Men's Golf: 10 Names You Need to Know in 2013

Jake Mann@@mjakemannContributor IIIDecember 9, 2012

Men's Golf: 10 Names You Need to Know in 2013

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    In 2012, the men's golfing world saw a number of first-time winners, clutch performances by Tour rookies, and previous unknowns rise into the upper echelon of the game's elite.

    Next year, though, may prove to be an even more exciting season for golf enthusiasts, as there are a number of up-and-coming guys who may become household names.

    Some of these golfers are European Tour players who have proven their mettle overseas, looking to have extended success on the PGA Tour, while others are (Nationwide) high-fliers with mammoth potential.

    Without further adieu, let's take a look at ten names links-lovers should know for the 2013 season.


    [1] All statistical data obtained from

Luke Guthrie

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    There are few talents that can truly take the PGA Tour by storm in 2013. Luke Guthrie is on the short list that has the chance to be one of these "game-changers," so to speak.

    Over the past year, the Fighting Illini graduate has played with remarkable poise in his first professional season, finishing with three PGA Tour Top 20s over the summer and back-to-back Tour victories in September.

    Focusing on his three PGA Tour top-20 finishes in his first three PGA Tour starts, we can see something truly special.

    Guthrie posted a T19 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic before finishing tied for fifth in July's John Deere Classic, where he finished the tournament at 16 under par, four shots off victor Zach Johnson. After his T18 finish in the True South Classic one week later, Guthrie amassed close to $250,000 by the time August rolled around.

    On the statistical front, there aren't any glaring weaknesses to Guthrie's game, and he dominated his peers on the greens, finishing first on the Tour in putts per round (28.0) and first in putting average (1.67). Even more impressive, Guthrie led the Tour in scoring average and all-around ranking.

    Want even more evidence of Guthrie's potential to become a household name next year?

    Consider these statistics: In the 2012 Tour season, Guthrie finished second on the money list ($410K) and tied for first in victories (2), while playing in only 10 tournaments. Out of the money list's top-five finishers, the next least-active golfer played in 24 tournaments. That's Tiger-like efficiency.

Ben Kohles

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    Another Tour phenom, Ben Kohles is a University of Virginia graduate who didn't start playing golf until he was 15.

    Unlike most who hit the links every Sunday, Kohles has already accomplished more than most golfers would dream of in his first pro season, making over $300,000 in prize money while capturing two Tour titles in just ten starts.

    While Kohles isn't a particularly long hitter—his average drive went just 283 yards this year—he makes up for this in accuracy, hitting an even 75 percent of fairways.

    Even more impressive, though, was Kohles's ability to finish with a birdie or lower on the par fives, which came in at 62.5 percent, good for first on Tour.

    On the greens, Kohles looks to be equally as gifted, finishing first on the Tour in puts between 15 and 25 feet and first in puts under five feet, failing to miss a "gimme" the entire season.

Russell Henley

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    Russell Henley finished third on the Tour's money list and notched two victories in 2012. Unlike Guthrie or Kohles, the Georgia Bulldog's biggest weapon is his driver, as he finished sixth on Tour in total driving last year.

    Two years ago, Henley played in the US Open, finishing tied for the lowest score among amateurs and tied for 16th overall. The golfer also played on America's 2011 Walker and Palmer Cup teams.

    Regarding his two Tour victories this year, both came late in the season, in his last four tournaments. Known for being rather streaky, Henley's strong performances at this fall's Chiquita Classic and Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open should give him some momentum going into the 2013 PGA Tour season.

Casey Wittenberg

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    While it may seem like we're sticking with the "young guns" theme by mentioning Casey Wittenberg, who finished first on the Tour money list, it's important to realize that the Tennessee native is actually 28 years of age. He has garnered quite a bit of experience since turning pro in 2004.

    This year, Wittenberg finished tied for 10th at the US Open and won two events. 

    The golfer has undoubtedly gone through a bit more retooling than most of his younger peers, but it appears that he has finally started to hit greens at an elite level, notching a GIR percentage of 72.2 percent this season, good for seventh on the Tour.

    Wittenberg has also played the par threes better than any of his peers, scoring a birdie or lower in close to 20 percent of his attempts, while finishing second on Tour in scoring average behind Luke Guthrie.

Joost Luiten

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    We're going to switch up our theme a little bit here, taking a look at Joost Luiten, a Dutchman who has four professional wins since 2007. Luiten, who plays primarily on the European Tour, got some buzz at this year's PGA Championship after briefly playing amongst the tournament's leaders before finishing tied for 21st. 

    Luiten also made the cut at this year's Open Championship and currently sits at 105th in the Official World Golf Rankings.

    Many will cite Luiten's issues on the greens as a key reason why the golfer will never become a noteworthy PGA player. However, if he can become merely Tour-average with the putter—which he did demonstrate at times this year—his length gives him the chance to prove the naysayers wrong.

    Joost finished in the PGA Tour's top 20 this year in terms of driving distance and finished fifth in eagles.

Branden Grace

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    Branden Grace is the world's 36th-best golfer at the moment and had an exceptionally strong year on the European Tour. The South African won a whopping four times across the pond, with his most recent victory coming at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

    Though he had to go back to Q-School before the season, Grace surpassed all expectations quite remarkably.

    Grace qualified for all four of 2013's majors after finishing sixth on the European Tour's money list, ahead of such names like Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell.

    Statistically speaking, Grace is at his best off the tee, but also finished above average on the greens this season. If he is to have a strong showing at next year's majors, Grace would do well to emulate his first round 60 at Dunhill, which was among the most impressive single-round performances of the season on any professional tour.

Guan Tianlang

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    In case you don't know who Guan Tianlang is, we'll summarize his importance for you: Guan is the youngest Masters qualifier in history, at a ripe 14 years of age.

    The otherworldly Chinese standout got into the Augusta National field by winning this year's Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. Interestingly, he achieved some of his success via the belly putter.

    Guan won the Asia-Pacific Amateur with the club, but has discussed a ban with the media, saying  “I don’t think it will be a big problem for me because I do pretty well with a short putter too,” adding that "it only happens in four years, so there is plenty of time still.”

    We're looking forward to seeing Guan tee it up with the world's greatest golfers at next year's Masters, and it should be mentioned that the golfer said on Twitter that his goal was "to win."

    That's confidence.

Nicolas Colsaerts

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    Nicolas Colsaerts is the longest bomber in the game of golf at the moment and currently sits at 35th on the Official World Golf Rankings.

    In the back half of 2012, Colsaerts played in a handful of PGA Tour events after receiving a special exemption due to solid play on the European Tour. He earned his 2013 PGA card after making enough prize money ($518K) in nine events.

    While it's tempting to call Colsaerts all brawn, we must mention that the Belgian also finished 13th on Tour in scoring average (69.7) and is above average with the putter, while being a top-20 player out of the fairway bunkers.

    Colsaerts had a strong showing at this year's US Open, finishing tied for 27th, but it's worth noting that he was much closer to the lead before a final round 76 derailed his momentum.

    The PGA Tour is as competitive now as it's ever been, but it is possible that Colsaerts wins a tournament or two in 2013, led by his prowess off the tee.

Charlie Beljan

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    Charlie Beljan experienced a mini-breakout after winning this year's Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, in spite of a bevy of health problems, but 2013 could be an even bigger year for the big-hitting University of New Mexico graduate.

    With his first PGA Tour victory, Beljan is now exempt on the world's foremost golfing circuit for two years, relieving some of the week-in, week-out pressures that most golfers without such an exemption undoubtedly experience.

    On the course, Beljan's best aspect is his power game. He finished second this year on the PGA Tour in terms of average driving distance (311.6 yards) and is especially solid on approach shots in excess of 200 yards, finishing fifth in that category.

    If Beljan is to take his game to the next level in 2013, the one thing he'll need to improve is his short putting, as he missed a greater percentages of putts within five feet than 175 other PGA pros.

Martin Laird

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    Last but certainly not least, Martin Laird, one of the only Scotsmen on the PGA Tour, finished just outside of the top 30 in FedEx Cup points this year, and he has two career victories.

    Laird's most recent win came at the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational, and he came close to victory at this year's Hyundai Tournament of Champions and Players Championship, finishing second in both events. 

    Laird made the cut in three of four majors in 2012—the most in one year in his career—and his superiority off the tee gives him the ability to take his game to new heights in 2013. 

    Laird has consistently finished in the top 30 in driving distance on Tour over the past half-decade, but a renewed focus on mid to short-range putts that has helped him lately.

    After finishing outside of the top 80 in terms of putts between 10 and 15 feet in 2010 and 2011, Laird finished 19th in this category in 2012.