When Garrick Higgo looks back on 2021, it will probably be with a sense of disbelief. Two wins on the European Tour and one on the PGA Tour announced the 22-year-old’s arrival on the world stage in no uncertain terms.
And while his 2021 European Tour season finished with a share of 21st in the DP World Tour Championship, that followed five missed cuts and a withdrawal from the WGC-FedEx St Jude Classic with dehydration and a stomach bug. And he missed the cut in the South African Open Championship in December at Sun City.
However, the arrival of his invitation to the 2022 Masters underscored just what a breakout year the left-hander had, vaulting him into the world’s elite golfing ranks. He reached a high of 38th on the Official World Golf Ranking list after the US Open, just a week after his breakthrough win at the Palmetto Championship at Congaree.
And although the rest of the year was a bit of struggle, he finished 2021 in 58th on the rankings, and he will no doubt confront whatever the new year will offer him with a sense of confidence, secure in the knowledge that the magnitude of his 2021 achievements has given him a basis to compete with the best on the world and, occasionally, pop off a really big performance.
While the performance at the SA Open and the cancellation of the Alfred Dunhill Championship will have frustrated him, the rest at home will have rejuvenated him ahead of his first start of 2022 when he competes with a stellar roster of 38 other PGA Tour and major champions in the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in Hawaii on January 6.
It’s always seemed as if Higgo is in a rush to get to the very top: After turning professional in early 2019, he won twice in his first full season on the Sunshine Tour, at the Sun City Challenge and the season-ending Tour Championship. He also recorded a runner-up finish in the Challenge Tour co-sanctioned Cape Town Open during the 2019-20 season, and finished sixth on the Order of Merit.
Higgo secured a place on the Challenge Tour for the 2020 season by making the cut at the European Tour Qualifying School. In September 2020, at the Open de Portugal, a dual-ranking event on the European and Challenge tours, he shot a bogey-free final round of 65 to win by one stroke, and gain a one-year exemption on the European Tour.
In April 2021, Higgo secured his second European Tour victory at the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open. He won the event with an aggregate score of 255, beating Andy Sullivan’s record of 257 previously set in 2020. Two weeks later, Higgo won again in the Canary Islands, at the Canary Islands Championship, a final score of 27-under-par 257 saw him win by six shots ahead of Maverick Antcliff.
In June 2021, he won the Palmetto Championship by one stroke. His very presence there was something of an anomaly, as he received an invitation to play that was meant to go to Wilco Nienaber. With the win, Higgo won more than $1,3-million and secured PGA Tour membership through to the end of the 2023 season.
While there were also wins for Branden Grace and Erik van Rooyen on the PGA Tour, and for Justin Harding, Daniel van Tonder, Dean Burmester and Thriston Lawrence on the European Tour, Higgo’s dizzying achievements made him the brightest of prospects for the future of South African golf.