The 2021 season brought drama, it brought intrigue, but it also left many questions to be answered. Sitting atop the list: Will Tiger Woods tee it up in a PGA Tour event in 2022?
He left the golf world with speculation after seeing his performance at the PNC Championship playing alongside his son, Charlie. His swing looked good, the short game was polished, but can he get to a point where he’s able to walk four rounds? We’ll have to wait and see.
Along with the questions surrounding the 15-time major champion, the LPGA has its own riddles to solve.
The year 2022 should shape up to be an outstanding one for golf. Here are Golfweek‘s burning questions, posed by our incredible staff.
Will Tiger Woods play in 2022?
Tiger Woods with a smile while waiting on the third tee box during the final round of the PNC Championship golf tournament at Grande Lakes Orlando Course in Orlando. Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports
First, it was a three-second video of one swing accompanied by two words.
Then a 23-second video featuring action with a 3-wood lit up social media. Followed by repeated range sessions at the Hero World Challenge, with driver in his hands. And to wrap up the year, a triumphant return to competitive golf alongside his son, Charlie, in the PNC Championship.
Tiger Woods is on his way to another comeback.
And now the collective golf world is wondering: could Woods rise from the ashes of damage once again to work his way back to the top level of golf, as he did when he came back from spinal fusion surgery to win his 15th major championship and later his record-tying 82nd PGA Tour title.
Yes, less than 10 months after the jaws of life were used to extract Woods from a damaged vehicle following a high-speed rollover accident in February that nearly took his right leg let alone his life, Tiger is no longer a lion in winter.
So let the questions begin. Will he play the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines? The Genesis Invitational at Riviera? The Masters at Augusta National? The 150th anniversary of the Open Championship at the Old Course?
Woods, however, has tempered hopes by saying his body would never allow him to play full-time ever again. That he is left with the hope that he could pick a few PGA Tour tournaments here and there and gear his practice toward those events. Add in a few hit-and-giggle tournaments like the PNC Championship.
He has said more than a few times he is a long way off from being able to again compete against the best in the world – if he can ever again.
But remember, it was a somber Woods in December of 2015 at the Hero who asked, “Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? I don’t know. I think pretty much everything beyond this will be gravy.”
We saw what the gravy was.
So in 2022, while many other stories lines will provide burning questions, the one query that will still be at the forefront of the brains of golf fans will be if he can continue to make progress and play on the PGA Tour before 2023.
He’s Tiger Woods, after all, the best player of his generation and the unquestioned epicenter of the game for more than two decades. He’s been buried before, questioned many times over, and come out on the better side. If he plays or not, he’ll still be on the minds of those traveling in the circles of golf.
Will the Nelly Korda/Jin Young Ko rivalry last?
Jin Young Ko and Nelly Korda at the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club on November 21, 2021 in Naples, Florida. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Before we begin, yes, there is a rivalry. There was a back-and-forth at the end of 2021 inside the ropes that culminated in thrilling fashion. Ko closed the door on the LPGA Player of the Year points race but Korda, with her major title and Olympic gold medal, was POY in the minds of many.
And while none of the LPGA’s stars of late have had staying power like a Lorena Ochoa, these two could combine for eight to 10 victories in 2022 and beyond. If both can stay healthy.
It will be a friendly rivalry, to be sure, but it’s the kind of recipe that will pique the interest of potential sponsors both in the U.S. and Asia. Put each down for a major in 2022 and bring back the International Crown.
—Beth Ann Nichols
Will the Presidents Cup see another U.S. beatdown?
Playing Captain Tiger Woods and members of the United States team pose with PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan and the trophy after defeating the International team 16-14 on day four of the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Course on December 15, 2019, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)
The short answer is I hope not.
The Internationals nearly pulled off the upset two years as the U.S. needed to rally on the final day to narrowly retain the trophy. The problem with this competition remains that the gold cup has been in virtual permanent residence with Team USA. This biennial matchup is on the verge of becoming an afterthought if U.S. dominance continues, but I’m still of the belief that this thing could flip much like the Euros dominant run in the Ryder Cup after being doormats in the early days of the competition.
International Team captain Trevor Immelman will have his team prepared but will Jason Day be able to stay healthy, have a resurgent season and make the team? Can Hideki Matsuyama build off his Masters victory and become a force to be reckoned with in match play? Can veterans Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen, who are fed up with losing, put the team on their backs and lead it to victory?
It should be a talented squad with a good core of vets like Aussies Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith mixed with rising stars with experience from two years ago in the likes of Joaquin Niemann, Sungjae Im and Abraham Ancer.
The only problem is that the U.S. team will be even better than two years ago with the likely addition of two-time major winner Collin Morikawa, a healthy Brooks Koepka, an even more bulked-up Bryson DeChambeau and a rejuvenated Jordan Spieth. Team USA, which is led by Davis Love III, will be heavy favorites to win again but here’s hoping the Internationals can do their best Rocky impersonation and shock the world.
What will Mollie Marcoux Samaan do?
Mollie Marcoux Samaan, LPGA commissioner.
The former Princeton AD was hired in May of 2021 and went to work as the ninth commissioner of the LPGA in August. She spent much of the rest of the year listening to partners and players and traveling to events.
Not a whole lot is known at this point about how Marcoux Samaan plans to lead the tour. She wants to grow purses, increase exposure and boost the staff. But who will she hire? What new partnerships will she land, and what big ideas will she bring to the table?
Can’t wait to find out.
—Beth Ann Nichols
Glory days: Can another ‘old guy’ win a major?
Phil Mickelson poses with the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 2021 PGA Championship. Photo by Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Mickelson’s victory at the PGA Championship was special on multiple levels — it gave Lefty a nifty half-dozen major victories, helped the PGA Tour Champions due to his crossover appearances and showed that he still had enough in the tank to play four solid rounds on a major stage.
But for fans, it proved that the old guys can still hang. Sure Phil has improved his fitness a bit, added sunglasses as a permanent accessory and now chews something incessantly throughout his rounds, but he still projects a silhouette that middle-agers can relate to. In a world where Brooks and Bryson’s cutting physiques have become the norm, Phil reminded us that everyone can play this game.
Now, can another player from his era, or even that following wave, pull out a major in 2022? Wouldn’t that be special? Mind you, it doesn’t have to be someone who has Champions eligibility.
What about 41-year-old Sergio Garcia, who hasn’t boasted a top-15 major finish since winning in Augusta back in 2017? Or Adam Scott, who has a similar record at the big events over the past two years.
Or perhaps Bubba Watson, now 43, who has a single top-10 finish at a major since capturing the green jacket back in 2014?
The youth infusion we’ve seen over the last few years featuring Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, etc., has been spectacular for the game, for certain. But seeing one of the “old guys” — and yes, I’m using that term loosely — capturing another major in 2022 would be a tender moment for all of us.
— Tim Schmitt