Ranking the Top 10 Golfers Ahead of the 2022 Masters

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2022

Ranking the Top 10 Golfers Ahead of the 2022 Masters

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    It's a tradition unlike any other.

    And as it has for nearly every year since his history-making win in 1997, the most frequent questions around the 2022 Masters have to do with Tiger Woods.

    Though they aren't about whether the 46-year-old, a 15-time major winner and five-time champion at Augusta National can add room in his wardrobe for a sixth green jacket.

    Instead, they're asking whether he'll be there at all.

    Still just 14 months removed from devastating injuries suffered in a car accident, Woods has been providing for the sport's talking heads through indications he's aiming for a dramatic Thursday return.

    But let's face it: Given his injuries and the time he's been away, it's highly unlikely he has a shot.

    Instead, the label of "serious title contender" falls to any number of young guns in a field that includes the likes of 25-year-old Collin Morikawa, who's won a major in each of the last two years, and 24-year-old Viktor Hovland, who's ranked fourth in the world and already has five top-10 finishes in nine 2022 events.

    So, what goes into the breakdown to determine this year's winner?

    A golfer's last several starts and a glance at his world ranking were primary considerations, and we factored in his career performances at Augusta.

    Scroll through to see how the elite in the field stack up.

10. Viktor Hovland

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 4

    Best of 2022: The 24-year-old Norwegian has had a good run in preparation for a trip to Augusta, earning five top-10 finishes in nine events on the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour. He won the Dubai Desert Classic in late January and came back for a second-place tie at the Arnold Palmer Invitational five weeks later.

    Why He's Here: We're going with the surging youth angle here because Hovland hasn't been a significant last-day factor at any of the eight majors he's played. But he's young, talented and has been playing well enough this year to suggest he can contend.  

    Masters History: Appearances in 2019 and 2021 haven't been particularly memorable, with a tie for 32nd as low amateur in 2019 and a tie for 21st in his first try as a pro in 2021.

9. Hideki Matsuyama

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 12

    Best of 2022: Matsuyama has played seven events since the calendar year began and has a pair of top-10s, including an eagle on the first playoff hole to defeat Russell Henley and win the Sony Open in Hawai'i in mid-January. He was tied for eighth at the Phoenix Open a month later, three shots off the lead. 

    Why He's Here: Four rounds in the 60s at both of the aforementioned 2022 events are evidence the 30-year-old Matsuyama's game is in shape, and eight career top-10s at majors show that he can continue that consistency in the most significant events. He withdrew from the Valero Texas Open on Friday with an apparent neck injury, but there was no suggestion it'd keep him from heading to Augusta.

    Masters History: What's better than being the defending champion? Matsuyama survived some jitters down the stretch to win the 2021 Masters by a shot over Will Zalatoris and had finished fifth and tied for seventh at the 2015 and 2016 tournaments, respectively.

8. Bryson DeChambeau

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 19

    Best of 2022: The game's highest-profile power hitter hasn't exactly broken out thus far, playing only five events before this week and finishing no better than a tie for 25th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January. He was five over par through two rounds at the Valero Texas Open and missed the cut on Friday.

    Why He's Here: Nevertheless, he's 28 years old, he crushes the ball and he's long labeled Augusta as a course for which his game is particularly suited. He won the U.S. Open and was tied for fourth at the PGA Championship in 2020, which suggests the tag "big-event player" isn't inappropriate.  

    Masters History: DeChambeau's tie for 21st as low amateur in 2016 remains his best Masters performance to date. It was followed by a tie for 38th two years later and subsequently by forgettable ties for 29th, 34th and 46th, though he's always managed to reach the weekend.

7. Justin Thomas

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 7

    Best of 2022: Thomas has played like a top-10 guy thus far in 2022, racking up four such finishes, highlighted by a tie for third two weeks ago at the Valspar Championship—where he was just a shot off the 72-hole lead. He also tied for fifth at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January.

    Why He's Here: Five top-10 finishes at major championships within the last five years, including a two-shot win at the PGA Championship in 2017, are indicative of Thomas' big-event mettle. He's made the weekend in 19 of the 24 majors he's played since 2014. 

    Masters History: His best finish at Augusta came at the pandemic-altered Masters in 2020, where he wound up fourth overall after sharing the second-round lead. He was eight shots back of eventual winner Dustin Johnson that year and has never been better than tied for 12th in any other appearance.

6. Brooks Koepka

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 17

    Best of 2022: Eight events thus far in 2022 have seen Koepka occasionally flash the form that's made him a four-time major winner while his world ranking has hovered between 17th and 21st. A tie for third at the Phoenix Open in February saw him even with Xander Schauffele and Sahith Theegala, a shot off the pace.

    Why He's Here: Did we mention the four major wins? All four championships came within a three-year stretch from 2017-19, including a 2018 capture of the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship—making him the first player since Tiger Woods in 2000 to do so. He's had top-five finishes in 12 of the 30 majors he's played.

    Masters History: Koepka has two top-10s and a tie for 11th in six career trips to Augusta. He tied for second in 2019 after sharing the first- and second-round leads and was even with eventual winner Tiger Woods through 11 holes on Sunday before a costly double bogey on the 12th.

5. Collin Morikawa

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 3

    Best of 2022: The 25-year-old Californian is one of the most consistent players on the world scene, but he's yet to rev up in 2022, having three top-10 finishes but no wins. He tied for second at The Genesis Invitational and, more recently, tied for ninth at the Dell Technologies Match Play event.

    Why He's Here: It hasn't happened yet in 2022, but there's little reason to believe Morikawa won't be on his game soon. He's won two of the eight majors in which he's played—the PGA Championship in 2020 and the Open Championship last year—and was eighth or better in two others.

    Masters History: Morikawa has made the cut both times he's played at Augusta, but he hasn't been a real factor on the weekend. He shot two rounds of 70 and two of 74 in finishing tied for 44th in 2020; then he went 73-69-75-70 to tie for 18th with Tyrrell Hatton and Scottie Scheffler last year.

4. Dustin Johnson

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 8

    Best of 2022: Johnson's ranking has already veered from fifth to 11th and now back to eighth on the strength of the Dell Technologies Match Play in late March. He has three top-10 finishes in six events thus far in the year, including a tie for ninth at The Players Championship, six shots behind Cameron Smith.

    Why He's Here: Now 37, Johnson has been one of the most consistent major finishers of his generation thanks to top 10s in at least one of the four in all but one year since 2009. He had 11 major top-10s before finally winning at the U.S. Open in 2016 and has nine more since, including the Masters in 2020.

    Masters History: Another former champion returns to Augusta, and this time in the form of a guy who not only won two years ago but has also finished in ties for second, fourth, sixth and 10th since playing there for the first time in 2009. He missed the cut by two strokes in 2021 after shooting 75 on Friday.

3. Jordan Spieth

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 18

    Best of 2022: It's not been a banner 2022 for Spieth, but no high-profile player made a bigger leap toward relevance than he did after beginning 2021 ranked 82nd in the world and ending it ranked 14th. He's slid three spots and has a single top 10—a second at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am—in eight events this year, but did shoot five under par in the final round of the Valero Texas Open on Sunday.

    Why He's Here: Lest anyone forget, he was ranked No. 1 in the world after 2015 and No. 2 after 2017 and has three major victories among 12 career top-10 finishes at the biggest events. He bagged the Masters and U.S. Open in a memorable 2015 and won the Open Championship in 2017.

    Masters History: Five top threes and the aforementioned 2015 title make Spieth—with no disrespect to Tiger Woods—the most decorated player at Augusta who's presumably a strong contender to win in 2022. He finished in a tie for third with Xander Schauffele at last year's event, three shots behind Matsuyama.

2. Rory McIlroy

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    Simon Bruty/Getty Images

    OWGR: No. 9

    Best of 2022: McIlroy, still somehow just 32 years old, has played just six events in 2022, but he's been relevant in most of them. A third at the Dubai Desert Classic is his best finish, but it's joined by a tie for 10th at The Genesis Invitational and two more placements in the top 15. He missed the cut in his final pre-Masters event, shooting one over par through 36 holes at the Valero Texas Open.

    Why He's Here: Can you say career Grand Slam? The Northern Irishman has had seven opportunities to add the final piece at Augusta after winning the U.S. Open in 2011, the PGA Championship in 2012 and the Open Championship in 2014. He's been no worse than 11th in the world at the end of any year since 2009.

    Masters History: Ah yes, that pesky final piece. McIlroy has been a top-10 finisher six times in the last eight years—including a tie for fifth in 2020—and who could forget the abominable final round in 2011 when he reached Sunday with a four-shot lead before blowing up to an 80 and finished tied for 15th?

1. Jon Rahm

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    OWGR: No. 2

    Best of 2022: Go ahead, you tell him he's not the world's best player. Rahm ended 2021 at No. 1 and only lost that ranking thanks to a scalding-hot start to the year by Scottie Scheffler. For his part, Rahm has played in eight events thus far and has four top-10 finishes, including a second and ties for third, ninth and 10th.

    Why He's Here: Where Scheffler has recency bias, Rahm has a bit more long-term street cred. The Spaniard has nine top-10s in 21 career majors, including a one-shot win over Louis Oosthuizen at last year's U.S. Open. In fact, he finished tied for eighth or better in each of the four majors in 2021.

    Masters History: Rahm has played at Augusta five times and made the weekend each time, finishing tied for 27th in 2017 and tied for ninth or better in four straight years since. He was in a five-way tie for the 36-hole lead in 2020 after shooting 69-66 but fell into a tie for seventh after finishing 72-71.