Punch Shot: Where does Tiger Woods finish? Who wins the 2022 Masters?

Punch Shot: Where does Tiger Woods finish? Who wins the 2022 Masters?
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The 86th Masters Tournament begins Thursday at Augusta National. The GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with their predictions.

How will Tiger fare?

Rex Hoggard: 72 holes. Let’s be honest, just having the five-time Masters champion on property this week is a victory and based on his practice this week, he didn’t show up to go through the ceremonial motions. But it’s been nearly a year and a half since he played an official event and despite his record at Augusta National, it’s hard to imagine anything better than a top-30 finish.

Ryan Lavner: It’d be a surprise if he didn’t contend. That’s Tiger’s expectation, at least. He doesn’t do anything ceremonial. Clearly, in practice at home in South Florida and here at Augusta National, he has seen enough in his game that tells him he still has the goods. The only question is how he will hold up over 72 holes; will he still be able to drive off that rebuilt right leg over the weekend? The belief here is that he’ll finish inside the top 15.

Brentley Romine: What else was Woods going to say when asked if he could win this week? Swing-wise, he looks like a man who can compete, and so far, he’s managing to handle the walk. But how will the swing and game hold up once he starts playing 18-hole competitive rounds on Thursday? That’s the question, and if Woods makes the cut, I have a hard time believing he’ll be anywhere close to the lead come Sunday afternoon. A top-30 finish seems like a win this year.

Full-field tee times from the 86th Masters Tournament

Who wins the 86th Masters?

Rex Hoggard: Scottie Scheffler. Based on the list of winners on the PGA Tour this year, the 86th Masters has the look and feel of a free-for-all with no shortage of possible contenders. But Scheffler’s play in 2022 is impossible to ignore. In the last two months, he’s won a spirited playoff at the WM Phoenix Open, a wild and windy final day at Bay Hill and a marathon at the WGC-Match Play. The hottest player in the game is impossible to overlook.

Ryan Lavner: Brooks Koepka. Prior to last year’s injury-riddled missed cut here, Koepka had posted 10 consecutive sub-par rounds at Augusta, including a tie for second in 2019 that he’d dearly love to avenge. When the wind kicks up during the second and third rounds, he has the scrambling chops, course-management smarts and unflappable demeanor to thrive. It’s time for major No. 5.

Brentley Romine: Dustin Johnson. Coming off a so-so year, which included an early exit from Augusta National last April, Johnson enters the Masters with little fanfare. Truth is, though, he has an excellent record here in recent years, and I just have a gut feeling that he proves he has what it takes to win here in the spring and not just the fall.

Can Rahm find his putting stroke at Masters?

Who contends, but no jacket?

Rex Hoggard: Jon Rahm. He recently lost the top spot in the world ranking despite a solid-if-not-spectacular year, and it will be a familiar story this week at Augusta National, where he has finished inside the top 10 the last four years. The Spaniard will have another solid week, but it won’t be good enough to break through.

Ryan Lavner: Jon Rahm. He might not be the world No. 1 anymore, but he’s arguably the most complete player in the game and he’s striking it the best of his career. Some of his well-documented short-game woes are a bit overblown given the smallish sample size – it’s not like he suddenly developed the yips. He has the variety of shots and imagination required to notch his fifth consecutive top-10 here.

Brentley Romine: Russell Henley. He currently leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained: approach, and while this is his first appearance at Augusta National since 2018, he also tied for 15th that year, a year after he shared 11th. He’s also sneaky elite around the greens, which makes for a potent combo here.

Who will most disappoint?

Rex Hoggard: Brooks Koepka. It’s major championship season, which means Koepka is back, but after a slow start to 2022 it’s difficult to imagine such a dramatic turnaround. Although he’s played well at Augusta National in the past, his ball-striking is still lagging (he’s 107th on the PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: approach to the green) and he hasn’t been particularly sharp around the greens. It’s a bad combination, even for a player with a history of peaking at the majors.

Ryan Lavner: Rory McIlroy. Slow starts in particular have been his issue at Augusta, with just a single opening round in the 60s since 2011. But of late his scuffling iron play has been a larger problem; statistically, this is the worst approach-play performance of his career. Distance control and proximity are of paramount importance at the Masters, where five of the last seven winners have been top 5 that week in strokes-gained approach. Right now, he’s just not sharp enough in that department.

Brentley Romine: Jordan Spieth. He’s a horse for this course, but the putting stats are concerning. I’m predicting something more along the lines of his T-21 in 2019, and considering his Masters record, which includes a win in 2015 and four other top-3 finishes, that would be a poor week by his standards.

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