Which of Golf's Majorless Young Stars Will Be First to Break Through?

Ben AlberstadtFeatured ColumnistJuly 24, 2014

Which of Golf's Majorless Young Stars Will Be First to Break Through?

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    If we aren't yet in the final act of the drama that has been Tiger Woods' professional golf career, we are close. 

    In Woods' wake comes a bevy of young talents. Rory McIlroy, of course, is chief among them. 

    Twenty-five-year-old Rory McIlroy just won his third major. He crossed himself off the list of golf's majorless young stars with his win at the U.S. Open in 2011. 

    One of McIlroy's challengers at Royal Liverpool, Rickie Fowler, is among the majorless young talents on the PGA Tour.

    Who joins Fowler? And who could be the next young player to raise major hardware?

    Read on to find out.  

     

Jordan Spieth

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    Age: 20

    Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR): 11

    Why he could be next

    Runner-up at the Masters earlier this year, Jordan Spieth issued a resounding statement that he's prepared to win a major championship. Through three days, Spieth shared the lead with eventual winner Bubba Watson. And the young Texan didn't fold on Sunday; he merely got beat by the superior play of Watson. 

    At just 20 years of age, Spieth has shown he has the stuff to make it into the last group on Sunday. And once a player can comfortably handle playing in the final pairing during the final round of a major, it's only a matter of time before he achieves major glory. 

     

Patrick Reed

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    Age: 23

    OWGR: 30

    Why he could be next

    Patrick Reed doesn't lack confidence, which is a quality he'll need in spades if he's going to win a major. And it is because of this confidence, rather than incredibly strong play in golf's most significant tournaments, that Patrick Reed could be the next young golfer to win a major. 

    As Reed said in his post-round press conference after winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship, "I believe in myself, especially with how hard I've worked. I'm one of the top five players in the world. I feel like I've proven myself." 

Russell Henley

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    Age: 25

    OWGR: 58

    Why he could be next

    Twice a winner on the PGA Tour, Russell Henley was victorious at the Honda Classic earlier this year when he beat Rory McIlroy (among others) in a playoff.

    Two wins in two years on tour and a proven ability to take down a three-time major winner? That's the stuff major champions are made of. 

    Henley also finished tied for 16th at the U.S. Open in 2010 as an amateur. Thus, he's known since the very beginning of his professional career that he has what it takes to play well in majors. It's only a matter of time before the quality finishes come for the 25-year-old Georgian. 

Ryo Ishikawa

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    Age: 22

    OWGR: 78

    Why he could be next

    Although many golf fans in the United States know Ryo Ishikawa more for his wardrobe than for his golf game, the young Japanese national has plenty of the latter quantity. He won his first professional tournament on the Japan Golf Tour when he was just 15 and won 10 more times in Japan before setting his sights on the PGA Tour. 

    While his best finish in a major is a tie for 29th at last year's PGA Championship, Ishikawa is improving as a PGA Tour golfer. Last season, in 23 starts on tour, Ishikawa finished inside the top 25 just once. This year, in 20 starts, he's already recorded eight top-25 finishes. 

    Ishikawa is an improving golfer with an impressive pedigree, and his play in majors is sure to improve soon. 

Hideki Matsuyama

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    Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

    Age: 22

    OWGR: 17

    Why he could be next

    At 22, Hideki Matsuyama is already a winner on the PGA Tour. Matsuyama beat Kevin Na in a playoff to win the Memorial Tournament earlier this year. The event has one of the deeper fields of non-WGC/non-major tournaments. 

    Beyond establishing himself as a winner, Matsuyama has recorded some impressive finishes in majors, such as his tie for sixth at The Open Championship last year. 

    Winning tour events and playing well in majors by the age of 22 suggests Matsuyama could be the next young gun to wear a green jacket or raise the Claret Jug. 


     

Matteo Manassero

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    Age: 21

    OWGR: 65

    Why he could be next

    After a strong showing at The Open Championship, 21-year-old Matteo Manassero has reinserted himself into the conversation concerning which young golfer will be the next to win a major.

    Manassero was the youngest winner ever on the European Tour when he won the Castello Masters Costa Azahar in 2010. He was also the youngest player to make the cut at the Masters when he did so in 2010. 

    Manassero tied for 19th at The Open Championship, bouncing back from a second-round 75 with rounds of 68, 72. He has made six of eight cuts on the PGA Tour this season and has five top-25 finishes.

    The young Italian fell more than 20 places in the Official World Golf Ranking as a result of his lackluster 2013 campaign. However, his strong play at The Open Championship suggests he could be the next young golfer to win big. 

Rickie Fowler

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    Age: 25

    OWGR: 18

    Why he could be next

    Rickie Fowler has stated his case more clearly than any other golfer on this list. His two ties for second in majors this yearmost recently at The Open Championshipsay all that needs to be said about his readiness to win one of golf's most prestigious events. 

    Fowler is poised to enter elite territory following his work with Butch Harmon earlier this year, and his last four finishes in majors speak volumes about how close to winning a major the young Californian is:

    • 2013 PGA Championship: T19
    • 2014 Masters: T5
    • 2014 U.S. Open: T2
    • 2014 Open Championship T2