Five flying under the radar heading into 2022 season
January 01, 2022
By Bret Lasky , PGATOUR.COM
- January 01, 2022
- Padraig Harrington could be a player to watch in 2022. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)
Who is flying under the radar heading into 2022? We already did our list of the top 10 to watch so not those guys. PGA TOUR Champions is deeper than maybe it’s ever been with stars like Langer, Furyk, Els, Stricker, Couples, Mickelson, Goosen and Clarke, but also guys that maybe didn’t have Hall of Fame PGA TOUR careers that have stayed very competitive into their 50s.
Here are five under the radar guys that we expect to have big years.
Tim Petrovic – He’ll be heading into his fifth full season on PGA TOUR Champions and has nine runner-up finishes without a victory. He’s been on the cusp so many times including three times last season. Petrovic finished 15th on the Schwab Cup points list with ten total top 10 finishes. He finished T4 at the first two Charles Schwab Cup Playoff events so his form was sharp to end the year. When Petrovic has the putter going, he can go as low as anyone on PGA TOUR Champions. He actually led the Tour in putting average (1.727) during the 2020-21 season. If you take the last four calendar years, he’s definitely one of the best players that hasn’t won. He hits it long enough (top 25 in driving distance), can obviously putt so maybe it’s just the consistency he’s lacking a bit. The TimberTech Championship is a good example when he followed up a ridiculous 61 with a 74 in the final round.
Doug Barron – Only 11 players earned more money than Doug Barron in 2020-21. He had the emotional win at the Shaw Charity Classic, but he also had the runner-up finish to Bernhard Langer at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic and two third place finishes. The days of thinking about Doug as the Monday Qualifier who won the DICK’S Sporting Goods Open are over. He’s a guy that can contend on a weekly basis. Barron stacks up in every way with the rest of PGA TOUR Champions. He’s 26th in driving distance so hits it plenty far, he’s 16th in Greens in Regulation and is 21st in putting average. The thing that Doug has is no fear. In a short time, he’s become very comfortable with his surroundings on PGA TOUR Champions. He also still has maybe a little chip on his shoulder to prove to people that he belongs in the conversation as a top player, regardless of his journey to this point.
Stephen Ames – If you talk to golf experts, they’ll tell you that Ames has one of the best swings on Tour. He finished 25th on the Schwab Cup standings in 2020-21 with one win at the Principal Charity Classic. He has two career wins on the Champions Tour since 2014. It just feels like Ames should win more or be in the hunt more often. He showed spurts of really solid golf in 2021 especially when he went T8-T6-T7 in a month stretch from July to August. The T8 was at the U.S. Senior Open when he played in the final group with Jim Furyk. None of his year-end stats jump off the page, but he started working with a coach he found on Instagram in 2019 (Shauheen Nakhjavani) and that seemed to help a lot. He also started working with a new caddie, Troy Martin.
Steve Flesch – I almost put Flesch on the top 10 to watch heading into 2022, but since I didn’t, he deserves a spot here. From mid-August through the end of the 2020-21 season, he was one of the best players on Tour. He finished runner-up twice, third twice and sprinkled a fourth place finish all in his final 11 starts of the season. Flesch is a guy that’s going to play just about every week so he’s a candidate to go from 11th on the Schwab Cup (his finish in 2021) to top 5 at least. The one question mark is can he win two or three times in 2022 to really start to chase a Schwab Cup. He’s got only one win on PGA TOUR Champions in 96 career starts since 2017. He’s finished 17th and 11th in his last two seasons on the Schwab Cup and now it’s time to join the elite.
Padraig Harrington – I know Padraig has the star power, his eight PGA TOUR wins, his 15 European Tour wins, but he only got a taste last year of the Champions Tour and it’s exciting to see what he can do with a full season. He made two starts and finished T55 and T18 so can’t read much into that. You figure a guy that is still active on the PGA TOUR (he made 14 starts in the calendar year in 2021) and the European Tour (12 starts in 2021) would really contend on PGA TOUR Champions. The question with Padraig is how many events will he play on the Champions Tour. The sense I got was that was that he enjoyed the Champions Tour, but will continue to play all around the world. I still feel like he’s flying under the radar as a top contender heading into 2022.