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During the 2020 Ryder Cup this September, a shroud started to settle over Whistling Straits as Jon Rahm wasted anybody the United States threw at him for the first two days of the event. Wait, how good is this guy actually? Did we have it all wrong?

This is the gateway to finding underrated golfers, which is an incredibly difficult task. The trick is to select players who are not overly revered. It's less about how good or bad a player is and more about how they are viewed by a broader golf audience. Does the way we view them match up with just how good they actually are?

This could mean great players are still underrated (as we'll see below) because though we believe them to be good, we're unaware of just how good. Most of the time, though, it means that great players are incorrectly assessed as simply solid or perhaps above average by those of us watching.

With that in mind and without further ado, here are my five most underrated golfers going into 2022.

1. Jon Rahm

It seems odd that I would include the No. 1 player on the planet on a list of the most underrated professional golfers, but I'm unconvinced that the general public is aware of just how good Rahm is (and has been). Data Golf ranks golfers by their DG index, which is -- very roughly -- how good they have been compared to the rest of the world over their last 150 rounds. In September, Rahm peaked at 2.71 strokes gained over his last 150 (or so) rounds. How impressive is that? Nobody since Tiger Woods in 2008 has posted a better number, and only three golfers since 2004 -- Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Woods -- have ranked ahead of where Rahm was at after the Tour Championship. 

When we think about Rahm, I'm afraid we think about him in the category of Xander Schauffele or Louis Oosthuizen, but the reality is that the company of Els, Woods and Singh is more commensurate with his talent level and how good he is right now. The No. 1 player in the world, sure, but not all No. 1s are created equal. Rahm is the best golfer on earth by a wide margin.

2. Viktor Hovland

Hovland combines old-school winning with new-school data. He wins … a lot. Five times in his first 71 OWGR starts, although one of those was the Hero World Challenge (but still!). He was also the No. 1 ball-striker -- off the tee and on approach shots -- in the world over the last 12 months, just ahead of Collin Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau and Rahm. If his short game could sit right at average, then he could legitimately take on Rahm as the best player in the world. 

Like some of the other players on here, he needs to do it at a major at some point, but the way he's viewed does not properly match up with just how elite he is, at an age where immense improvement is not out of the question!

3. Daniel Berger

Only Rahm and Patrick Cantlay had a better overall strokes gained number in 2021. And while Berger only won once, he finished in the top 10 in 45% of his tournaments -- more than Cantlay, Hovland, Schauffele, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth -- and had a pair of quiet top 10s at majors.

I'd like to see him win more, but he rarely gets talked about as a top-10 guy even though he ranked in the top 10 in top 10s, strokes gained ball-striking, strokes gained tee to green and strokes gained overall in 2021. He's also a complete menace in match play as evidenced at pretty much every team event he's ever played.

4. Sam Burns

It's crazy that Sam Burns is the No. 11 player in the world to end 2022. It's even crazier that Data Golf suggests that he's a little underrated in that spot and ranks him as the No. 7 (!!) player in the world between DeChambeau and Morikawa. 

Burns finished in the top five in 28% of his starts in 2021, which was a better number than Thomas, DeChambeau, Scottie Scheffler and Dustin Johnson. He also won twice and made the biggest OWGR leap of anyone currently in the top 50 in the world as he went from No. 154 at the end of last year to No. 11 at the end of this year. The only thing keeping him from greater renown is the fact that he hasn't yet contended at a major championship.

5. Justin Thomas

He wins so, so much (15 times in his first 210 OWGR starts). Data Golf has him as the No. 2 player in the world going into 2022 coming off what Thomas himself described as an unsuccessful year. Because he hasn't had the major success Koepka and Spieth have had, I'm not sure folks realize how many wins he has at his age and the types of players he's trending with as he heads into a new year. 

When Ernie Els, Rory McIlroy, Justin Leonard and David Duval are your comps, something is going very well, and I think sometimes we put him a half tier or maybe even a full tier down from where he actually belongs.

Data Golf