim to the top spot. Barring a strong run from Rahm, the No.1 position might see a few different names before 2022 turns into 2023.
How will Brooke Henderson handle a shorter driver?
When the governing bodies of golf put into place a new rule limiting the length of a driver shaft to 46 inches, one of the few people affected was Brooke Henderson. She used a 48-inch model last year. Except she didn’t use all 48 inches. Henderson chokes down on the club to about the 45-inch mark, a habit she picked up as a youngster when she played with her sister Brittany’s clubs, which were too long for her. With the new model local rule adopted by the LPGA Tour as of Jan. 1, she is trying to find a solution but, as of this week, hadn’t announced what that would be. Playing with a regular-length club didn’t go well in previous attempts, she admitted. The LPGA’s first event, the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, starts Jan. 20.
Will the Canadian Opens be held?
Both the RBC Canadian Open and the CP Women’s Open have been dormant since 2019. Will the two go ahead this year and if so, what will they look like? Will there be fans? Will some players (and caddies) decide not to come, owing to the necessary regulations for crossing the border? No one can predict what the COVID protocols will look like in June (men’s) or August (women’s) but decisions on both will need to be made about six weeks to a month prior. A third year on the shelf would be devastating to both tournaments.