Ranking the Best Young Golfers on the PGA Tour in 2014

Richard Leivenberg@@richiemarketingContributor IIIMarch 11, 2014

Ranking the Best Young Golfers on the PGA Tour in 2014

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    Patrick Reed leads a corps of young pros looking to pass up their elders.
    Patrick Reed leads a corps of young pros looking to pass up their elders.Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Out with the old and in with the new.

    That is the brash message 23-year-old Patrick Reed and a bunch of other young pros are sending to their elders.

    As Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Lee Westwood, Ernie Els and Jim Furyk begin to fade, there are a slew of young golfers rapidly making their mark on the PGA Tour.

    The old guys may be getting pushed out faster than they like. Tiger is nursing a bad back as he looks to win his first major in six years. Phil, while coming off a great year, hasn’t been able to put together two good rounds in a row. Westwood is still seeking his first major while Els (plus-12), Stricker (plus-14) and Furyk (plus-18) looked out of their league at the recent WGC-Cadillac Championship.

    None of them are in the Top 75 in the race for the FedEx Cup.

    Twenty players now average over 300 yards off the tee, and none of these old folks are anywhere near that distance, which makes it very hard for them to get up and down, both literally and figuratively.

    Golf is looking more and more like a young man’s game and with that in mind, here is a ranking of the top young golfers, all of whom are still in their 20s, who will make their move in 2014.

9. Victor Dubuisson

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    Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

    Dubuisson (pronounced dew-BWEE-sohn) shot his way into our consciousness when he battled with Jason Day at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play in Arizona.

    If you remember, he twice emerged from unplayable lies until he was beaten by Day on the fifth extra hole.

    In the last year, the 23-year-old has leaped 100 spots in the world rankings to No. 23 and won his first pro tournament in Turkey, besting a field that included Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy.

8. Matteo Manassero

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    Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    The 20-year-old Italian finished only once in the top 25 in nine events on the tour last year but already has three top-25 finishes in his first three events of 2014.

    He also has four wins on the European tour and two on the Asian tour, so it is only a matter of time until he conquers America.

    As for majors, he was the youngest player at the 2010 Masters at 16 years, 11 months and 22 days, where he finished in a tie for 36th place.

7. Hideki Matsuyama

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    Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

    The 22-year-old from Japan already has five professional wins to his name.

    More importantly, he has scored extremely well in the majors, including a tie for 10th at the 2013 U.S. Open, a tie for sixth at the 2013 Open Championship and a tie for 19th at the 2013 PGA Championship.

    Currently ranked 22nd in the world and 27th in FedEx Cup points, he has shown the kind of consistency and poise that can translate into big wins.

6. Harris English

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    Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

    With two wins to his name, Harris English is one of those precocious young players who is not intimidated by his elders. He showed that when he beat Phil Mickelson at the FedEx St. Jude Classic for his first career win early last year by shooting four rounds under 70.

    He is already a perennial player at the top of most leaderboards, as illustrated by finishing in the top 25 in six of the seven tournaments in which he has played.

    The University of Georgia graduate is ranked sixth in greens in regulation, fourth in birdie average, fourth in scoring average and 11th in total driving, making him No. 2 in all-around ranking on the tour.

5. Russell Henley

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    Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Henley upped his value when he outlasted Rory McIlroy at the Honda Classic. At the time, Rory had a two-shot lead going into the final day only to find himself in a playoff that included the red hot Henley.

    Winning is nothing new for the 24-year-old who won in his first start on the PGA Tour at the Sony Open in Hawaii last year. He has also won three times on the Web.com tour.

    The 24-year-old Henley won in his first start as a pro when he birdied the last five holes to take the Sony Open title in January.

    After his win at the Honda, he joined McIlroy, English and Patrick Reed as the only players under 25 with multiple wins.

4. Jordan Spieth

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    Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

    Last year’s Rookie of the Year has been overshadowed a bit by some of his youthful peers, but that doesn’t mean he should be overlooked.

    Spieth continues to show the competitive zeal that made him the fourth youngest winner on the PGA circuit in 82 years when he won the John Deere Classic.

    In six events so far this season, he has finished three times in the top 10 and two other times in the top 25 while missing only one cut.

    He is now ranked 13th in the world.

3. Jason Day

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    Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

    Next to McIlroy, Day may have the finest pedigree among the younger set.

    Day, in fact, may be the odds-on favorite to win the Masters this year.

    In addition to his win at the WGC-Accenture Match Play event earlier this year, he has a stellar record in majors. He tied for second at the 2011 Masters; finished second and tied for second at the 2011 and 2013 U.S. Open, respectively; and tied for eighth at last year’s PGA Championship.

    He obviously thrives on the bright lights and the pressure.

    Currently ranked fourth in the world, he has finished in the top 10 in six of his past seven events.

2. Rory McIlroy

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    With his win at the 2013 Australian Open over Adam Scott and his tie for second place at the Honda Classic, McIlroy has officially returned to prominence.

    OK, he muffed what looked like a sure-fire win at the Honda Classic where he was the 18-, 36- and 54-hole leader. But, he took the loss like a seasoned professional and did not stomp off or cry about his mistakes. That was a big step for McIlroy.

    Meanwhile, he is punishing his drives down the middle of the course and seems to have acclimated to his year-old set of clubs. He is averaging 303 yards off the tee while hitting 68 percent of his greens in regulation.

    With the Masters just a pitch shot away, he should be one of the prime contenders to win it.

1. Patrick Reed

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    If Reed wasn’t on your radar before last week’s stellar win at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, he should assuredly be so now.

    He now has three wins in his very young career and beat out one of the most competitive fields of the year at Doral, including the surging Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson.

    Reed moved in the top 20 in the world with his win and into the third spot in the FedEx Cup standings with his second win of the season. He also won the Humana Challenge in January.

    He also became the unofficial spokesman of his youthful group of players when he openly compared himself to Tiger.

    Did you notice the color of his shirt on Sunday? His goal is to make everyone see red at the end of any tournament he is in.

    The 23-year-old Reed, by the way, joins Tiger, McIlroy, Mickelson, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia as players who have won at least three times by his age.

    Now, can he back up his fiery talk by winning a major?