Ranking the Top 10 Golfers Ahead of the 2022 PGA Championship

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2022

Ranking the Top 10 Golfers Ahead of the 2022 PGA Championship

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    If you can't find a storyline at the PGA Championship this week, you're not trying.

    Tiger Woods is back for his second major of the season after making the cut at the Masters, but generational rival Phil Mickelson won't be at Southern Hills to defend the surprise title he won last year at age 50.

    World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler attempts to continue a blazing start to 2022 with a second major victory and fellow Texan Jordan Spieth has a shot at completing a career Grand Slam before his 30th birthday.

    And there's always a good chance Rory McIlroy will be in the hunt, too.

    With all that to consider and more, the B/R golf team parsed the headlines, analyzed each player's last several starts and looked at past performances in majors and current world ranking to come up with a list of the top 10 players converging on Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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

10. Dustin Johnson

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 12

    Best of 2022: Truth be told, there's not so much "best" to speak of when it comes to Johnson and 2022. He's played nine events and hasn't managed anything better than a fourth at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play while seeing his world ranking plunge nine spots from third to 12th.

    Why He's Here: Iffy year aside, "DJ" is still an elite player and a two-time major winner and has placed in the top 10 in 21 major events since his initial U.S. Open appearance in 2008.  

    PGA History: Six of those top-10s at majors have come at the PGA, including a solo second in 2019 (two shots behind Brooks Koepka) and a tie for second with Paul Casey in 2020 (two shots behind Collin Morikawa). He's also had ties for fifth, seventh, eighth and 10th.   

9. Patrick Cantlay

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 5

    Best of 2022: He has not won, but Cantlay has been in the neighborhood several times this year. He lost in playoffs to take seconds at both the Phoenix Open and the RBC Heritage and has three other top-10 finishes as well alongside a missed cut and three other standings well off the pace. 

    Why He's Here: Cantlay has finished each of the last three seasons among the world's top-10 players and has won at least one event in five of the last seven years. That said, his major performance has been nondescript, with just two top-10s in 18 events as a professional.  

    PGA History: One of the top-10 major finishes came at the 2019 PGA at Bethpage Black, where Cantlay was tied for ninth after the first round and tied for eighth after the third round before climbing to a tie for third on Sunday. He's been a non-factor in four other PGA outings, with no better than a tie for 23rd in 2021.

8. Cameron Smith

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 4

    Best of 2022: Few players have spiked on the world radar in 2022 like Smith, who was ranked 21st at the end of last year but has already climbed 17 spots. He won the Sentry Tournament of Champions by a stroke in January and captured The Players Championship by the same margin in March. 

    Why He's Here: The aforementioned jump makes Smith a must have on any list of contenders, and his tie for third at the Masters proves his big-stage mettle as well. He's made 18 cuts in 22 career majors, including four finishes in the top five.

    PGA History: Unfortunately, the PGA is one major Smith hasn't fared particularly well in. His tie for 25th in 2015 remains his best finish at the event, and five subsequent appearances have included a missed cut and nothing else better than a tie for 43rd in 2020.   

7. Viktor Hovland

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    Fernando Llano/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 6

    Best of 2022: Hovland has had a successful run-up in preparation for the PGA, earning five top-10 finishes in 10 appearances on two tours. He won the Dubai Desert Classic in late January and tied for second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational five weeks later.

    Why He's Here: The 24-year-old Norwegian hasn't been a significant factor at any of the nine majors he's played, topping out with a tie for 12th at The Open Championship last year. He was tied for 27th at the Masters last month after rounds of 72, 76, 71 and 73. 

    PGA History: Appearances in 2020 and 2021 weren't particularly memorable, with a tie for 33rd in the former at TPC Harding Park and a tie for 30th last year at Kiawah Island.

6. Jordan Spieth

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    Fernando Llano/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 8

    Best of 2022: If you're basing a pick on which player is coming in the hottest, few would warrant a nod over Spieth, who's won and finished second in his last two tournaments. He was a stroke behind K.H. Lee at the AT&T Byron Nelson and defeated Cantlay in a playoff at the RBC Heritage in April.

    Why He's Here: Plus, well...he's Jordan Spieth. He's been the world's top-ranked player, the PGA Tour Player of the Year and a three-time major champion within the last decade and seems to be on another career uptick thanks to those results and a second at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February.

    PGA History: The 28-year-old has a chance to complete a career Grand Slam at the only major he's never won. Nine previous appearances at the PGA have produced mix results, peaking at a second-place effort behind Jason Day in 2015 and a tie for third in 2019, but also including a pair of missed cuts.

5. Justin Thomas

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    Ryan Kang/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 9

    Best of 2022: Thomas has won at least one event in each of the last eight seasons but he's not yet broken through this year, instead settling for a tie for third at the Valspar Championship and five other top-10s across 10 overall events. He tied for fifth at the AT&T Byron Nelson tune-up, three shots off the lead.    

    Why He's Here: Like Spieth and others before him, Thomas is a player whose resume alone would warrant inclusion. He's been seventh or better in world rankings at the end of last five years and has a victory and six overall top-10 efforts in 25 career major appearances.

    PGA History: It just so happens that Thomas' major win came at the PGA in 2017 at Quail Hollow, where he shot a final-round 68 to jump from a tie for fourth to a two-stroke victory over three players. He finished sixth at the event the following year but hasn't reached the top 10 since and missed the cut in 2021.   

4. Collin Morikawa

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    Fernando Llano/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 3

    Best of 2022: Four top-10 finishes in nine events have Morikawa firmly in the mix this week. A tie for second at the Genesis Invitational in February is his best finish in 2022, and he was in the mix at the Masters last month before winding up in fifth place, six shots off the lead. 

    Why He's Here: Still just 25, Morikawa may be in possession of the subjective "Best Young Player in the Game" title these days thanks to five top-10 finishes and two victories in the nine career majors he's played. In fact, the fifth at the Masters last month marked his fourth straight top-10 in major play. 

    PGA History: Two PGA starts for Morikawa have yielded a victory at his debut in 2020 and a tie for eighth last season. The win at TPC Harding Park featured four rounds in the 60s, including a final-round 64 that let him come from two shots off the pace to win by two over Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson.   

3. Rory McIlroy

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    Fernando Llano/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 7

    Best of 2022: Now a sage veteran at 33 years old, McIlroy has been priming his game for the majors. He was second behind Scottie Scheffler at the Masters in April and finished fifth at the Wells Fargo Championship in his final PGA tune-up earlier this month.

    Why He's Here: He has somehow not won a major since 2014, but few on the tour have the big-stage credibility that McIlroy possesses. He's finished in the top 10 in nearly half of the 52 events he's played, including four wins and 14 top-fives. If he's on, he'll be in the mix come Sunday. 

    PGA History: The Northern Irishman is the first two-time PGA champion on our list, having won the event in 2012 at Kiawah Island and again in 2014 at Valhalla. It's gone a bit cold for him at the event since then, however, with just a single top-10 placement (T8, 2019) in seven tries, including a missed cut.    

2. Jon Rahm

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    Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 2

    Best of 2022: What better PGA prep can there be than winning the last event you play before arriving? That's what Rahm managed with a one-shot victory at the Mexico Open at Vidanta earlier this month. He has a first, a second, a third and two other top-10 placements in 10 events this year.

    Why He's Here: Being the world's second-ranked player is all the entry cred one needs, but Rahm has plenty of major performance evidence to back it up. He finished tied for eighth or better at all four majors last season, including a one-shot victory over Louis Oosthuizen at the U.S. Open.  

    PGA History: That tie for eighth in 2021 is Rahm's career second-best at the PGA, following behind a tie for fourth at the 2018 event at Bellerive. There, he and Stewart Cink finished tied for fourth after Rahm shot four straight rounds in the 60s. Three other appearances have ended in a tie for 13th, a tie for 58th and a missed cut.   

1. Scottie Scheffler

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    OWGR: No. 1

    Best of 2022: To say Scheffler is having a career year is a par-72 understatement. A winner twice in parts of his first seven seasons as a professional, the 25-year-old has already won four events in nine outings this season, including a three-shot victory over McIlroy at the Masters. He tied for 15th at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his final pre-PGA event over the weekend.

    Why He's Here: Top-ranked player in the world. Reigning Masters champion. Most wins on the tour in 2022. It's getting to be familiar territory for Scheffler, who'll be the favorite or at least among them at every event he plays for the foreseeable future. In hindsight, his 2021 performance at majors—tied for eighth or better in three of four events—was a pretty good precursor for what he's done this year. 

    PGA History: Two appearances have resulted in ties for fourth and eighth for Scheffler. He was actually a shot off the lead after 54 holes in 2020 and fired a final-round 68 to finish three shots behind Morikawa. In 2021, he shot a two-under 70 in the final round to climb into a nine-way tie for eighth.


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