The European Major Challenge in 2022: Four of the continent’s stars who can triumph next year

Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry will be chasing Major Championship glory in 2022.

Europe may boast the world's number one golfer, Jon Rahm, but 2021 was not a great year for the continent and there has been something of a downturn brewing for a while.

Just four of the last 19 Major Champions were European, a poor return from the 14 Euro Majors claimed in the previous 40 tournaments.

Then there is the Ryder Cup which witnessed nothing less than a complete roasting at the hands of the young Americans.

Those world rankings didn't lie this time. Rahm might top them, but he has only Viktor Hovland and Rory McIlroy for company in the top 20 alongside no less than 14 Americans.

Can European golfers win big in 2022? Let's take a closer look.

Jon Rahm

History gives us a big clue with regard to the Spaniard because it tells us that when players win multiple Major Championships they do so in quick-time.

The truly exceptional golfers will win over a prolonged period, but for the very, very good it is about hitting a sweet spot and making the most of it.

Many might take the opinion that Jon Rahm is good for more than one Major so it makes sense, then, that the next two to three years are when he'll be at his best following the breaking of his duck at the US Open.

Where might it come? History also tells us that defending the US Open is very difficult so that immediately narrows the focus.

He should be good for a tilt at the Masters, with growing experience of Augusta National.

But the Open looks an excellent fit and he's the type to be motivated on The Old Course by memories of his compatriot Seve Ballesteros' success there.

The track also favours big-hitting (tick), links savvy (two Irish Open wins, another tick), championship form (his 2021 Open was his best yet, hat tick).

He's also ranked fourth and 15th in the last two seasons for three-putt avoidance which on the huge greens of St Andrews will be key.

Rory McIlroy

The Major drought has got to end sometime, right?!?!

He needs to win the Masters to complete a career Grand Slam, but he'd be a very curious beast if he didn't just accept adding any of them to his trophy cabinet.

The good news is that he ended the year feeling that, after a very mixed (i.e. poor) 2020 and most of 2021, he'd found something.

He won the CJ Cup while re-energised before failing to capitalise on decent starts in either the DP World Tour Championship or Hero Challenge.

He remains an enigma, but glory at the Open would be cool and, never mind the 150th hoopla, he has his own history at the course.

He's a three-time runner-up at St Andrews in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, but he also has memories (and non-memories) of the course from the Open.

In 2010 he thrashed a brilliant 63 in round one before lurching to a second round 80 (and yet he still ended the week third).

Five years later he didn't even get to tee off following an injury picked up in a five-a-side kickabout with friends.

A redemptive victory would make a great story.

Viktor Hovland

So far the Norwegian has a decent, rather than excellent, record in the Majors. As an amateur, he kicked off with T32nd at the 2019 Masters and then T12th at the same year's US Open.

A few years on, he's played seven Majors and has always landed a top 40 when he's completed the tournament (there has been one withdrawal), but T12th remains his best effort and he's yet to have genuinely been in the hunt at the weekend.

We should feel safe in believing that such a situation ought to change in 2022 and he'll be excited about the PGA Championship heading to Southern Hills Country Club - it's in Oklahoma, the state Hovland moved to for college and where he still resides.

He frequently notes that his ability to play in wind is a direct consequence of his Oklahoma base so, should blustery conditions prevail in May, we can assume that he'll be prepared.

He also ended 2021 on fire, successfully defending his World Wide Technology Championship title at Mayakoba and then defeating the elite field at Tiger Woods' Hero World Challenge.

Shane Lowry

Don't discount the former Open Champion because, even as he contemplated his delayed defence of the Claret Jug at Royal St George's, he was thinking of just what a huge occasion it is going to be in the Auld Grey Toun for the 105th Open.

His defence got off to a bad start with a 71 for T74th, but then he raced through the field with laps of 65-69-69 for T12th. He also loves the Old Course, owning three top six finishes there in the Dunhill Links (including 2021), and is on record as saying he has got to grips with playing his best golf at the Major Championships.

READ MORE: Is the tide turning? A short history of the Ryder Cup since 1981

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