11/22/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/22/2021 10:28
The 2021 fall season ended with a grand finale as Talor Gooch captured his first PGA TOUR title at The RSM Classic on Sunday. Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy had a tough day and went full Hulk on his shirt as Collin Morikawa won the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai. Morikawa also became the first American to win the Race to Dubai, the cherry on top of a remarkable year.
The fall season featured nine tournaments, two first-time winners, and five players winning their second or third PGA TOUR titles. It also left us with some clear storylines headed into 2022.
Talor Gooch and Sam Burns set the pace
Just as everyone expected in early September, Talor Gooch and Sam Burns are Nos. 1 and 2 in the FedExCup standings, respectively, headed into the 2022 calendar year.
OK, maybe no one expected that, but Burns held the inside lane for much of the fall. After narrowly missing a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, he opened his fall with a win, his second, at the Sanderson Farms Championship. He led the Shriners Children's Open before settling for a T14 the next week. He added a T5 at THE CJ CUP at SUMMIT, and a T7 at the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open.
Burns held at least a share of the FedExCup lead from Oct. 3 to Nov. 21 (Sunday), when Gooch jumped him with a win at The RSM. Gooch's first career victory was validation for a consistent fall in which he had three top-5 finishes and five top-11 finishes in six starts.
Gooch, 30, finished his The RSM Classic title with 26 bogey-free holes, and his 852 FedExCup points have him in pole position. Although he started his PGA TOUR career with 103 winless starts, he has now reached No. 33 in the world, his highest-ever ranking.
McIlroy finds his grove
Rory McIlroy had a lackluster 2020-21 season, by his standards: just seven top-10 finishes in 21 starts, including one win. It all added up to a forgettable T14 finish in the FedExCup.
Hey, when you've won the whole thing twice, that's a letdown. So was his performance at the Ryder Cup, which ended with his teary-eyed interview and a lopsided loss for Europe. Disappointed with his 1-3 performance, McIlroy said he let his teammates and the European fans down. He said he would be back. Fans may not have realized how quickly.
In his first and only PGA TOUR start of the 2021 fall season, McIlroy won THE CJ CUP at SUMMIT. going 68-67-62-68 for a one-shot win over Collin Morikawa. Gooch, Burns, Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott and Sungjae Im were close behind.
In his only other worldwide start this fall, at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, McIlroy held the 54-hole lead before a final-round 74 (with a back-nine 38) left him in T6. He was understandably upset, but it was a fruitful fall as he went from No. 16 in the world in August, his lowest spot in the Official World Golf Rankings since 2009, to No. 8.
Wolff also back in form
Last fall, Matthew Wolff looked primed for superstardom. He started his 2020-21 season with two straight runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open and Shriners Children's Open.
But the following 11 months were turbulent as Wolff finished no better than T15 for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. He took roughly two months off from the Masters to the U.S. Open to work on his mental health and was bounced from the FedExCup Playoffs after THE NORTHERN TRUST.
So it was noteworthy when Wolff went on a tear this fall, finishing T17 or better in all four of his starts. That included a runner-up at the Shriners Children's Open and a T5 at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba.
"I know I had the game, I think just, maturity-wise and mentally, I'm just a much stronger and more all-around, just a more complete person," Wolff, 22, said at the Shriners Children's Open. "I'm able to put things in perspective more. When stuff isn't going my way, I'm able to bounce back."
Wolff's 68.847 scoring average was the best on TOUR this fall, and he was the only player in the top 10 of the FedExCup standings who has yet to win this season.
Matsuyama ignites crowd in Japan
Hideki Matsuyama delivered two of Japan's greatest moments in golf. In April, he became the first Japanese man to win a major championship at The Masters. In October, he won the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP, Japan's only PGA TOUR event.
Matsuyama arrived at Narashino Country Club having finished T67 and T59 the previous two weeks on TOUR. He was also still carrying the weight of failing to medal at the Tokyo Olympics in August, losing a playoff for the bronze medal.
"If my game scored 10 out of 10 at the Masters, now, I would say it scores less than 1," Matsuyama said just before the ZOZO.
Then he won, feeding off the home crowd, who were hungry to see their national hero after missing him in-person for much of the pandemic. A 4-under stretch on the final eight holes, with an eagle on 18, gave Matsuyama an emotional five-shot win.
"I would rate my performance as two or three," he said after capturing his seventh TOUR title. "From the results perspective, it went about to eight, but I think it's because of all the energy that I was getting from the fans, and I was very surprised how much energy I was feeding off of them."
Matsuyama heads into 2022 at No. 4 in the FedExCup.
Players on the verge domiante fall
The fall season can be a time for rookies and others to earn their first wins.
This fall was about winners taking the next step.
Max Homa opened the fall with this third win at the Fortinet Championship, all coming in the last four seasons. Sam Burns followed by winning for the second time in two seasons. Both were in the top 21 in the Ryder Cup standings and seemed to be making a statement about missing the team. They also threw their names into next year's Presidents Cup conversation.
Sungjae Im nabbed his second TOUR title at the Shriners. The victory came in his 100th career start and was his 20th top-10 finish. Im, 23, has become one of the TOUR's most consistent players and again proved he can close out a win.
Viktor Hovland and Jason Kokrak also padded their win totals, each winning for the third time in November. Hovland became the first repeat winner on TOUR in two and a half years by going back-to-back at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. Hovland, 24, is now at a career-best No. 9 in the world.
Kokrak, 36, is the elder statesman of the group, but he has now recorded all three of his TOUR wins in a 13-month span. Only Patrick Cantlay had more wins during that stretch. After a decade as a journeyman, Kokrak no longer fits that description and has become a bona fide threat to win again (and again and again) in 2022 and beyond.
Meanwhile, Lucas Herbert and Talor Gooch were the only first-time winners this fall. Neither came out of nowhere. Herbert, a rookie, had won twice in two years on the European Tour. Gooch had been grinding on TOUR since the 2017-18 season, but was knocking on the door and looked destined to break through before finally claiming his maiden victory.