The 2013 British Open lent itself to quite a finish by Phil Mickelson, whose round of five-under 66 on the last day was keyed by four birdies on his last six holes. A three-under overall total netted Mickelson the Claret Jug in a comfortable three-shot victory over Henrik Stenson.
Lost in the struggles of some of the game's best players in 54-hole leader Lee Westwood, world No. 1 Tiger Woods and Masters champion Adam Scott were some other emerging names whose finishes went relatively unnoticed.
Several extremely talented 20-somethings wound up inside the top 15, yet none of them are truly household names despite exceptional efforts in the tough conditions at Muirfield Golf Links.
Below is a breakdown of the overlooked youth, with analysis on how they fared in Gullane, Scotland, and their prospects for the remainder of this year and beyond.
Note: Statistics are courtesy of PGATour.com and EuropeanTour.com. British Open information was obtained from the official website. Tournament history can be located at the Official World Golf Ranking.
Hideki Matsuyama (+2)
The 21-year-old has been lighting up the Japan Tour, which doesn't gain as much attention as the major circuits in closest proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.
However, the prodigy has actually shown up at the past two majors and fared rather well, posting a top 10 at the U.S. Open before finishing tied for sixth at Muirfield.
Matsuyama played alongside Mickelson and Rory McIlroy the first two days and was barely shown in television coverage. As misfortune would have it, though, that turned out to be the least of Matsuyama's worries.
During Saturday's third round, he was assessed a one-stroke penalty for slow play, but Stephanie Wei got some intel as to what the reason was for Matsuyama holding the group up:
Japanese press says Matsuyama took extra time because he had hit a spectator and was making sure the guy was OK and signing a glove for him.— Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) July 20, 2013
That's extraordinary, isn't it? The shot cost Matsuyama roughly $143,000 in pay, not to mention a qualifying spot in The Masters, per Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman:
How costly was Hideki Matsuyama's 1 stroke slow play penalty at Open? He was 1 shot shy of top 4 who get automatic invite to Masters— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) July 21, 2013
It ultimately shouldn't matter, because Matsuyama is playing so well that he should qualify for Augusta National anyway.
Given how well Matsuyama struck the ball at the Open Championship (second behind Stenson in greens in regulation), don't be surprised if his name pops up on another major leaderboard very soon.
Harris English (+6)
The imposing 6'3" English has a powerful game that is supplemented by a naturally fluid putting stroke, so it's no surprise he broke through with his first PGA Tour victory at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June.
English has made 17 of 21 cuts this season and sits in 15th in the FedEx Cup point standings, which is a sign of his consistency.
However, if he can figure out how to cut big numbers out of his scorecard on a more consistent basis, he could very well be the next big star in American golf along with Jordan Spieth.
In the Open Championship, the blowup holes popped up early, as he opened with a double-bogey on Thursday.
He then closed with a triple-bogey at the difficult par-four 18th but still managed to shoot a three-over 74 that day. Part of that can be attributed to lack of experience on links courses, and bad positioning in a pot bunker is what ultimately led to the high score:
A tough start to Round 3 was compounded by a double-bogey at the par-three fifth hole, but English scrapped out a 75 on that occasion and finished Sunday with a 70, his best of the week.
Of the 14 players who finished ahead of the 23-year-old English, only Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker had multiple holes of two or more over par. English tied those two for second place in birdies with 16, so if he cuts down the truly bad holes, he seems to be ready to contend in golf's biggest events.
Danny Willett (+6)
Willett had a similar problem to English in that he made three double-bogeys throughout the week, but it was truly remarkable how well Willett hung tough.
Despite spraying it off the tee quite often and hitting less than half the fairways, Willett scored fairly well in frequently hacking out of Muirfield's sometimes knee-high, penal rough.
Who is likeliest to win a major first?
Willett tied for sixth in the field with 29 one-putts in 72 holes, which is a stellar percentage that allowed him to salvage a respectable finish.
Had he been finding the fairway with more regularity, it could have been a true breakout performance by Willett at a major. His greens in regulation percentage in 2013 is tied for 19th on the European Tour.
Nevertheless, there is still plenty of time for Willett, who is only 25, to get his game in order for many majors to come. A back injury has largely slowed his season, and he has to be pleased playing the final 54 holes in two over par.
He will be idle this coming week, but if Willett holds inside the top 100 in the world rankings (currently No. 97), he will be in the PGA Championship field at Oak Hill.