The new PGA Tour season begins next week, and the old season finished just two weeks ago. In the live-in-the-moment world of professional men’s golf, that’s hardly enough time for the players or fans to catch their breath.
That doesn’t mean that the past 12 months on the PGA Tour aren’t worth looking back on with some awe and some sadness and some excitement. It was a year when some say the PGA Tour was fighting for its very existence. There were some surprise winners and excellent tournaments. Oh, and Tiger Woods came back to the Tour, and while he didn’t play great golf or even good golf, he was a welcome sight in a year where too many bad feelings were circulating.
Here’s a look at the 2021-22 PGA Tour season:
Player of the year
Scottie Scheffler: For a golfer who had not won on the PGA Tour before the start of the 2022 calendar year, Scheffler showed he was more than just a good player with a decent game. Scheffler’s win at the Masters in April was his fourth victory of the year. He added four second-place finishes including the U.S. Open and the Tour Championship. Yes, he let the Tour Championship slip away and he missed the cut at the PGA Championship, but it was a stellar year. Cam Smith is likely the second choice here with wins at the British Open and The Players Championship, but he was probably behind Scheffler even before Smith made the leap to the LIV tour after the Tour Championship.
Scottie Scheffler talks to the crowd while wearing his green jacket during the final round of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. (Photo: Adam Cairns-Augusta Chronicle/USA TODAY Sports)
Rookie of the year
Cameron Young: This turned into a pretty good race by the end of the year, but it will still likely be Cameron Young in a vote of the players. Young didn’t win in his rookie season, but he was second five times, including The British Open and third in the PGA Championship. He was inconsistent at times, with missed cuts in the Masters and the U.S. Open, but overall he finished 17th in the FedEx Cup ranking as a rookie. Sahith Theegala made this a race with a strong second half including making 13 cuts in his last 14 events to make it to the Tour Championship. But overall, Young had the stronger rookie year.
Story of the year
Phil Mickelson: Okay, everything is under the umbrella of the fight between the PGA Tour and the LIV Golf League. But within that story is another story, the downfall of the wildly popular World Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson. It was obvious something was up when Mickelson showed up at The American Express in La Quinta, which technically he hosted but during which he was almost a ghost after an opening-round 78 at La Quinta Country Club. Within a month Mickelson’s popularity was shredded by comments he made that leaked out about dealing with the scary Saudi Arabian regime that he was doing to reshape the PGA Tour. He lost long-time fans and long-time sponsors as he made the switch to the LIV tour. Some will say Mickelson has been justified in his criticism of the PGA Tour in light of changes that are coming to the tour. Even if that’s true, the changes came at a huge cost to Lefty.
Phil Mickelson walks on the first green during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at The Country Club. (Photo: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)
Personality of the year
Rory McIlroy: McIlroy made the conscious decision to put himself at the center of the PGA Tour/LIV battle, taking up the banner for the PGA Tour while still being thoughtful in the way he approached golfers who made the decision to leave for LIV. Because of that, there was a lot of pressure on McIlroy each time he teed off, in particular in the majors. He didn’t win a major, but was in the top eight in all four. And he did win three PGA Tour titles, including the Tour Championship in a Sunday comeback over Scheffler. So did he win despite the pressure, or did the pressure stop him from winning more? Either way, he took over as the face of the tour.
Tournament of the year
PGA Championship: There are a lot of contenders here, including the British Open and the Tour Championship. But think back to the PGA at Southern Hills in Oklahoma. It looked for a while as if Mito Pereira was going to pull off the shocking victory for his first win. Then as Pereira stumbled, it looked like maybe Cam Smith would win. Then it looked like Will Zalatoris would get his first win and make it a major at that. But it was Justin Thomas, already a PGA Championship winner, who shot a final-round 67 to get into the playoff with Zalatoris, then won the three-hole playoff. A lot of twists and turns on Sunday afternoon.