Tag: World Golf Rankings

World Rank Top 30: The Changing Face of Golf

Young Guns

There are seven players among the top 30 in the world golf rankings who have yet to hit their 26th birthday. Everyone is buzzing about 25-year-old Scottie Scheffler after his dominant victory at The Masters. And Collin Morikawa (also 25), with 5 tour wins including two major championships, lived up to everyone’s expectations by closing with a brilliant final round 67 to record a Top 5. But the next big story may well come from one of the three youngest members of this talented group. Sungjae Im, who just turned 24, has accumulated 24 Top 10 finishes in his early career, the same number as Morikawa and one more than Scheffler. Also keep a sharp eye on Victor Hoveland and Joaquin Niemann. Niemann, the youngest of the group at 23, has recorded 20 Top 10’s including a pair of wins. Hoveland, at 24, has notched 3 wins on tour with 12 additional Top 10’s, and has made the cut in 54 of his 60 Tour starts (90%), a figure that surpasses even Morikawa (89%). So, who are these guys? Flying under the radar, they each learned the game abroad, and followed different paths on their journey to the PGA Tour—but don’t be too surprised if one of them suddenly jumps up and flashes across your screen on Sunday next month at the PGA Championship.

Sungjae Im (Age 24/No. 19 in the World Rankings)

Sungjae Im grew up in South Korea. Both of his parents were avid golfers, so he became interested in the game as soon as he could walk and started hitting balls at 4 years old. Sungjae had the gift, so he attended the Korea National Sport University and was named to the South Korean National team in 2014 at 16 years old. In 2015, he received an exemption to play an event on the Japan Tour, and shortly thereafter turned pro. In 2017, at 18 years old, Sungjae played a full year on the Japan Tour and made the most of it, finishing among the top 15 on the money list—which gained him eligibility for the 2018 Korn Ferry Tour season. Blazing right out of the blocks, Sungjae won the first tournament he entered, finished second the following week, and ended the year at No.1 on the Korn Ferry money list while taking home Player of the Year honors—which qualified him for the 2019 PGA Tour season. Talk about a fast track.

Sungjae Im

Once again Sungjae jumped on his opportunity, entering 35 Tour events while making the cut in 26 of them. He recorded 7 Top 10’s, including a T4 in his first event (The Safeway Open), T3 at Bay Hill and a T4 at the Valspar, culminating in a trip to the Tour Championship. In 2020 he had to back it down to 26 events (due to COVID cancellations), but made the cut in 21 of them while recording his first Tour win (The Honda), and tacked on 6 additional Top 10’s—once again getting to the Tour Championship, where he finished 11th.

In 2021 Sungjae ramped back up to 35 Tour events, and made the cut 29 times. His win at the Honda got him into the Masters, and again he made the most of it by finishing in a tie for second behind Dustin Johnson. He then added a T5 at the Tournament of Champions, a 3rd at the BMW, and his third consecutive trip to the Tour Championship.

As the 2022 season rolls through the Spring, Sungjae shows no sign of slowing down. He’s entered 15 events and made the cut in 13 of them, adding his second win (The Shriner’s) and 4 additional Top 10’s-including a T8 at the Masters. With his foot pressed firmly on the gas, Sungjae Im seems determined to add a major championship to his resume in the near future—and based on what he has done thus far, I would not bet against him.

Joaquin Niemann (Age 23/N0. 16 in the World Rankings)   

Joaquin Niemann was born in Santiago, Chile, and he’s the youngest of this stellar group. Like Sungjae Im, Joaquin was swinging a club from the time he could walk (his father gave him a plastic club when he was two years old). Athletics in general was integral to the Niemann family (his mom was a member of the Chilean National Field hockey Team, and his dad played college basketball), but for Joaquin it was always all about golf. He attended a high school for athletes, and the golf program provided him the opportunity to compete in Junior golf championships all over the world—and he won a boatload of them. At 18 years old, Joaquin became the No. 1 ranked amateur in world, and held that position for 48 weeks before turning pro to compete at the Valero Texas Open—where at 19 years old he finished 6th. He entered 11 more events in the 2018 season, making the cut in 9 of them (including 4 Top 10’s) while earning his tour card in record time. In the 2019 season, still only 19 and sporting braces, Joaquin played 28 events—and made the cut 21 times while adding 4 more top 10’s. The following year Joaquin recorded his first Tour win at The Greenbrier (by a whopping 6 shots), joining Tiger, Phil, Rory and Jordan Spieth among the short list of players to win before their 21st birthday. He then added 4 more Top 10’s, including a T5 at the Heritage, a T3 at the BMW, and a trip to the Tour Championship.

Joaquin Niemann

2021 was a breakout season for Niemann. He made the cut in 26 of the 27 Tour events he entered, and recorded 5 Top 10’s, including 3 runner-up finishes (The Tournament of Champions, Sony Open and Rocket Mortgage), while making it to the Tour Championship once again.

The 2022 season is shaping up to be another big year for Joaquin, recording his second Tour victory (The Genesis Invitational) with 2 additional Top 10’s (a T5 at Mayakoba and a T6 at The Farmers). Currently at No. 13 in the FedEx Cup standings, look for Niemann to challenge at the majors this year—and perhaps the PGA Championship will be his biggest moment yet.

Viktor Hoveland (Age 24/No. 5 in the World Rankings)

Born and raised in Oslo Norway, Viktor Hoveland first gained notoriety by winning the Norwegian Amateur in 2014 at the age of 16. He then brought his talent to the U.S., accepting a golf scholarship to Oklahoma State University, where he was named a first team All-American in his sophomore year. In 2018, Viktor won the U.S. Amateur Championship, and became the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world in April of 2019. As the Amateur champ, Hovland gained entrance to the 2019 Masters, making the cut and finishing as low amateur (3 under par). He also competed at the 2019 U.S. Open as an amateur, opening eyes with a T12 at Pebble Beach. Following the Open, Viktor turned pro and made six starts in the remaining 2019 season—making the cut in all six and closing with a T4 at the Wyndham.

Viktor Hoveland

In 2020 (his first full year on Tour), Viktor recorded an early win at the Puerto Rico Open—only his sixteenth professional start. He then added 2 more Top 10’s, including a 3rd at the Workday Charity Open, and capped it off by getting to the Tour Championship. In the 2021 season Hoveland recorded his second Tour win (The Mayakoba Classic), and made the cut in 22 of 24 events he played with six additional Top 10’s, including 2 runner-up finishes, 2 T3’s and a T5 at the Tour Championship.

This year Viktor has been even more impressive with another win (back-to-back at Mayakoba), 10 of 11 cuts made, and 3 more Top 10’s including a T2 at Bay Hill. Currently at No. 7 in the FedEx Cup standings, and ninth on Tour in scoring average, Viktor Hoveland is primed for an assault on the majors—and it would be hard to find a nicer young man to pull for.

As the Tour continues to take on an international flavor, these three talented young men who hail from the far corners of the world are changing the face of golf—and fans will enjoy their thrilling play for many years to come.

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PGA Tour: Changing of the Guard-Volume II

A group of young guns is emerging on the PGA Tour, flexing their muscle and exerting a powerful influence that will change the landscape of professional golf for the next decade and more. Each is seeking to etch his name in golf history, and all have the talent to do so. Currently twelve players under the age of 30 are included among the top twenty in the World Golf Rankings, and we will take a look at them all as the 2022 tour season gets under way. Can one of these mega-talented young stars approach the seemingly unattainable records of Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods? To put it in perspective, Jack Nicklaus recorded 73 tour wins in his career (30 in his twenties), with 18 major titles (7 in his twenties).Tiger Woods has accumulated 82 wins on tour (46 in his twenties) including 15 major titles (8 in his twenties). Last time we looked at Jon Rham, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas. Here are three more dynamic young stars with an opportunity to approach, and possibly even surpass, the extremely high bar that’s been set by Jack and Tiger.

Bryson DeChambeau (28 years old/No. 9 in the World Rankings)

In addition to focus and fortitude, what separated Jack and Tiger from their contemporaries was a combination of prodigious power and uncanny putting. Bryson’s massive length has been well documented, but keep in mind that he can also roll his rock. In 2020 Bryson not only led the tour in driving distance, he also ranked 12th in putting. DeChambeau was born in Modesto California, and began looking at golf through a different lens from an early age, playing from the forward tees to perfect his wedge game and build confidence with the scoring shots in golf (100 yards and in). When he was 18, Bryson postulated that he could achieve a more repeatable swing plane (and thus consistency) if all of his clubs from 3 iron to wedge were exactly the same length, so he thumbed his nose at a hundred and fifty years of golf dogma and made the switch. And on receiving a golf scholarship to SMU in Dallas, Texas, he continued his analytical vision of the golf swing by majoring in physics (the genesis of his moniker as “The Scientist”). Bryson’s game began its meteoric rise when he won the NCAA division I individual championship in 2015, and followed that up by winning the US Amateur title in the same year, joining Jack, Tiger, Phil and Ryan Moore as the only players to achieve that distinction. Bryson turned pro following The Masters in 2016, where he finished 21st as the low amateur, and won his first PGA Tour event in 2017 at the John Deere Classic. His success continued in 2018 with three tour wins, including The Memorial at Muirfield Village. Bryson added another win in 2019, and decided it was time to power up with an intensive strength and conditioning regimen, which led to two more wins in 2020, including the U.S. Open, where his length dominated Winged Foot to capture his first major title. Once again, Bryson ignored conventional wisdom where lean muscles and flexibility were accepted as the key to generating speed and power, instead opting for massive daily protein intake, the weight room, and sheer bulk. In 2021 DeChambeau added another victory to his resume, winning Arnie’s event at Bay Hill. Eight tour wins including a major in under six years is impressive, but Bryson will need to keep the lab running on overtime to make a move on Jack and Tiger.

Jordan Spieth (28 years old/No. 15 in the World Rankings)

Like Justin Thomas, his boyhood rival, Jordan Spieth has been on the PGA Tour for so long that it’s hard to believe he’s still in his twenties. And like Thomas, Jordan made his debut on the tour scene as an amateur when he was sixteen years old (the 2010 Byron Nelson, where he popped everybody’s eyeballs with a top 20 finish). He made the cut at the Byron Nelson again in 2011, and in 2012 Jordan qualified for the US Open at the Olympic Club, where he finished 21st as the low amateur (and tying Tiger as well). Jordan turned pro in 2013, making the cut in eighteen of the twenty-three events he entered, recorded nine top 10’s including his first tour win at the John Deer Classic, and finished the year with a runner up at the Tour Championship. In 2014, Spieth failed to record a win, but made the cut in twenty-four of the twenty-seven events he entered, including a runner up at the Masters. 2015 would prove to be a break-out year for Jordan, with five wins, including two majors (The Masters and the U.S. Open), top 10 finishes in fifteen of the twenty-five tournaments he entered, and victory at the Tour Championship where he took home the FedEx Cup. He tacked on two wins in 2016, including eight top 10’s, and three more in 2017, including his third major title (The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale). 2018 through 2020, however, were lean years for Spieth, and he failed to record a win or advance to the Tour Championship (although he made the cut in 51 of the 63 tournaments he entered, with twelve top 10’s). In 2021 Jordan ended his drought with a win at the Valero Texas Open, recorded nine top ten finishes, including a runner up at Open Championship, a T3 at The Masters, and a return to the Tour Championship. Spieth currently stands with twelve wins and three major titles, and even with the three-year lull, Jordan can still put himself into position for an assault on Jack and Tiger with a big year in 2022—and he has the pedigree to do it.

Patrick Cantley (29 Years old/No. 4 in the World Golf Rankings)

Injury has robbed Patrick Cantlay of the opportunity to build his professional golf legacy in his twenties, but he has set the stage to show the world what he can do in his thirties. Born in Long Beach, California, Cantley received a golf scholarship to UCLA, and was awarded the Haskins Award as outstanding college golfer in the country as a freshman in 2011 (and also the Jack Nicklaus Division I Player of the Year award presented by the Golf Coaches Association of America). Cantley holds the record for the most consecutive weeks as the number one amateur in the World Golf Rankings (54), holds the record for lowest score (60) ever recorded by an amateur in a PGA tournament (2011 Travelers Championship), and was the low amateur at the 2011 US Open where he tied for 21st. As the golf world looked on with great anticipation, Cantley turned pro in 2012 following the US Open, and made the cut in six of the seven tournaments he entered. But the train derailed in May of 2013, at The Colonial Invitational (now the Charles Schwab Challenge), where Cantley suffered a severe back injury (fracture of the L5 vertebrae) and was forced to withdraw, subsequently missing the bulk of the season. The back injury continued to plague him through 2014, where he could only tee it up six times, and then he missed the entirety of the 2015 and 2016 seasons. In 2017 Cantlay began his comeback, making the cut in all thirteen of the events he entered, recording a runner up at the Valspar that helped him gain entrance to the FedEx Cup playoffs, where three consecutive top 10’s got him to the Tour Championship. In the Fall of the 2017/2018 wrap around season, Patrick notched his first tour win at the Shriners, and made the cut in twenty-one of the twenty-three tournaments he entered, including seven top 10’s and another trip to the Tour Championship. In 2019 he added another win (The Memorial), making the cut in eighteen of twenty-one events he entered and nine top 10 finishes. In 2021 Cantlay fulfilled the promise of his superlative amateur career, as he won four times, including another win at the Memorial, wins at The BMW and Tour Championship, and ultimately becoming the FedEx Cup Champion. Patrick will be a force to be reckoned with at the majors in 2022, and the adversity he’s overcome make you believe that anything is possible. One thing is for sure, we will be pulling for him.

Stay tuned as we next look at Victor Hoveland (24 years old/No. 3 in the world), Xander Schauffele (28 years old/No. 10 in the world, and Cameron Smith (28 years old/No. 10 in the world)

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The PGA Tour: Changing of the Guard-Volume I

A group of young guns is emerging on the PGA Tour, flexing their muscle and exerting a powerful influence that will change the landscape of professional golf for the next decade and more. Each is seeking to etch his name in golf history, and all have the talent to do so. Currently twelve players under the age of 30 are included among the top twenty in the World Golf Rankings, and we will take a look at them all as the 2022 tour season gets under way. Can one of these mega-talented young stars approach the seemingly unattainable records of Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods? To put it in perspective, Jack Nicklaus recorded 73 tour wins in his career (30 in his twenties), with 18 major titles (7 in his twenties).: Tiger Woods has accumulated 82 wins on tour (46 in his twenties) including 15 major titles (8 in his twenties). Let’s take a look at the first three to see where they currently stand, and consider the possibilities.

John Rahm (27 years old/No. 1 in the World Rankings)

John Rahm is currently at the top of the official World Golf Rankings, and it should really not come as a surprise. With power and precision off the tee, steely nerves and singular focus, Rahm has recorded 6 PGA Tour Wins in the span of just 4 years, including a major title (2021 US Open). Born in Barrika, Spain as ‘John Rahm Rodriguez’, he was an exceptional golfer from an early age, earning a golf scholarship to Arizona State University where he won 11 college golf tournaments before graduating in 2016 (second only to Phil Mickelson, who recorded 16 wins at ASU). He waited to turn pro until the conclusion of the 2016 US Open, having received an invitation to compete as the #1 ranked amateur in the world, and recorded a top 25 finish. The following week he finished 3rd at the Quicken Loans National Tournament, gaining an invitation to The Open at Royal Troon where he made the cut, and followed that up with a runner-up finish at the Canadian Open the very next week. Adding two top 15 finishes in the fall secured his tour card, and Rahm exploded onto the golf scene in January 2017 with a remarkable come from behind victory at the Farmers Insurance Open (Torrey Pines–against a powerhouse field). He continued his success, recording four more wins between 2018 and 2020, and then took home the U.S. Open title in 2021, where he fired a final round 67 to defeat Louis Oosthuizen on the difficult South Course at Torre Pines. And with two Ryder Cups under his belt already, expect Rahm to be a pillar of the European team for many years to come. To get close to the bar set by Jack and Tiger however, Rahm will need to pick up his pace quite a bit with at least fifteen more wins and four or five major titles in the next few years. It can be done though, since he won’t turn 30 until November of 2024, giving him 3 more full seasons to beef up his record. Jack won 19 times from 1971-1973, and Tiger recorded 22 wins between 1999 and 2001. The problem is that Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy are still in their prime, along with a host of youthful superstars who also want to make their mark on the game.

Collin Morikawa (24 years old/No. 2 in the World Rankings)

When talking about young guns on the PGA Tour, Collin Morikawa jumps right to the top of the list. Known for precision iron play, Morikawa evokes images of Johnny Miller at the top of his game. When you add his accuracy off the tee and a beautiful putting stroke, the possibilities are unlimited. Morikawa was born in Los Angeles, California. Like Rahm, Morikawa started playing golf very early and proved himself to be a talent. He received a golf scholarship to play at the University of California, Berkley, where he excelled on the collegiate golf stage, winning numerous amateur championships and rising to #1 in the World Amateur Golf rankings in 2018. After graduating from college in 2019, Morikawa turned professional and immediately recorded a top 15 finish at the Canadian Open after receiving a sponsor’s exemption (a field that included Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson). The following week he made the cut at the US Open (held at Pebble Beach), closing with a final round 69. He then finished runner up at the 3M Open, recorded a top 5 at the John Deere Classic the very next week, and secured his card for the 2020 season by winning the Barracuda Championship. After making the cut in all nine of the tournaments he entered in 2019, Morikawa started the 2020 season by making the cut in his first 11 events before the season was put on hold due to COVID 19. When the season resumed, Morikawa recorded a runner up at the Charles Schwab Challenge, the 21st consecutive cut he had made from the start of his PGA career, with a chance to challenge   Tiger’s record of 25. Unfortunately, his streak ended at 22 with a missed cut two weeks later at the Travelers, but Morikawa wasted no time with what might have been, and notched a second tour win two weeks later in a playoff with Justin Thomas (the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village). The following month Morikawa won the PGA Championship, his first major title, firing a final round 64 (tying Steve Elkington’s record for lowest final round at the PGA) and ended the season with a sixth-place finish at the Tour Championship. The 2021 season was even more spectacular, as Morikawa added two more wins, including his second major title at the Open Championship, a top 5 at the US Open, top 10 at the PGA Championship and a top 20 at the Masters. With 5 wins including 2 majors under his belt already, and six full seasons before he will turn 30, Morikawa has plenty of time to make Tiger and Jack take a serious look over their shoulder.

Justin Thomas (28 Years old/No. 7 in the World Golf Rankings)

It may come as a surprise that Justin Thomas is still in his twenties, since he made his first appearance on the PGA tour way back in 2009. Thomas was just sixteen years old, and still in high school, when he teed it up at the Wyndham Championship, where he opened with a first round 65 and made the cut. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, he was taught the game almost as soon as he could walk by is his father, Mike Thomas, the head golf professional at Harmony Landing Country Club. In 2012, as a sophomore at the University of Alabama, Thomas received the Haskins Award as the outstanding college golfer of the year, and opted to join the PGA Tour in 2013, after Alabama won the National Championship. He recorded his first tour victory in 2015 (the CIMB Classic), and added 13 more titles over the next five years, including a major (2017 PGA Championship) and the Players Championship in 2021. Known for his length off the tee, Thomas can roll it on the green as well (ranked 5th in putting in 2017 while recording 5 wins). He only has one more full year in his twenties though, so 2022 needs to be a big one for him if he wants to keep Tiger and Jack in his sights. Keep in mind that Vijay Singh won nine times in ’04, and with his power and putting stroke, Thomas can most definitely make a statement.

Stay tuned as we next look at Bryson DeChambeau (28 years old/No. 13 in the world), Jordan Spieth (28 years old/No. 15 in the world, and Patrick Cantley (29 years old/No. 4 in the world).

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