Golf

Who will take a step back and who will take a step forward in 2022 on the PGA Tour?

The first event of the year on the PGA Tour gave a possible hint of what is to come in 2022: Birdies. Lots and lots of birdies.

But what else should we expect? Which players should we keep an eye out for? Which unknown might announce himself? And which recognizable face might take a step backward?

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With the first full-field event of the year set to begin Thursday when the Sony Open tees off in Hawaii — here’s how to watch on ESPN+ — we gathered our experts.

What player on the PGA Tour are you expecting to take a big leap forward this year?

Michael Collins: Daniel Berger. I expect a multiple-win season from Berger this year. His game, along with a slow and steady ascension in the Official World Golf Ranking gives me confidence when I say he’ll finish the year around top 5.

Michael Eaves: Tony Finau. He’s been way too good for way too long to have won just two times. With his most recent win coming during the FedEx Cup playoffs against a major-quality leaderboard, it may just be the push he needs to reel off a couple multi-win seasons in a row.

Kevin Van Valkenburg: Scottie Scheffler. You know what Scheffler’s WORST finish in a major was in 2021? That would be T-18 at the Masters. All he did in the other three majors was post three top 10s. Throw in a runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and a fearless performance at the Ryder Cup (where he vanquished Jon Rahm in singles) and you could argue that Scheffler has already made his leap, except for one thing: He still doesn’t have a win as a professional. I think that changes this season. His game shows up everywhere.

Nick Pietruszkiewicz: Matt Fitzpatrick. I wanted to say Justin Thomas or Rory McIlroy, but picking any player ranked in the top 10 in the world felt like cheating. So let’s go with Fitzpatrick, who is currently ranked 26th. He had just five top 10s in 20 PGA Tour starts; he also missed five cuts. He was gone after the first week of the FedEx Cup playoffs. He’s never won in the United States. He even admits it is time. “I’m not a rookie anymore,” he said toward the end of 2021. “I’m 27. In my own mind, I know I’ve got to start competing in the big events so my name is up at the top of the leaderboard more often.” Well, this is the year.

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