Whether you’re a fair-weather fan or a die-hard follower of the sport, you will find that this week’s PGA Championship isn’t lacking in compelling storylines. From Tiger Woods being back for his second major tournament after making the cut at the Masters, World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler attempting to keep his fast start to 2022 going, Jordan Spieth making another run at a career grand slam before turning 30, to Phil Mickelson announcing he won’t be at Southern Hills to defend the title he dramatically won last year at age 50. The list goes on and on.
To get you ready for the second men’s major of the season, we made a list of the 2022 PGA Championship notable players to watch out for from perhaps the strongest major field of the year.
2022 PGA Championship Notable Players
Honorable Mention: Tiger Woods
|Official Golf World Ranking:||818|
|PGA Championship Starts:||21|
|Best PGA Championship Finish:||1st (1999, 2000, 2007)|
Woods is arriving on the PGA Championship scene in the same manner that Phil Mickelson did last year: with a slim chance of winning. He’s showing up, hoping something might happen. More accurately, he’s showing up because of his sheer love of golf and takes his reputation as one of this event’s champions seriously.
Woods said it himself; he doesn’t play unless he believes he has a real chance at the title. However, nothing about his game in the last 18 months or his performance at the Masters suggests he has a chance. However, the same could have been said about Mickelson this time last year.
What we know for sure is that you miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take, and the first step to winning is showing up. If “Lefty” taught us anything, it was that historically great players don’t just show up but win the PGA Championship (which he did in dramatic fashion last year).
10.) Dustin Johnson
|Official Golf World Ranking:||12|
|PGA Championship Starts:||12|
|Best PGA Championship Finish:||T-2 Twice (2019, 2020)|
To be honest, there aren’t many positive things to speak of about Johnson and 2022. He’s participated in nine tournaments yet didn’t manage to finish higher than fourth at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, which caused his world ranking to drop nine places from third to 12th.
But, you can’t discount the fact that he finished runner-up in the 2019 and 2020 PGA Championships before surprisingly missing the cut last year at Kiawah. Johnson has yet to record a win on the PGA Tour since the 2020 Masters, which is unusual, to say the least, for a player of his caliber.
On the bright side, he has gained ground on the field off the tee in each of his last five measured outings after struggling with the driver all season, which is encouraging. While it’s strange to see two numbers next to his name in the World Ranking, you can be certain that he’s the last person to be bothered.
A win here would give him three legs of the career Grand Slam, suddenly making a membership into that ultra-elite club a strong possibility.
9.) Patrick Cantlay
|Official Golf World Ranking:||5|
|PGA Championship Starts:||5|
|Best PGA Championship Finish:||T-3 (2019)|
Cantlay is one of the PGA Championship notable players who’s yet to record a win this year, but he has been in that neighborhood on more than one occasion. His campaign came to a halt in the playoffs to finish second in the RBC Heritage and Phoenix Open on top of three other top-10 finishes in other tournaments he played in. To round up his 2022 performance so far, Cantlay failed to make the cut and recorded three other standings well off the leaderboard.
Despite that, he’s still in the top five of the current Golf World Ranking. Also, he and Xander Schauffele were on a roll at the Zurich Classic, breaking practically every scoring record and looking rock-solid throughout the week.
It’s interesting to note that Cantlay only has two top-10 finishes in majors tournaments his entire career, none since 2019, and wasn’t considered even for a T-39 finish at the Masters.
He’s undoubtedly well-rested come tee time on Thursday, fresh off a three-week time off.
8.) Cameron Smith
|Official Golf World Ranking:||4|
|PGA Championship Starts:||6|
|Best PGA Championship Finish:||T-25 (2016)|
Currently, Smith’s brilliance is being overlooked. His domination throughout the first half of 2022 has since been eclipsed by Scheffler’s exploits. (Smith began the year by shooting 36 under and getting in the way of then-world No. 1 Jon Rahm in Hawaii. He followed that up with a stunning triumph at the Players, putting his dazzling short-game on full display.)
With the PGA Championships on the horizon, the course at Southern Hills should play to his core abilities if it’s close to being like Augusta National, wherein he has dominated over the last five years with four top-ten finishes.
Smith has been the top iron player in the world (and by a wide margin) during his last 20 rounds, and his short game is also second to none. With that in mind, the wide fairways at Southern Hills should help him off the tee, as he tends to get a bit wayward at times.
Make no mistake, however, that if you drop a ball on the fairway, he may be the best player in the world, and this course will help him gain the advantage from there.
7.) Viktor Hovland
|Official Golf World Ranking:||6|
|PGA Championship Starts:||2|
|Best PGA Championship Finish:||T-30 (2021)|
Hovland has had a strong run-up to the PGA, with five top-10 finishes in ten outings on two tours. He won the Dubai Desert Classic in late January and finished tied for second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational five weeks later.
Despite being just 24 years of age, he’s established himself in the top 10 rankings worldwide despite a significant weakness in his game — chipping. Over his last 24 rounds, he only managed to place 234th in strokes gained/around the green. His T-27 at the Masters was also a bit of a letdown since he was at the forefront of leaderboards just last winter and into the spring.
Hovland is one of the most prolific ball-strikers among the PGA Championship notable players. Because of this prowess, he has never missed a cut in the majors, but has yet to finish in the top ten. Perhaps the result will be more favorable this time around and will occur in his adopted state of Oklahoma (he went to Oklahoma State and still considers Stillwater home).
One word of caution: the tournament’s victor will need to be a fantastic chipper, at least according to course experts at Southern Hills.
6.) Jordan Spieth
|Official Golf World Ranking:||8|
|PGA Championship Starts:||9|
|Best PGA Championship Finish:||2nd (2015)|
If you’re making your pick on who’s going to win among the 2022 PGA Championship notable players based on who’s the hottest player right now, few can compete with Spieth. He won and finished second in his last two tournaments. At the AT&T Byron Nelson, he finished one stroke behind K.H. Lee and defeated Cantlay in a playoff at the RBC Heritage in April.
The upcoming majors tournament is extra special because it presents another opportunity for Spieth to put the Career Grand Slam in the bag and finally join one of golf’s most exclusive clubs.
A missed cut at the Masters seemed to appear like a significant low point—his tempo is substantially slower compared to last year, and he appeared entirely focused on swing mechanics, including a ponderous pre-shot routine. Despite these challenges, he managed to win the RBC Heritage and finished solo second at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Ultimately, the renovation of the course in Southern Hills should play into his hands as it will be anything but a typical PGA Championship layout. Instead, it will be firm, quick, windy, and require tons of touch and skill. As it turns out, that’s what Spieth’s game is all about.
(See Related Article: Everything You Need to Know About the 2022 PGA Championship)
5.) Justin Thomas
|Official Golf World Ranking:||9|
|PGA Championship Starts:||6|
|Best PGA Championship Finish:||1st (2017)|
When news broke out that the renovation in Southern Hills would involve redesigning the greens so that they flowed away from the middle instead of going into them, Thomas came to mind at once. His ability to hit spectacular iron shots at different speeds and distances is close to perfection and may be unmatched in modern golf. So far this season, he has finished in the top 10 in eight of the 13 events he has played in around the world.
It’s been five years since he won his first major at Quail Hollow. Since then, he has added nine more titles at PGA Tour events but has yet to be in serious contention for another major.
Even though there are doubts about his putting and accuracy off the tee, this is the perfect golf course for him to go on a dominant run for four consecutive days.
4.) Collin Morikawa
|Official Golf World Ranking:||3|
|PGA Championship Starts:||2|
|Best PGA Championship Finish:||1st (2020)|
Morikawa’s playing partner Rory McIlroy may have outplayed him that day, but his final-round 67 at Augusta National is enough to earn him his third straight top-five finish in a majors competition.
It isn’t entirely surprising that a generational talent at the irons has done well in the most challenging tournaments, but that doesn’t make the fact that he has two wins and five top-10 finishes in his first nine major championship starts any less impressive.
These accomplishments should be enough to earn him the subjective title of “Best Young Player in the Game” at just 25 years of age.
If he bags the PGA Championship title this week, it will be his third major in 10 starts. An eye-popping (if somewhat unsustainable) pace.
3.) Rory McIlroy
|Official Golf World Ranking:||7|
|PGA Championship Starts:||13|
|Best PGA Championship Finish:||1st (2012, 2014)|
No one can tell whether McIlroy will take the more traditional “front-door” approach or another of his patented “back-door” top-five finishes at this year’s PGA Championships. Whatever path he chooses, he is expected to be right there in the mix at the tail-end of the competition.
He showed once again at both the Masters and the Wells Fargo that when his game is on, it’s still head and shoulders above anyone else’s best. The only concern is that he’s been going through these brief spells during tournament weeks when he isn’t at his best.
Now a seasoned veteran at 33, McIlroy still belongs to the PGA Championship notable players list and has been honing his craft for the majors. He finished second to Scottie Scheffler in the recent Masters and fifth in his final PGA tune-up at the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this month.
He has a legitimate chance of winning by a half-dozen strokes. Even if he doesn’t, McIlroy knows how to play his best golf late in the week, so expect another leaderboard-raising round on Sunday. If he manages to get off to a hot start, the other players on the field better watch out.
2.) Jon Rahm
|Official Golf World Ranking:||2|
|PGA Championship Starts:||5|
|Best PGA Championship Finish:||T-4 (2018)|
While Rahm’s ball-striking has been superb of late, he has his fair share of struggles around the greens. But those who have followed him since the beginning know that he’s elite on and around the greens. It’s safe to say that the former world no. 1 will regain his touch at some point. It’s unclear, though, if that “some point” will be this week at Southern Hills.
Nonetheless, his perseverance in the majors has been incredible. His worst finish in his last six is a T27 at the Masters; the rest is top eight or higher.
Rahm leads the tour in strokes gained/overall over his previous 50 events and has been flawless with the driver this year, hitting it seven yards farther than his 2020-21 average and leading the PGA Tour in strokes gained/off the tee this season.
What better way to prepare for the upcoming PGA than winning your last competition before arriving? Rahm did just that, courtesy of a one-shot victory at the Mexico Open at Vidanta earlier this month. Overall, he listed a first, a second, a third, and two other top-10 placements in 10 events this year.
There’s no debate that the Spaniard is one of the favorites to win this major, and any major competition for that matter. It’s been the case for the past two years and potentially for the next ten. He’s that good.
1.) Scottie Scheffler
|Official Golf World Ranking:||1|
|PGA Championship Starts:||2|
|Best PGA Championship Finish:||T-4 (2020)|
To say Scheffler is having a career year is an understatement of the highest kind. The 25-year-old has been a winner only twice in parts during his first seven seasons as a professional. He has already won four events in nine outings this season, including a three-shot victory against McIlroy at the Masters, and tied for 15th at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which served as his final pre-PGA event.
The current world’s leading golfer will now have the opportunity to play on what he has described as his favorite golf course in the world. After taking a few weeks off at the conclusion of the Zurich Classic, he returned to the AT&T Byron Nelson. He had a pretty ideal week of preparation, pouring in several birdies while not having to cope with the stress of being in contention.
Everything is running smoothly in Team Scheffler right now, and it shows. His performance this year has been nothing short of spectacular and well-rounded.
Given that he’s a tremendous ball-striker, golfers know that you don’t win the Masters without chipping and putting your way to victory. Frankly, at this point, it would be a surprise if Scheffler is a non-factor come Sunday afternoon.