7 Young Players Who Will Challenge Tiger and Rory on the PGA Tour
Every year, a new crop of young guns join the PGA Tour. They keep the tour fresh and force the veterans to either improve or lose their spots in the big show.
The young players entering the PGA Tour now are bigger, stronger and more experienced. Junior golf is well established throughout the world, and young golfers compete against the best talent while still in their teens.
College golf programs have improved and are turning out players who are ready to compete on a professional level.
Minor tours, such as the NGA Tour, the mini tours in Florida and other smaller professional circuits, can build a player’s confidence and provide a tremendous learning experience.
The Web.com Tour is deeper than it has ever been. In years past, only 10-15 players on the Web.com Tour were capable of winning every week. Now, there are 100 players who could win every week, and Web.com Tour players are ready to contend immediately on the PGA Tour when they earn their tour cards.
The crop of young players who have joined the PGA and Web.com Tours this year are very talented, and it is quite probable that several tour titles and major championships will be won in the future by this group.
Russell Henley joined the professional ranks in 2011 after four years at the University of Georgia. He had a solid amateur career and was a member of the 2011 Walker Cup and Palmer Cup teams.
Henley also won the 2011 Stadion Classic on the Web.com Tour while still an amateur.
After turning professional, he won twice on the Web.com Tour in 2012. He finished third on the money list and earned his 2013 PGA Tour card.
Henley made quite a splash in January when he became the first player in 12 years to win his inaugural event on the PGA Tour.
In addition to his win at the 2013 Sony Open in Hawaii, he has three top-25 finishes and has made six cuts in seven starts.
He is very consistent from tee to green, and his putting game is one of the best in the business.
He has the look of someone who can challenge for several years to come.
Scott Langley earned his PGA Tour playing privileges at the 2012 PGA Tour Q-School.
He was the 2010 NCAA Individual Champion and a two-time All-American at Illinois. He played on the 2010 Eisenhower Trophy and Palmer Cup teams.
In his first PGA Tour event at the Sony Open in January, he was tied with eventual winner Russell Henley after 54 holes. His final-round even-par 70 moved him down to a third-place finish but earned him $324,000, which puts him on a good track to keep his card for next year.
Langley has not been consistent on tour. He has missed four cuts in his seven starts.
His performance in Hawaii proved that he is not afraid of the spotlight, and he will be a factor on tour.
Patrick Cantlay was the top-ranked amateur golfer in the world for a record 55 weeks.
During the summer of 2011, following his freshman year at UCLA, he finished inside the top 25 in four professional tournaments, including the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional, where he won low amateur honors.
The week following the 2011 U.S. Open, he also shot a 60 at the Traveler’s Championship. It was the lowest round ever recorded by an amateur on the PGA Tour.
By the way, Cantlay also had a pretty good year playing college golf in 2011. He won four college tournaments and was given the Haskins Award as the most outstanding college golfer. He also picked up the Golf Coach Association's Jack Nicklaus Award as the National Player of the Year and the Phil Mickelson Award for the nation's top freshman golfer.
Thus far in 2013, Cantlay is trying to balance playing time on both the Web.com and the PGA Tour. He won the Colombia Championship and is ranked No. 1 on the Web.com money list.
In six events on the PGA Tour, he has four missed cuts but was T-9 at Pebble Beach.
Cantlay is an experienced 21-year-old who will contend in PGA Tour events before the season is over.
Peter Uihlein had a stellar amateur career at Oklahoma State and won all the awards possible. He also won the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay and was a member of two Walker Cup teams.
Uihlein turned professional in December 2011 but missed earning full tour exemption on the PGA and European Tours for 2012.
He was offered a spot on the 2012 European Tour’s Challenge Tour and made 13 cuts with six top-10 finishes.
He has played in two Challenge Tour events this year and four tournaments on the European Tour. He is currently ranked No. 50 on the Race to Dubai and No. 21 on the Challenge Tour.
Uihlein's biggest success to date was a T-6 finish in Puerto Rico on the PGA Tour.
He earned $121,000 and is ranked No. 140 on the PGA Tour. He will receive sponsors exemptions on the PGA Tour but will need another $800,000 to earn a tour card for 2014.
Luke Guthrie is another talented young golfer to come out of the University of Illinois. He won seven tournaments and two Big Ten Conference Championships while in college.
He turned professional at the end of the 2011 college season and had four top-10 finishes in his first five Web.com Tour starts.
He then won two consecutive Web.com Tour events the Albertsons Boise Open and the WNB Golf Classic last September to secure his promotion to the 2013 PGA Tour.
Guthrie has made six of nine cuts, was third at the Honda Classic and has earned $665,000 thus far in 2013. Ranked No. 23 in the FedEx Cup standings, he is well on his way to reaching the goal of every tour rookie: keeping his card for next year.
He is still learning the nuances of PGA Tour life and needs to become more consistent in nearly every category, but Guthrie is definitely a player to watch in the future.
Ben Kohles turned professional in July 2012 after a very successful collegiate career at the University of Virginia.
He promptly won his first two professional events on the Web.com Tour: the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational and the Cox Classic.
These two wins put him into the top 25 on the Web.com money list, and he was rewarded with his 2013 PGA Tour card.
He has made five of seven cuts and finished T-7 at the Tampa Bay Championship on the PGA Tour. His $148,000 in earnings has moved him into No. 32 on the FedEx Cup rankings and in good position to maintain his playing privileges for next year.
With the success he demonstrated last year on the Web.com Tour, he will be a future star on the PGA Tour.
Perhaps Jordan Spieth has the biggest upside of all of the players previously mentioned.
He is the only player not named Tiger Woods to have won multiple USGA Junior Championships.
In his freshman year at the University of Texas, he won three collegiate tournaments and helped Texas win the NCAA Division I Championship.
He decided to turn professional in December 2012 and began this year without status on any professional golf tour.
He has finished fourth and seventh in two Web.com Tour starts this year. After missing the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, he finished No. 22 at Pebble Beach. A runner-up finish in Puerto Rico and a seventh-place finish in the Tampa Bay Championship have helped him scratch out a place on the PGA Tour.
$521,000 in total earnings for the year places Spieth above No. 150 on the 2012 money list and earns him special temporary membership status on the PGA Tour, which allows him unlimited sponsors exemptions for the balance of the year.
This is pretty heady stuff for a mere 19-year-old.
He is not happy just to compete on the PGA Tour. He expects to win.
Look for Jordan Spieth to on the PGA Tour this year.