The wealth of young talent in professional golf today makes me think the future of the game is in good hands.
Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson.
These players aren't even in the prime of their careers yet, and they have already won major championships—McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open, Schwartzel at the 2011 Masters, Oosthuizen at the 2010 British Open, Bradley at last year's PGA Championship and Simpson most recently at the 2012 U.S. Open.
All five of them are also in the top 25 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
But who are the players who will follow in their footsteps, the ones waiting in the wings to win their first major?
Let's begin by creating an age limit for what we'll consider "young guns." I'm going to set the mark at 30 years of age or younger—because 30 is the new 20, right? Or is 40 the new 30? Whatever.
You won't find some popular, up-and-coming names on my list—Ryo Ishikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Bud Cauley, Harris English, Sang-Moon Bae, Kevin Na, John Huh—because they're not ready to win majors yet. I'm not even sure they're ready to win "regular" golf tournaments yet, despite being incredibly talented. But their time will come.
Rather, here's a list of five young players who could pull off a major championship victory at any moment.
Twenty-three-year-old Rickie Fowler is not only the youngest player on my list, he's also the one most ready to pull off a major championship victory.
Fowler, the PGA Tour's 2010 Rookie of the Year, finally got the monkey that had been stubbornly sitting on top of his shoulders for the past three years. His playoff victory over Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points at the Wells Fargo Championship last month earned him his first-ever PGA Tour win.
Now, there's really no telling how far this talented and very popular young player can go from here. But I'm guessing there are a lot more wins where the first one came from.
Fowler had collected 19 top-10 PGA Tour finishes prior to his debut win at the Wells Fargo, including five in second place and a win on the OneAsia Tour. But did he have the game to match the heavy hype, to finish ahead of the best players in the world?
The answer is now obviously yes.
But major championships? Well, that's a different story, but his T-5 finish at the British Open last year showed that he can get his name on the weekend leaderboard at the biggest events in golf.
Rickie Fowler is ready to win a major.
It's well known that Dustin Johnson has the talent to take over the PGA Tour. He just hasn't done it yet.
What he does have is a pretty decent track record so far. Johnson has six PGA Tour victories, including a win at the FedEx St. Jude Classic just a few weeks ago and four top-10s in as many years at the major championships.
And if it weren't for an unfortunate ruling on the final hole at the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, he might already have that first major under his belt.
Everyone talks about what a great athlete DJ is. I'll go along with that, but I don't care that he can dunk a basketball, which seems to be where the "athletic" discussion concerning Johnson always goes. Anyone with average athletic ability who's tall enough can do that.
What impresses me is the fact he can hit a golf ball while balancing himself on a stability ball. Now that takes real athletic ability.
He also has next level flexibility. Normal people can't contort their bodies the way he does, thus generating enormous club head speed with his rotation and gargantuan drives.
Dustin Johnson is ready to win a major.
Hunter Mahan has the highest world ranking on my list and deservedly so with two victories and five other top-20 finishes in 2012 so far.
Tee to green, he's as solid as they come. He's No. 2 on the PGA Tour in Ball Striking, and he hits his greens in regulation 70 percent of the time. Plus, it appears that Ping Putter App he endorses is working because his Total Putting numbers are improving.
As far as major championships go, Mahan has four top-10s during his nine-year career, with his best finish being a T-6 at both the 2007 British Open and the 2009 U.S. Open.
Hunter Mahan is ready to win a major.
I'm looking at Jason Day's track record in the major championships, and he has proven he can play well.
He finished in second place at two majors just last year—at the Masters Tournament and at the U.S. Open at Congressional. Plus, he had another Top 10 at the 2010 PGA Championship.
What's most impressive is that these results were accomplished in just three years of work for the 24-year-old Aussie.
This year's Masters and U.S. Open outings were a far different story, however. Disappointingly, he had to withdraw from the Masters with a foot injury, and he finished well back of the leaders at the Olympic Club with a T-60 finish.
He does have two recent top-10 finishes at the Wells Fargo and the Byron Nelson, so I'm not worried about him fading into oblivion any time soon. He kills the ball off the tee, and he makes up for his misses—which I'm sorry to say have been frequent this year—with fantastic scrambling.
There's a fine line between playing well and playing poorly on the PGA Tour. And Day is walking that line right now. He's likely a tweak or two away from returning to greatness.
Jason Day is ready to win a major.
Bill Haas really hasn't done much in four-plus years of trying to win a major championship, with his best finish coming at last year's PGA Championship where he was T-12.
But he does have four PGA Tour wins during his career, including the season-ending Tour Championship last year where he walked away with the FedExCup and $10 million prize.
And he kept that momentum going early this year with a playoff win at the Northern Trust Open and a T-4 at the Farmers Insurance Open—all while remaining in the top 25 of the World Ranking.
Haas will tell you he isn't having a very good 2012 and the numbers prove it. He has missed the cut in four tournaments so far, including the U.S. Open.
But there is no question he has the game to turn things around in a hurry. And I believe he will.
Bill Haas is ready to win a major.