The PGA Tour is just beginning to hit its groove, with another stop in California this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
It’s still February, so there’s a lot of golf yet to be played. Many of the sport’s biggest names are still beginning to find their games.
World No. 1 Jon Rahm appears to have picked up where he left off in 2021, while others, such as Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, are still getting dialed in.
The first edition of the PGA golf world rankings features familiar names — and notable omissions. In our opinion, they’re the top 20 players since the start of the 2021-2022 PGA season, which began in September.
Top 20 PGA Golf World Rankings
- Official World Golf Ranking: 22
- Age: 36
After going winless in his first 232 PGA Tour outings, the big-hitting, 6-foot-4 Ohio native won the Houston Open in November for his third title in 13 months, adding to his wins at Colonial in 2021 and Shadow Creek in 2020.
His putting has been the biggest differentiator for the 36-year-old. Last season, Kokrak placed sixth in strokes gained/putting. Compare that to his last five seasons wherein he finished 151st, 103rd, 110th, 175th, and 154th, respectively. So far this year, he has only made two starts, finishing 38th in the Tournament of Champions and tied for 17th in the Sony Open.
- Official World Golf Ranking: 21
- Age: 30
We haven’t seen much of the Englishman since playing at the Ryder Cup in Whistling Straits last year. Since then, he tied for 18th in the CJ Cup and secured a T-9 finish at the Hero World Challenge. This year, Hatton has performed admirably in Europe, finishing sixth in Abu Dhabi and tying for fourth in the Dubai Desert Classic.
20.) Abraham Ancer
- Official World Golf Ranking: 20
- Age: 30
Ancer is coming off a noteworthy year in which he placed sixth in the FedEx Cup to finish the regular season and ranked 12th in scoring and 15th in strokes gained. Ancer’s production is more impressive given that he’s one of the tour’s shortest hitters (ranking 157th in distance). However, he more than makes up for it by hitting a considerable number of fairways.
It’s fair to wonder, though, if the weaknesses in his game are what held him back at the majors, registering a lone top-10 finish in 11 starts. On the other hand, it could just be an issue of reps and his second-shot prowess. Or maybe, his ability to rack up red figures (he’s currently in the top 20 in birdies) while keeping the big numbers off the card (fifth in bogey avoidance) will turn him into a force to reckon with at one of golf’s big four tournaments soon enough.
19.) Harris English
- Official World Golf Ranking: 19
- Age: 32
English had a career year in 2021, despite a dismal performance last fall with two missed cuts and a WD). He registered a pair of wins and a fourth-place finish in the FedEx Cup regular-season standings and climbed to tenth place in the World Rankings, which is the best of his career.
He’s in his prime at 32, and the Georgia native has proven he knows how to score—and win—despite relatively quiet numbers. At this stage, it looks like he’ll go as far as his putter takes him.
18.) Brooks Koepka
- Official World Golf Ranking: 18
- Age: 31
With three more Tied-6 or higher finishes at the majors last year, Koepka remains one of golf’s best big-game hunters on the men’s side. However, since he admitted that he went through a challenging period of rehabbing and that his knee may never fully recover, it appears that injuries will remain a concern in 2022.
In January, not even a rather drastic change in hair color could turn around the play of the four-time major’s tournament champion. Recently, he missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, which marks the third time he didn’t play on the weekend in his last five starts.
But, season-long figures or overall PGA golf world rankings aside, he’s the best at performing when it counts the most, and only a year’s worth of total flops would be enough to change that.
17.) Tony Finau
- Official World Golf Ranking: 17
- Age: 32
When he won the Northern Trust in August, Finau finally threw off the proverbial monkey on his back and finished first for the first time in 142 starts. He had eight runner-up finishes in that span, which fanned the flame of criticisms about his inability to close. Finau had a slow start in ’21, ranking 116th in first-round scoring average at 70.92, but he was a Friday monster, averaging 68.60.
In the last ten tournaments that Finau has entered the final round T-3 or better, he gained strokes beyond expectation in five of them. Unfortunately, that hasn’t resulted in the 2nd title of Finau’s career yet.
Until that happens, no amount of fancy scoring averages will be able to dispel his “can’t-get-it-done-on-Sundays” label.
16.) Daniel Berger
- Official World Golf Ranking: 16
- Age: 28
The player who won the inaugural tournament during the COVID restart in 2020 added another victory at Pebble Beach in 2021 for a total of four titles in his PGA Tour career. Berger also had a couple of top-10 finishes in major tournaments and performed exceptionally well in his first Ryder Cup after being selected as one of Steve Stricker’s captain picks.
Berger didn’t play much since the Ryder Cup. He only had two starts to his name in official Tour events, resulting in a T-5 finish at the Tournament of Champions and a tie for 20th at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Berger has three consecutive top-10 finishes at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, including a win the year before. Undoubtedly, he’ll be among the favorites in the upcoming PGA Tour events this season.
15.) Jordan Spieth
- Official World Golf Ranking: 14
- Age: 28
In April, the former PGA golf world rankings No. 1 player ended his post-2017 Open Championship “slump,” winning the Valero Texas Open just one week before the Masters. A T-7 at Augusta, followed by a solo second at The Open later that summer, proved he’s definitely back on track. A fourth major title will effectively silence any remaining skeptics. The 2022 majors schedule, which includes two of his favorite haunts (Augusta and St. Andrews), perfectly sets the stage for him to accomplish this task.
Prior to missing the cut at Torrey Pines, Spieth had three consecutive top-25s, including a tie for 18th at the CJ Cup and a tie for 21st at the Tournament of Champions. He will look to keep his momentum from last year going at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2017, apart from four other top-10 finishes.
14.) Scottie Scheffler
- Official World Golf Ranking: 15
- Age: 25
A brilliant Ryder Cup singles victory over Jon Rahm has boosted Scheffler’s confidence tremendously as he seeks his first PGA Tour title. However, the longer it takes for him to bag the feat, the more difficult it will be to fend off questions as to why it hasn’t happened yet.
But let’s not forget he’s only 25. yet has already had 17 top-10 finishes in 57 starts. Despite not making it in the top 50 of any major strokes-gained category, he had two top-five finishes last fall. That elusive first title would be his soon, once his game kicks into high gear this spring.
The Ryder Cup rookie hero has three straight top-25 finishes, including a tie for 20th at Torrey Pines. He’s still working on his driver, ranking 110th in shots gained off the tee and 113th in driving accuracy.
13.) Sungjae Im
- Official World Golf Ranking: 23
- Age: 23
With eight starts already this season, Sungjae Im continues to play a lot of golf. In October, the rising Korean star won the Shriners Children’s Open and has three top-10 finishes since, including a tie for sixth place at the Farmers Insurance Open.
12.) Will Zalatoris
- Official World Golf Ranking: 29
- Age: 25
From what we’ve seen in his young career so far, it’s not a question of if Zalatoris will win a PGA Tour event. Rather, when the first will come and how many major championships he’ll win in his career.
This early, he’s already one of the game’s top ball-strikers. Officially listed at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, he bulked up during the offseason and added swing speed to his arsenal. Although his putting remains an issue, Zalatoris placed 64th in strokes gained: putting among the 79 players who made the cut at the Farmers.
11.) Cameron Smith
- Official World Golf Ranking: 11
- Age: 28
Smith has one of the strongest short games on tour, even if he’s still prone to committing a foul ball off the tee, like the one he committed against Tony Finau at The Northern Trust that sealed his playoff loss. Despite that, he cruised into the Tour Championship on the back of what was arguably his best year as a professional.
The Aussie won the Sentry Tournament of Champions last month in Hawaii with a score of 34-under 258, the lowest ever in a 72-hole event. He also won the 2020 Sony Open, making him one of only six players in history to win both Hawaii events.
10.) Sam Burns
- Official World Golf Ranking: 13
- Age: 25
In 2021, the former LSU college POY had a breakout year, earning his first two professional victories and holding the lead after the most rounds of any player on tour. He began the year 154th in the PGA golf world rankings and finished 11th, the highest rise of any player in the top 50. Burns leads the tour in SG/tee-to-green at the winter break after finishing ninth in SG/putting in 2020-21, highlighting his versatility. He may have missed a spot on the United States Ryder Cup team, but he’s a likely shoo-in Davis Love III’s Presidents Cup team.
Before missing the cut at Torrey Pines, Burns bagged the title at the Sanderson Farms Championship in October. This victory propelled him to the top of the FedEx Cup rankings for the first time in his career; he’s currently fifth.
9.) Dustin Johnson
- Official World Golf Ranking: 5
- Age: 37
DJ had just one top-10 finish from February to June of 2021, which wasn’t the kindest of summers to the 2020 Masters champ. However, the 24-time PGA Tour winner did finish the season with four top-10 finishes in his final six starts and capped off his 2021 with a perfect 5-0 performance at the Ryder Cup. If DJ wins this season, he will have won a title in each of his first 15 seasons on tour. Only Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have won more in their career with 17.
The former World No. 1 hasn’t played much golf so far this year, and he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since his first green jacket at the 2020 Masters. This week, he’ll attempt to defend his Saudi International championship while working on his driving accuracy, which remains an issue.
8.) Bryson DeChambeau
- Official World Golf Ranking: 9
- Age: 28
PGA golf world rankings and trophies aside, he is undoubtedly the tour’s biggest superstar, thanks to a swarm of curiosity that spreads to a larger audience outside of golf. In 2021, he once again led the tour in driving distance. His all-in, no-holds-barred approach to tee-ball has generated tremendous results in these past few years. In 2021, he topped the tour again in SG/off-the-tee.
Although we can expect more of the same this year, you have to wonder if all of DeChambeau’s speed training and preparation toward competing in a long-drive competition during the offseason is starting to take a toll on his body. He withdrew from the Sony Open due to a left wrist injury and then missed the cut at Torrey Pines after holding the same wrist for the entire back nine in the second round.
7.) Xander Schauffele
- Official World Golf Ranking: 8
- Age: 28
An Olympic gold medal and a stellar debut in the Ryder Cup capped up a memorable season for Schauffle, but there is still work to be done. Specifically, he needs to get his first major title to somehow alleviate the sting of six top-five finishes in the Big Four. Schauffele competed deep into Masters Sunday for the second time in a row but eventually lost to a hotter competitor. In his attempt to win for the first time since early 2019, he narrowly missed in the CJ Cup, Farmers, and Phoenix, and tied for seventh in his home major, the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
Few players on tour can match Schauffele’s all-around consistency. He finished 41st in SG/off-tee, 14th in approach, and 16th in putting in 2020-21.
However, he hasn’t done much since helping the US Team to a Ryder Cup victory over Europe at Whistling Straits. His greatest performance in a limited-field event was a 12th-place finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions early this year. He’ll have three starts in the next three weeks, including the Saudi International, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and The Genesis Invitational.
6.) Viktor Hovland
- Official World Golf Ranking: 3
- Age: 24
With three wins and a PGA golf world rankings-counting triumph at the Hero World Challenge under his belt before the age of 25, Hovland appears to be living up to the potential he demonstrated when he won the 2018 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach. The one thing that continues to hold him back is chipping. If he continues to make strides around the greens, he has the potential to be one of the tour’s brightest stars, with a ceiling second only to Collin Morikawa. Pundits generally agree, with Hovland expected to win at least one major in 2022.
True enough, the 24-year-old Norwegian is establishing himself as one of the world’s most skilled players. On the first playoff hole of the Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club on Sunday, he made a birdie from inside 3 feet to upset Richard Bland for his third victory in five events. He also won the Mayakoba World Wide Technology Championship and the Hero World Challenge, an unofficial Tour event.
5.) Rory McIlroy
- Official World Golf Ranking: 6
- Age: 32
Since 2014, the predominant thread of discourse surrounding McIlroy has been when or if he will win another major, and it will be the case as long as necessary. The story remains the same—his putting isn’t good enough. To win a majors title as a below-average putter, you have to be an approach genius like Collin Morikawa, which Rory isn’t.
Another late collapse cost McIlroy a chance to win in Dubai on Sunday. McIlroy, who needed a birdie to win or a par to make a playoff, blasted his approach shot into the water on the par-5 18th hole, scoring a bogey to finish third.
Nonetheless, he’s already won twice on tour in the last year, including the CJ Cup in October. His putting is getting better, and maybe—just maybe—he’s ready to take the leap again.
4.) Justin Thomas
- Official World Golf Ranking: 7
- Age: 28
2021 has been a strange year for the American star, who found himself embroiled in controversy as he navigated through the first prolonged slump of his career. Thomas didn’t finish in the top ten again until the FedEx Cup Playoffs after losing his Ralph Lauren deal in January and winning the Players Championship in March. However, two top-five finishes in those three events, followed by two more in Mayakoba and Hero, indicate that he’s improved his game significantly. And, as his five-win season in 2016-2017 demonstrated, few are capable of going on bigger streaks.
This season, Thomas has four top-25 finishes in as many starts, including a solo third-place result at the World Wide Technology Championship in Mayakoba last November. After struggling early on, his caddie change to Jim Mackay is paying mightily as his confidence is showing off more, especially on the greens.
3.) Patrick Cantlay
- Official World Golf Ranking: 4
- Age: 29
A back injury hampered Cantlay’s career for more than two years, but he finally emerged to what many considered was his rightful place among the elite players of his age group by winning four times in the 2020-21 season. He won the FedEx Cup title and took home Player of the Year honors. At his best, his game has no apparent weaknesses, finishing no lower than 30th in the crucial SG metrics and third overall in SG/total. The only thing left for the laconic Californian is to add a majors title to his resume and get to the top of the golf world rankings.
Since November, Cantlay has only made two starts, finishing a solo fourth at the Tournament of Champions and solo ninth at the American Express. He leads the Tour in greens hit in regulation with the way he’s hitting his irons. Cantlay will be among the favorites to win his first green jacket and Masters in April at Augusta National.
2.) Collin Morikawa
- Official World Golf Ranking: 2
- Age: 24
Last year, Morikawa made the leap from a promising young player to possibly the best player on the planet. Six wins, two majors, and 24 top-ten finishes in 60 professional starts have drawn comparisons to Tiger Woods. He is currently leading the pack of a historically great group of Americans aged 30 and under.
Morikawa, the only player in history to win two different majors in his debut — winning the PGA Championship the first time he played it and The Open the first time he played it too.
Since November, he has made just three Tour starts, finishing in the top seven in each.
1.) Jon Rahm
- Official World Golf Ranking: 1
- Age: 27
The numbers are simply astounding. In 22 starts last season, he recorded fifteen top-10 finishes and just missed one cut. First in birdie average, SG/overall, and bogey avoidance, second in SG/off-the-tee, and eighth in approach.
However, those figures don’t convey the most impressive figure of all: the “1” that replaced the “0” in Rahm’s major total, finally ditching the title of backdoor finisher by bagging the 2021 U.S. Open title.
Though Rahm got “only” one win, he tied for the lowest score over four days at East Lake during the Tour Championship. He led by six strokes through 54 holes at the Memorial before testing positive for COVID-19, cementing his position as the sport’s top dog.
Last month, the Spaniard was unable to close out the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Although he didn’t play his best game this past week, he still finished in a tie for third, which is scary for the rest of the field. He currently sits atop the PGA golf world rankings and leads the Tour in total shots gained (2.153) and shots gained off the tee (.928).
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