European Tour: Five Up-and-Coming Players to Watch in 2013
We may only be a matter of weeks into 2013, but it is the same old story in golf with all the talk surrounding those players at the top of the world rankings and what they can do over the next 12 months.
As usual, it has been "Rory McIlroy this..." and "Tiger Woods that..." in the annual previews, and while they deserve to be in the spotlight, there are plenty of other players looking to make an impression on the biggest stage this year.
Golf fans are always looking for the next "big thing", and with 12 of the last 16 "Majors" won by players that had previously never won one of the big four tournaments, here are five players from the European Tour capable of extending that trend in 2013.
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Jamie Donaldson is a fascinating player to follow this season after he climbed to a career high ranking of 29 recently. The Welshman has been a pro since 2000, but it is only recently that he is starting to realise his undoubted potential.
Without a doubt, 2012 was the 37-year-old's breakout year as he finally won his first European Tour event at the Irish Open. He has started 2013 even better, winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship after going toe-to-toe with the in-form Justin Rose at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Coming out on top in that event will be a major confidence boost for Donaldson going forward. Donaldson maybe 37 years of age, but he will be travelling to Augusta for the first time in April—whilst he is playing the best golf of his career, he has to be considered a "sleeper" at this stage.
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Thorbjorn Olesen is one of the hottest young talents in the game at the moment, and as he climbs the world rankings, he is attracting more and more attention. The Dane has won just one tournament on the European Tour, the Sicilian Open back in April 2012, but he has been a model of consistency for the past 18 months.
The 23-year-old is continuing to improve steadily, which has seen him move into the Top 50 in the world rankings, and he too will be making his first appearance at The Masters in April.
There have been some fantastic Scandinavian golfers emerge over the past 20 years—Olesen could be the next to make a name for himself on the European Tour, and don't rule out the world stage!
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This young Italian golfer seems to have been around for many years now, but many forget the fact that Matteo Manassero is still only 19 years of age!
Manassero is a prodigious talent for his age as he has shown on several occasions over the past couple of years. In 2012 he became the first teenager to win three titles on the European Tour—taking into account some of the greats to have played the game, that is a remarkable achievement.
He was the Rookie of the Year in 2010, and it could well be that in 2013, Manassero makes strides towards breaking his way into the Top 20 of the world rankings. He has picked up some great experience over the past couple of years and his talent alone ensures that he deserves a place on any list of players to watch this year.
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South Africa has become something of a "hot bed" of golfing talent in recent years, and in Branden Grace, it could have unearthed another gem.
Grace had an exceptional year in 2012 as he won four events on the European Tour, including the Volvo China Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Those wins saw his world ranking rocket into the Top 50, and at just 24 years of age, there is likely to be plenty more to come from him in 2013 as he begins to mix it with the big boys on a more regular basis.
As well as making the breakthrough on the European Tour, he also won the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit in 2012 before starting 2013 in fine style with an excellent fifth place finish in Abu Dhabi.
South Africa has produced Major winners in the form of Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel in recent years, and it would be no surprise to see the name of Branden Grace added to that list sooner rather than later.
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Tom Lewis burst onto the scene in 2011 when he won the Silver Medal for best amateur at the Open Championship at just 20 years of age.
Lewis turned pro shortly after, and immediately showed his potential when he won the Portugal Masters in fine style to record his first ever win on the European Tour. It’s fair to say that 2012 was a tough year for Tom Lewis, as he struggled to adapt to the pressures of the professional game, but the talent remains and it could be that 2013 is the year we see that promise flourish further.
The Englishman has the game to succeed, and he can be expected to make big strides towards the top of the game over the next 12 months.