Jordan Spieth’s win at the 2017 British Open was yet another sign that the youth movement has arrived in golf. Around the globe, the game is filled with young top golfers who are already making a huge impact on the game.
Who are those guys? Which 10 golfers are not only great now but have such a bright future that a regular pair of sunglasses may not do the trick?
Does any young golfer come in above Spieth? What about long-hitting John Rahm or Spieth’s buddy, Justin Thomas? Where does the youngest ever winner of THE PLAYERS Championship come in? What about the guy who shot a 63 on Sunday at the Open Championship?
Indeed, the game of golf is loaded with young talent. But who are the best golfers under the age of 25, and how do we rank them?
Note: Golfers born on or before July 31, 1992 do not qualify for this list.
10. Ollie Schniederjans
Schniederjans has posted some decent finishes on tour. In 2017 alone, he recorded top-ten finishes at the Farmers Insurance Open, the Genesis Open and the RBC Heritage. Those finishes nicely compliment a Web.com Tour win in 2016. We saw how good Schniederjans can be most recently at the John Deere Classic when he fired an opening round 63.
That’s not a bad resume for a guy who’s been a pro for only two years.
But Schniederjans isn’t only on this list for what he’s done as a pro. Between 2014 and 2015, Schniederjans held the No. 1 world amateur rating for 41 weeks, the third-highest total for a single run in the ranking’s history. In fact, the total of 41 weeks is sixth-highest on the all-time list.
Now, who else has topped that list? That list includes Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Matthew Fitzpatrick and John Rahm. None of them had any one run longer than Schniederjans’ 41 weeks, and of those players, only Rahm’s combined runs topped that total.
Great amateur play doesn’t always translate to the professional ranks. But we like what we’ve seen from Schniederjans enough to say that we favor his chances.
9. Si Woo Kim
In a way, it seems crazy to have Kim this low in the rankings. After all, the guy is the youngest winner of THE PLAYERS Championship in the event’s history.
A career win for Si Woo Kim 🏆pic.twitter.com/SVcMCjgbWs
— THE PLAYERS (@THEPLAYERSChamp) May 15, 2017
And that wasn’t even his first win. That came at the 2016 Wyndham Championship.
So, how is he this low?
Really, it comes down to some of the other tournaments. In addition to winning THE PLAYERS in 2017, Kim has nine missed cuts and four withdraws in 2017.
Now, to be fair, Kim is only 22. Those kind of struggles are certainly not uncommon for young players. The fact that we’re docking Kim so much for those shows how good the future of this game is. In other generations, Kim would still come in high on this list.
But even in this generation, we can’t omit someone who’s won THE PLAYERS. Golf’s unofficial fifth major has been won by some of the greatest players in the game’s history. Winning that before your 22nd birthday is impressive, regardless of how many missed cuts and withdraws come around it.
8. Haotong Li
The 2017 Open Championship gave us a pretty good glimpse into the kind of potential that Li has. He started the final round well out of contention, but finished his round early and gave leaders Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar something to really think about as their rounds progressed.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 23, 2017
But to look only at that would be doing Li a disservice.
Li has five professional wins already, including a European Tour win at the Volvo China Open in 2016.
On top of his solo third in the British Open, Li has two other top-five finishes, another top-10, and a tie for 11th in 2017.
Not bad for a guy who will turn 22 in August.
Obviously, the success at the major championship put Li on a bigger stage than he’d ever been before. But what happened at Royal Birkdale didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. Expect to hear more from this guy in the coming weeks, months and years.
7. Emiliano Grillo
Grillo has been riding something of a cold streak recently, with three of four missed cuts including both the U.S. and British Opens.
But prior to those two missed cuts, Grillo had made the cut at every major between the 2015 PGA Championship and the 2017 Masters, both tournaments included. How impressive is it to make six cuts in a row? In that same stretch, Dustin Johnson missed a major cut and didn’t even play in the 2017 Masters. Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, missed two cuts in the same window. Getting to play the weekend at major championships is hard.
Even with his recent cold patch factored in, Grillo is the No. 48-ranked player in the world. He’s also on track to play for the International Team at the upcoming Presidents Cup. So, he’s turned in a stretch of strong finishes on the PGA Tour.
Additionally, Grillo knows how to close the deal, as well. He has a win on the PGA Tour Latinoamérica, one on the Web.com Tour and yet another on the PGA Tour at the 2015 Frys.com Open. Players in that field included Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger (more on both to come), Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama and McIlroy, just to name a few.
6. Bryson DeChambeau
DeChambeau has an old school look but make no mistake, he’s a youngster. DeChambeau has racked up quite a resume for a guy not yet 24.
In 2016, Dechambeau was the low amateur at the Masters, then finished tied for 15th at the U.S. Open. After that, he won his first professional event at the Web.com Tour’s DAP Championship. In 2017, Dechambeau found the PGA Tour winner’s circle for the first time at the John Deere Classic.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 16, 2017
Additionally, DeChambeau had a decorated amateur career. He was the 2015 NCAA Division I National Champion. Later that year, won the U.S. Amateur, becoming only the fifth man to pull that double off. Prior to DeChambeau, the most recent was Ryan Moore, who’s had a fine pro career and had one of the greatest amateur careers we’ve seen in a long time. The other three men to win both tournaments in the same year? Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods. They went on to have decent pro careers.
DeChembeau is rubbing shoulders with some awfully impressive golfers in that group. His professional career thus far has shown that he’s well on his way to being a solid pro, as well.
5. Daniel Berger
The fact that Berger barely cracks the top half of this list is a sure indicator that the rest of the names we’re going to see will be pretty darn good.
Even with a missed cut at the U.S. Open, Berger’s last five tournaments have brought a lot of success his way.
He tied for 27th at The Open Championship, tied for fifth at the John Deere Classic, lost in a playoff to Jordan Spieth at the Travelers Championship and won his second-straight FedEx St. Jude Classic. That’s helped make Berger the No. 19-ranked player in the world.
Berger also reached a playoff in the 2015 Honda Classic, which he lost to Padraig Harrington. So, the guy clearly knows how to compete with the world’s best players on tour.
That will serve Berger well as he gets deeper into his career.
4. Matthew Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick has never won a major. But he’s certainly racked up some impressive hardware playing in them.
As a result of winning the 2013 U.S. Amateur, Fitzpatrick earned a spot in the 2014 U.S. Open, where he finished as the Low Amateur. That came a year after being the Low Amateur at the 2013 British Open.
The amateur success has translated to the pro ranks. Fitzpatrick has tallied three wins, including one at the 2016 DP World Tour Championship, besting a field that included golfers like McIlroy and Sergio Garcia.
Prior to that win, Fitzpatrick earned a spot on the 2016 European Ryder Cup team. At a Ryder Cup where eight of the 24 players were rookies to the event, Fitzpatrick was the youngest man on either side.
Fitzpatrick has not shined particularly bright on the world’s biggest tournaments but even still, he’s certainly belonged. He finished tied for seventh at the 2016 Masters, and while his next-best major finish is a solo 32nd at the 2017 Masters, Fitzpatrick has missed only one major cut as a pro and two overall.
That’s the kind of consistency that turns into big results with experience.
3. Justin Thomas
Thomas earned his PGA Tour card in 2015 and has given us an awful lot to like over his three years.
He has four wins on Tour, including two in 2017. One of those was aided by a 59. That’s the first thing that jumps out when we’re looking at someone so young. But the wins and even the 59 aren’t all that we can focus on.
Remember how impressive it was that Grillo made every major cut between the 2015 PGA Championship and 2017 Masters? Thomas had a streak that went one longer. He made seven straight cuts between the 2015 PGA and the 2017 U.S. Open.
The one drawback is that Thomas has occasionally had a hard time following up on his top achievements.
He shot a 63 in the third round of the U.S. Open to begin the final day at only one back. But then he shot a 75 on Sunday and lost to Brooks Koepka by eight shots. He opened the British Open with a 67 and was only two off of the lead, but shot an 80 in Round 2 to miss the cut.
But at the same time, consistently been able to score low is something you just can’t teach. That’s just raw talent, and Thomas clearly has it. Some of the consistency to take that talent from round-to-round can come with time.
Thomas has already won a bunch. So, he has a head start in the fight to be able to consistently compete in and eventually win majors.
2. Jon Rahm
It’s safe to say that Rahm has enjoyed 2017. He has eight top-10 finishes. That includes one win in Europe and another in the United States.
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) January 29, 2017
Mind you, we can still call Rahm a fairly raw golfer. Just imagine how good he can be when his game gets a little more polished and he starts to get more familiar with the venues played on the European and PGA Tours.
Rahm has a similar game to current World No. 1, Dustin Johnson. He hits the ball a mile. One would be hard pressed to design a par-five that he couldn’t attack in two shots, using an iron and more often than not, a mid or low iron on the second. That’s a tremendous advantage to have over guys who are going at those greens with mid to long irons, woods, or just laying up.
Spain has a tremendous history within the game of golf. Rahm is well positioned to follow the likes of Seve Ballesteros, José María Olazábal and Sergio Garcia. Those comparisons aren’t made lightly, either. Rahm is just that good and should only get better in time.
1. Jordan Spieth
Spieth is currently No. 2 in the world, used to be No. 1 in he world, is an 11-time winner on the PGA Tour, has three major championships, is only one major shy of the career grand slam, gave the single season grand slam a really good run in 2015 and has played in the both Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup twice.
He’s done all of this before his 24th birthday.
There are some great golfers on this list, but nobody else had a chance to be No. 1.
In addition to winning three majors, Spieth has made the cut in 11 straight tournaments. He has three runner-up finishes at majors and was only one shot out of a three-way playoff at the 2015 British Open.
Spieth truly mastered Augusta at the 2015 Masters, tying Tiger Woods’ epic 1997 performance for the lowest score in tournament history. But in reality, that’s only a small part of what makes him so special.
Good golfers can have great weeks and look unbeatable. That happened to Brooks Koepka at the 2017 U.S. Open. He was simply playing on a different level than anyone else and the rest of the field couldn’t keep up.
What sets Spieth apart is that he can not only compete when he’s not on top of his game, but he can actually win. He did that at he 2017 British Open. He was leaking oil hard for the first 13 holes on Sunday but found a way to stay in the mix until he eventually found his A-Game over the final five holes.
That’s not rare for golfers so young — that’s just unheard of. In fact, it’s nearly unheard of for golfers of any age. Not many can win tournaments (let alone majors) without their best games. Spieth has done that. He truly is one of the more unique golfers in the history of the game, and he still has a long way to go.