On the Saturday night in the course of the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September, golf was on the verge of seeing two golfers who 18 months in the past had been amateurs win the primary two main championships of 2020. Following Collin Morikawa’s victory on the PGA Championship at Harding Park in September, Wolff was taking part in within the last pairing with Bryson DeChambeau at Winged Foot. He bought rolled by the massive man, however the truth that this was on the desk in any respect with two children ages 24 or youthful within the period of Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy appeared utterly absurd.
In fact, each era in golf — and possibly all sports activities — lays declare to the moniker of “finest crop of younger stars ever” or some ridiculous factor like that. And whereas it looks like a preposterous factor to purchase into, the information on this occasion, at the least with the place we’re at with golf, is incontrovertible. Take into account this nugget from Justin Ray from earlier this yr.
Since 1985, there have been 5 PGA Tour seasons the place the common winner’s age was below 31.1. All 5 of these seasons have come since 2014, together with the record-setting 2016-17 wraparound marketing campaign, the place the common winner was simply 28.eight. That season, a staggering 42 % of tournaments had been received by gamers age 25 or youthful.
This shouldn’t be stunning. The era following the Tiger Woods era would naturally be higher, extra aggressive and deeper than ever earlier than given how a lot Tiger impressed children and — extra importantly — how rather more cash he infused the sport with.
With all of this in thoughts, we’d like to check out the very best of one of many nice younger generations in golf historical past and type out each the place they’re at and what’s subsequent. The easiest way to try this is to rank them by highest ceiling and go from there, so let’s begin with any person I didn’t envision rating No. 1 in the beginning of 2020.
1. Viktor Hovland (OWGR: 14)
Hovland is definitely not essentially the most completed of this crop of sub-25 golfers, however I do assume he is the scariest from tee to inexperienced. Knowledge Golf exhibits that his 21-year-old season was much like Rory McIlroy’s on the similar age, and that his 22-year-old season was akin to Justin Thomas’. Fairly respectable firm. Each of these gamers — together with the others Hovland is in comparison with — took a giant leap at 23 and 24 (which is what Hovland is coming into into), however he has the toolset — 2.02 and 1.37 strokes gained tee to inexperienced in 2019 and 2020 respectively — to make that leap. His brief sport wants enchancment and he wants to combine it up at some larger occasions, however the basis is there for Hovland to finally reign as the very best of this bunch. Subsequent up: Win a Genesis Invitational or Memorial — some big-boy event to get into the highest 10 on the earth.
2. Collin Morikawa (7)
His profession has adopted Hideki Matsuyama’s nearly identically, and that is a great comp for him. He will get minor factors deducted right here as a result of he is slightly older than Hovland, Wolff and Im, however he is undoubtedly the very best iron participant of that group (though Hovland is underrated as an iron participant). He is a zero putter (at all times round zero.zero strokes gained on the greens), which is okay given his elite ball-striking. The massive query for him will probably be whether or not he can sustain with the remainder of this group off the tee contemplating the truth that he’ll in all probability be round 100th or worse in driving distance and a lot of the remainder of these guys are within the high 25. Subsequent up: Develop better consistency on the greatest occasions.
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three. Matthew Wolff (15)
He is the toughest one on right here for me. On one hand, his numbers do not completely match the notion of what he is completed. For instance, Sungjae Im had higher 21-year-old and 22-year-old seasons than Wolff (thus far). He is a greater putter than perhaps anybody on this listing, however his brief sport to date has been awful (which isn’t sudden). Alternatively, there is a part to Wolff that’s utterly intangible: he has it. He is electrifying. He is telling different golfers to say hey to their wives for him on his method to the primary tee within the final pairing at his first U.S. Open. He legitimately might have received the primary two majors of 2020. He is additionally method, method youthful than a lot of the gamers on this listing. Generally we prefer to lump all of the “younger guys” in collectively, however there’s a wild distinction between being 21 and eight months and almost 25 (like Scheffler). The subsequent two years will probably be fascinating. Subsequent up: Turn into a mainstay at smaller tournaments.
four. Scottie Scheffler (31)
I am formally intrigued, though this is likely to be a scenario such as you see within the NBA the place a very profitable school senior comes into the league and finds comparable success professionally, however that is form of the ceiling of the place he will be as a result of he is a lot older relative to the opposite younger gamers. Technically the very best of the group over the past 12 months in strokes gained, however he is additionally extra totally fashioned. Nonetheless, the early profession arc thus far is a bit Mickelsonian! Subsequent up: Win.
5. Sungjae Im (18)
Rickie Fowler or Jason Day is an effective comp for him, in response to Knowledge Golf. Although he was higher than Wolff as a 21-year-old, he isn’t pretty much as good together with his irons because the 4 guys forward of him on this listing. He takes away slightly of the alluring side of the unknown as a result of he performs each single week, so that you just about know who he’s at this level. Nonetheless, if he can develop his iron play just a bit bit extra he has an opportunity to match a Fowler- or Day-like manufacturing, which might be a reasonably nice profession. Subsequent up: Become involved at a serious.
6. Joaquin Niemann (45):
The forgotten man amongst this crowd, however he is barely 22 years previous and pacing fairly properly with the primary a part of Adam Scott’s extremely profitable profession. Subsequent up: Win a non-fall occasion.