Golf is one of the few sports where experience often trumps exuberance and energy. A calm head and the shoulders to carry the weight of expectation are usually found on golfers who have lifted a few majors in their lifetime.
However, Collin Morikawa’s win at The Open Championship in Kent two weeks ago showed us that these are qualities that even the most unlikely players can possess. After winning his first major at his 2020 PGA Championship debut, many believed that he was simply too young and inexperienced to make it two major wins in two major debuts. However, he put his name down in the history books at Royal St. George’s when he held off late challenges by vastly more experienced players in Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm to lift the Claret Jug.
With this in mind, we turn our attention to the top golfers under the age of 25 who could light up the sport for years to come.
PGA Tour Wins: 5, including 2 majors
Morikawa became the youngest winner of the US PGA Championship in 2020 since Tiger Woods. As mentioned, he’s already in the history books for two major debut wins, but he also played bogey-free golf over the final 31 at Royal St. George’s, which is the longest stretch of its kind by an Open champion. He is number one in Strokes Gained: Approach this season, and his exceptional iron play has placed him alongside the world’s best players.
Morikawa is undoubtedly one of the best young players out there, and his win at the British Open will put fear into even the most experienced competitors on the course.
PGA Tour Wins: 2
Hovland joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Seve Ballesteros in his quick start to his pro career. He won the 2020 Puerto Rico Open and the 2021 Mayakoba Golf Classic after only turning pro in 2019.
Hovland is ranked in the top-10 in both Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Tee-to-Green, while he is ranked in the top-20 in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green. He has improved vastly in his distance striking since hiring swing coach Jeff Smith and has also shored up his short game.
With six top-10 finishes in 2021, it’s clear to see that Hovland is on the rise, and it won’t be long until he has a major win under his belt.
PGA Tour Wins: 1
Sungjae Im broke out in 2019, being named the Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour, and he won his first PGA Tour title at The Honda Classic in 2020. He followed this with a third-place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. In fact, he was the FedExCup leader in 2020, when the season was unfortunately halted due to the coronavirus.
Im hasn’t been able to replicate his form since the season resumed, but he did finish runner-up at his Masters debut and placed in the top-10 three more times during the 2021 season. He ranks in the top-50 for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, Approach-the-Green, Putting, and Tee-to-Green.
The young South Korean player has finally settled down in Atlanta after living in hotel rooms in the US for the last couple of years. Next season is set to be a big one for Im, and hopefully putting down roots will play a positive role on his form.
PGA Tour wins: 1
Niemann’s win at the Greenbrier in 2019 put him alongside Rory McIlroy and Seve Ballesteros as one of only three players in 95 years born outside the US to win on tour before the age of 21. Not bad company to keep.
The Chilean finished the latter part of 2020 with seven top-25 finishes in his last eight starts. His downswing is the envy of many players more experienced than he is and undoubtedly contributed to his three second-place finishes in the 2021 season. Niemann posted five top-10 finishes and twelve top-25 finishes too, and at 23-years-old, there seems to be nowhere but up for the youngster to go.
He ranks in the top-50 for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, Approach-the-Green, Putting, and Tee-to-Green. 2022 looks set to be a massive season for the talented Chilean player.
PGA Tour wins: 1
Wolff announced himself to the golfing world with a win in the 2019 3M Open. He didn’t take any titles in 2020 but finished T4 at the PGA Championship and runner-up at the US Open. He also finished second at Winged Foot and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
2021 was a turbulent year for the youngster, who dropped more than 20 points in the Official World Golf Ranking. He posted eight rounds of 76 or worse, withdrew from two tournaments, and was disqualified from the Masters for signing an incorrect scorecard. This led to a two-month mental health hiatus for the player.
At just 22-years-old, however, Wolff is ranked in the top-50 for Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and in the top-100 for Strokes Gained: Putting. Hopefully next season, we will see the talented young player reach the heights that everyone knows he can.
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