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PGA Tour: Power Ranking the 10 Best Players Under 25 Years Old

Bennett SmedContributor IJanuary 9, 2017

PGA Tour: Power Ranking the 10 Best Players Under 25 Years Old

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    The PGA Tour has been marketing its young guns for some time now, and up until the 2011 season it seemed like these young superstars were more talk than substance. With a barrage of victories and top finishes, the twenty-something’s were starting to take the tour by storm.

    The PGA took hold of the opportunity to create an "us versus them" mentality between the new comers and the seasoned veterans of the tour. The young guns have flare, style and charisma, but the older generation is not ready to give up the power just yet.

    Here are ten players under the age of 25 who will be leading the charge to make it clear that the world of golf will be led by the younger generation.

10: Kyle Stanley

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    Kyle Stanley is one player who has a tremendous potential and a maturity beyond his years.

    Stanley, who was a two time All-American, two time NCAA individual runner-up, 2007 ACC Player of the Year and member of the victorious 2007 US Walker Cup team while at Clemson University is one of the longest hitters and purest ball strikers on tour.

    He has won eight amateur tournaments and established 18 individual scoring records and two victories while in college.

    Stanley turned professional in 2009 after he played in the U.S. Open and played his first professional event at the 2009 Travelers Championship. The 24 year old had his best finish on tour in 2011 at the John Deer Classic, when he came up one shot short against Steve Stricker.

    Stricker pulled off one of the shots of the year when he hit a long iron out of a fairway bunker and
    made the putt to beat Stanley on the final hole. Stanley has tremendous upside and the ability to be one of the best American born players in a long time, but he must learn to break down the barrier and close out tournaments.

    24-year-old Kyle Stanley is making U.S. golf fans proud and should make a big impact on
    tour in 2012.

9: Harris English

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    Nothing will get a young college player on the radar faster than a win in a professional event while still an amateur. For 22-year-old Harris English, that is exactly what he did. The former Georgia Bulldog won the 2011 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Open by one shot.

    English is a big hitter with exceptional touch around the green. Some experts predict that English will end up being the best of the current young Americans on the PGA Tour.

    English turned professional in September 2011 after returning from playing in the Walker Cup, the biggest honor an amateur golfer can receive.

    He nearly won his second professional tournament on the Nationwide Tour, losing in a playoff to Danny Lee (who will be focused on later in this list).

    English finished the year 75th on the Nationwide Tour money list after playing the tour for just over a month. He then nabbed his PGA Tour card for 2012hy finishing in the top 25 at Q-School.

    After two collegiate victories and one professional win, English is primed and ready to jump right into his rookie year on the PGA Tour. Nothing can predict future performance better than past success; if that merits any truth with English, the sky is the limit for this former SEC standout.

    With a little luck and sustained health, He will be contending in high level tournaments very soon.

8: Bud Cauley

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    Don’t let the size fool you, what Bud Cauley lacks in physicality he makes up for in skill and heart.

    The 5'7" 21-year-old chose to forgo his senior year at the University of Alabama to try and make it on the PGA Tour—so far nothing has gotten in his way.

    After turning professional and making the cut at the U.S. Open, Cauley did not miss a cut on the PGA Tour and made $735,150 in eight starts, finishing 116th on the final PGA Tour money list.

    Due to his success, Cauley earned his tour card for 2012 without having to go through the rigors of qualifying school. During his amateur career, Cauley was a three-time first team all-American in only three years of college golf.

    He was the SEC freshman of the year and was a finalist for the Hogan Award in 2009, given to the best collegiate golfer in the country. Cauley won the Players Amateur and the Terra Cotta amateur in 2008.

    In his limited time playing on the PGA Tour, Bud has already done what most tour professionals only dream of: securing his tour card without having to go through the six round gauntlet known as Q-School.

    Cauley is the definition of a grinder and has the determination and grit to survive the stresses of a
    full PGA Tour schedule.

7: Matteo Manassero

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    The first international sighting on this list comes with comparisons to a legend of the game and is also the youngest player in this esteemed group.

    Eighteen-year-old Matteo Manassaro has been compared to Seve Ballesteros not only because of his Italian heritage, but because of the way he maneuvers his way around the golf course.

    Matteo is not the longest hitter, but is deadly accurate and can put lights out when he’s on.

    After becoming the youngest to ever win the British Amateur title at the tender age of 16, Matteo was paired with Tom Watson and Sergio Garcia in the first two rounds of the 2010 Open Championship.

    Matteo is likely the next big thing in European golf. Manassero has since turned pro and collected two European Tour victories and became the youngest winner in tour history when he won the 2010 Costello Masters.

    Manassero has all the potential in the world and will become a force on the worldwide scene and a Ryder Cup nightmare for opposing players.

6: Danny Lee

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    Sometimes the biggest superstars in sports were not childhood prodigies and didn’t have the most prestigious amateur careers, but others have a more glamorous path to the top. Twenty-one-year old Danny Lee is a perfect example of the latter of the two options. Lee became the youngest-ever U.S. Amateur champion in 2008 at the age of 18 years and one month.

    Lee surpassed Tiger Woods as the youngest champion and really was put on the map in 2008. He received even more attention when he became only the second amateur to win a European Tour event by claiming the 2009 Johnny Walker Championship title.

    The win moved Lee to 159th  in the World Golf Rankings as an amateur. Lee turned pro in 2009 and has since spent his time on the U.S. Nationwide Tour, trying to make it on the PGA tour.

    In 2012, Lee earned his PGA and European Tour cards. A two-tour schedule and skills that are rarely scene in a player of such a young age is a perfect mixture for Danny Lee to make a splash on the worldwide professional golf scene.

    If he continues to show the promise that he displayed in 2008 and 2009, the possibilities are endless for this young New Zealand native.

5: Rickie Fowler

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    Style, flash, looks and most importantly skills—Rickie Fowler has it all.

    The 23-year-old California native is one of the most popular players in American golf in only his third year on the PGA Tour.

    The former Oklahoma State Cowboy was the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world for 36 weeks in 2008 before turning professional in 2009. Fowler came storming onto the PGA tour in 2010 wearing his flashy new Puma clothes and motor-cross inspired flat bill hats.

    The younger generation of golf fans flocked to Fowler for his unique swing and bright outfits. Now famous for his head-t- toe final round orange outfits in support of his alma mater, Rickie has been given high praise for his potential, but also high expectations.

    Fowler has come close to claiming a tour victory many times with runner-up finishes, but has yet to capture a victory. He became the youngest American Ryder Cup participant of all
    time with his appearance in the 2010 matches.

    Fowler electrified the crowds during Sunday singles by making birdies on his final four holes to half the match with Italy’s Eduardo Molinari. Fowler broke through for his first professional win
    in 2011 by lapping the field for a six-shot victory over Rory Mcilroy in the Asian Tour’s Korean Open. 

    Many experts believe that the victory over Mcilroy and the rest of a stellar field will translate into great success in 2012. Fowler will continue to dazzle crowds with his clothes and his high energy golf game. The future of American golf is bright with Fowler leading the way.

4: Ryo Ishikawa

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    While many kids his age were worrying about getting their drivers licenses, Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa was busy winning his first professional golf tournament. Ishikawa won his first Japanese Tour event at the incredible age of 15 years and eight months.

    Not only was Ishikawa an amateur when he secured the victory, but it was also the first professional event he ever played in. In 2008, Ishikawa turned professional and won another Japanese Tour event, and later in the year became the youngest ever player to crack the top 100
    in the World Golf Rankings.

    The “Bashful Prince,” as he is known in Japan, dominated the Japan Tour in 2009 by winning four more times to become the highest ranked Japanese player in the world by hopping into the top 50 in the world rankings.

    Perhaps the most impressive feat of Ishikawa’s young career came in 2010 during a Japanese Tour event when he shot a 58 in the final round to win by five stokes. The round consisted of twelve birdies and six pars, and was the lowest score ever recorded on the Japan Tour.

    Ishikawa has yet to break through on American soil but has decided to play a full PGA Tour schedule in 2012 and it is a consensus among experts that Ishikawa will make huge progress playing away from home and will soon be one of the top players in the world.  

3: Keegan Bradley

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    No player made more of their opportunities in 2011 than 25-year-old Keegan Bradley. The St Johns product, who won nine times during his collegiate career, came into the 2011 season as a relatively unknown rookie on the PGA Tour.

    Preseason hype and publicity were not things that surrounded Bradley, but he didn’t mind and made sure that his game was what made people take note. Bradley recorded two top 10 finishes in the first half of his rookie campaign before notching his first victory at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

    In a year where many rookies were making splashes on the PGA Tour, Bradley was gaining exposure but was not yet a stand-alone superstar.

    That all changed at the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club. Bradley had never played in a major championship in his career and only two players had ever won majors in
    their first attempt.

    Bradley made clutch putt after clutch putt and ended up in a three-hole playoff with Jason Dufner. Bradley won the playoff to cap off a magical week and become the third player in the history of the game to win a major in their first attempt.

    Keegan was also the first player to win a major using a long putter. Bradley now enters the 2012 season with more attention, more confidence, and the title of being one of the American superstars that cannot be taken lightly.

2: Jason Day

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    Australia has produced many of Golf’s best players, and 24-year-old Jason Day may have the most potential of any of them. The fiery, brash, and insanely skilled Day has been making headlines since his days as a junior, and turned pro in 2007 after winning almost everything the
    Australian junior golf scene has to offer.

    Day failed to qualify for the PGA Tour in his first attempt, so he spent the next year on the Nationwide Tour. Day captured his first professional victory on the Nationwide Tour and became the youngest winner ever on any of the PGA’s three tours.

    Day had conditional status on the PGA tour in 2009 and earned enough money to become a rookie on tour in 2010. Jason then claimed his first PGA Tour victory at the 2010 HP Byron
    Nelson Championship, validating the expectations that had been given to him by all experts of golf.

    Day finished the 2010 season 21st on the money list after making it all the way to the season ending Tour Championship. Day entered 2011 with confidence and proved he belonged with the game’s elite when he took second in the first two major championships of the year.

    Daybirdied his final two holes to come up two shots short of Charl Shwartzel. His runner-up finish in the U.S. Open moved the Australian to No. nine in the World Golf Rankings, the highest position of his career.

    Jason Day has all the tools to be the best player in the world, and only time will tell if he reaches
    his goal.

1: Rory Mcilroy

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    Was there really any question who would be No. 1 on this list? With a swing that has been compared to Ben Hogan, and maturity well beyond his years, the 22-year-old Northern Irishmen has been labeled as the “next Tiger Woods.”

    Mcilroy won his first European Tour event in 2009 and his first PGA Tour event in 2010 at the Quail Hallow Championship. As with Tiger Woods, Mcilroy has not been judged on how he performs in regular tour events, but all the focus is on the majors.

    Rory had shown flashes of brilliance in the majors like his two top 10 finishes in 2009 and an opening round 63 at the 2010 Open Championship, eventually tying for third.

    Rory looked like he was well on his way to the top of the World Golf Rankings, and then came the 2011 Masters Tournament. Rory had played flawlessly for three days and came in to the final
    round with a four shot lead over the nearest competitor.

    On the 10th hole of the final round, everything went wrong for the young Mcilroy when he snap
    hooked his drive into the trees and proceeded to shoot the highest score by a leader in the history of the Masters.

    Mcilroy handled the situation with incredible class even though he was ridiculed by experts and critics alike. Rory came into the U.S. Open with a lot of question marks surrounding his
    mental state.

    Mcilroy answered those questions. Rory set 12 individual scoring records on his way two an eight shot victory over Jason Day in one of the most impressive performances in major championship history. Not since Tiger Wood’s 15 shot victory in the 2000 U.S. Open had the world of golf seen anything like this.

    Mcilroy now enters the 2012 season as the third ranked player in the world and the expectations have been raised even higher for the mop-topped youngster.

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