Tiger Woods turned 40 last week, and won’t be playing on the PGA Tour again for much if not all of the 2016 season. While Woods, 45-year-old Jim Furyk, and 52-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez would very much like to convince you it’s still a veteran’s game out there, the crop of young talent emerging from all over the world has something to say not only about the game’s future, but also it’s a present.
With the 2016 calendar season less than 48 hours from starting, here’s a look at the top 5 players in professional golf who are 25 years or younger.
1. Jordan Spieth, US. Mind-blowing stuff, right? Who woulda thought the No. 1 player in the world would be No. 1 on our list? But here’s the real rub for the competition; Spieth will qualify to be on this list of top 5 who are 25 and under until July 27, 2019 – the day he actually turns 26, which is presently a horrifying 1,299 days away if you are one of Spieth’s competitors.
Spieth’s 2015 season was just shy of ridiculous for anyone whose name doesn’t rhyme with “Miger Moods”. In 25 events he had 19 top 25 finishes, 15 top 10 finishes, five wins, four runner-up slots, and one third place. With two Majors under his belt he’s already seventh among active players in that category, and his $20.4 million in career earnings is already 52nd on the PGA all-time list.
2. Matthew Fitzpatrick, UK. Lost in the blazing glory of Spieth is the emergence of Fitzpatrick, the Brit who won’t turn 22 until September, but who went on a rampage over the last few months of the 2015 European Tour, starting with his second-place finish at the Omega European Masters in late July. From there, he racked up six Top 7 performances, including his first win – at the British Masters – and a tie for fourth at the DP World Tour Championship. Sort of like Andy Murray on the tennis court, Fitzpatrick is the crowned heir of his sport in the UK, even before he really takes off. But it’s looking good so far that a Brit may again compete among the best in the world on the links.
3. Hideki Matsuyama. Japan. Hideki Matsuyama might not be the most famous Japanese player to take an American sport by storm; heck because of former New York Yankee Hideki Matsui, he’s not even the most famous Hideki to do so. But that doesn’t discount how terrific his last two years on the PGA Tour have been, as he’s racked up 13 Top 10 and 31 Top 25 appearances in 49 events, with one win, one runner-up, and two third-place performances. He put on a true display of excellence late in the year at the FedEx Cup, finishing 13th at the Barclays, 25th at the Deutsche Bank Championship, seventh at the BMW Championship, and 12th at the Tour Championship.
4. Byeong Hun An, South Korea. Byeong Hun An showed just how hot a young talent can get during the course of the 2015 season, and just how cold. He started the year with five straight top 25 finishes, including two inside the top 10, then broke out with his first career victory at the BMW PGA Championship, firing a 21-under 267. He promptly missed the cuts at the US Open, Open Championship, and PGA Championship, and finished outside of the top 80 in the final two events of the regular season of the European Tour. Come the Final Series, he was suddenly a new man, so much so that he had an outside chance to win the Race to Dubai entering the final tournament. He took fourth at both the Turkish Airlines Open and the DP World Tour Championship, and third at the BMW Masters.
5. Danny Lee, New Zealand. He won a thrilling four-man playoff in July at the Greenbrier Classic, and was frankly fantastic from there on, taking fourth at both the John Deere Classic and the Quicken Loans National, sixth at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and second at the TOUR Championship, which saw him finish ninth in the FedEx Cup standings.