Who’s the next big thing? A few weeks ago, I took a look at the best players under 25 that Europe had to offer. Now, let’s take a look at the best young American golfers.
Putting together these rankings was a tough task as many of the players on the list have yet to crack the PGA Tour and a few have yet to even earn their Web.com Tour cards. The way I went about ranking the players was by looking at each player's on-course results at both the amateur and professional level as well as how I view their long-term potential.
So without further ado, here are the top 25 American golfers under the age of 25.
Note: Only professional golfers are eligible for the rankings.
1. Jordan Spieth
Masters Champion, U.S. Open Champion, former world number 1. I don’t think we need to talk much more about this one.
2. Justin Thomas
Thomas is fresh off his 2nd PGA Tour win of his young career, moving the 23-year-old up to 22nd in the world rankings. The sky's the limit for the Alabama grad whose immense power and strong all-around game is a fit at just about any golf course. I expect Thomas to take the leap into the top 15 players in the world in 2017.
3. Daniel Berger
The 2014-2015 Rookie of the Year, @db_straitvibin, took the next step in his career progression by winning the 2016 FedEx Classic in 2016. Berger trots out one of golf’s most unorthodox swings but you can’t argue with results as the former Florida State standout ranked 19th in Strokes Gained: Overall in 2015-2016 season. I expect Berger to build off of another stellar season, and become a serious contender in major championships and multi-event winner in the 2016-2017 season.
4. Bryson DeChambeau
The polarizing DeChambeau is one of the game’s brightest stars. Despite his goofy approach to the game, the dude can flat out play. I think that DeChambeau’s game is a perfect fit for the tougher setups on Tour. I predict DeChambeau to win multiple major championships before it's all said and done.
5. Smylie Kaufman
Smylie burst onto the PGA Tour scene winning in just his second career PGA Tour start, the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The LSU grad also proved he had major game at this year’s Masters where he found himself in Sunday’s final pairing, earning headlines and fanfare for his infamous interview with Jim Nantz. Kaufman followed up his Masters performance with a stellar showing at SB2K16, making him one of the most popular and marketable young players in the game. Read more about Smylie Kaufman.
6. Aaron Wise
The 2015 NCAA Individual Champion has yet to earn his PGA Tour card, but yes, he is this good. I almost put Wise higher up on this list as his combination of age, potential and results thus far are jaw-dropping. Wise was stellar in 2016. Besides his NCAA win, the former Oregon Duck also won the Canadian Tour Q-School and the Syncrude Oil Country Championship on the tour north of the border. Wise finished 4th on the Order of Merit, locking up his 2017 Web.com Tour Card despite playing in only 7 of the 13 events. Wise’s worst finish in those 7 events was a tie for 15th...yes, I said worst. If you need more convincing just watch his swing...
7: Patrick Rodgers
Since turning pro in 2013 as the world’s top amateur and Stanford’s co-leader in career wins, Rodgers has been a bit of enigma. His tee-to-green game will leave you drooling but the results have always left fans wanting more. The good news is that Rodgers appears to be improving on his balky putting that has kept him from enjoying more success on the course. I expect Rodgers to be one of the breakout players during the PGA Tour’s 2016-2017 season as he begins to live up to his limitless potential.
8. Grayson Murray
The former Arizona State standout has a strong combination of on-course success and potential which leads to his lofty ranking. Murray had a stellar year on the Web.com Tour, and went on to win the Web.com Tour Finals and lock up full-status on the PGA Tour. One of the stats I look at most on the Web.com Tour is birdies, and Murray led the Tour in birdies per round. Murray’s prodigious length should translate to a lot of money earned on the PGA Tour. Read more about Grayson Murray.
9. Michael Kim
While at the University of Cal, Kim won the 2013 Haskins Award, given to the nation’s top golfer before turning pro after a successful summer that saw him earn low-amateur honors at the U.S. Open at Merion after a t17th finish. It didn’t take long for Kim to earn his PGA Tour Card as he finished 13th on the Web.com Tour Money List in 2015 in his 2nd full season. Last year saw Kim on the PGA Tour where he made 22 of 29 cuts to finish 118th in the FedEx Cup standings and retain his card for 2016-2017, which is already off to a stellar start with a t3rd at the season opening Safeway Open. I expect the 23-year-old Kim to continue his progression and become a big name on the PGA Tour in the next few seasons.
10. Beau Hossler
Many will remember the baby-faced Hossler from his run at the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club where he was leading at one point in the tournament on Friday at just 17 years of age.
Unfortunately, the University of Texas star’s professional career got off to a rocky start after a shoulder injury incurred at the 2016 NCAA Championships required surgery. The good news is Hossler is nearing the end of his recovery and will look to earn his spot on the PGA Tour via Sponsor’s exemptions a la Jon Rahm. Hossler’s amateur accolades include a Western Amateur title, a Haskins Award, two All-American honors, six collegiate wins and qualifying for three U.S. Opens, quite the resume.
11. Ollie Schniederjans
Schniederjans turned professional in 2015 after 3 All-American seasons at Georgia Tech and holding the number 1 ranking in the World Amateur Rankings. Schniederjans held the number 1 ranking for 41 weeks and his amateur career was highlighted by a stretch of golf in 2014 where he won 5 of 6 collegiate events. After failing to earn his card in 2015 via Sponsors Exemptions, Schniederjans was stellar on the Web.com Tour in 2016, winning the Air Capital Classic and finishing 6th on the season long money list. Lately, Schniederjans’ game has been in a bit of a funk but given his track record of success at every level, I expect him to become one of the best young players on the PGA Tour during his rookie season.
12. Trey Mullinax
One of four former Alabama stars to make the list, Mullinax is just scratching the surface on his potential. The 6’5” bomber earned his 2016-2017 PGA Tour Card by finishing 8th on the 2016 Web.com Tour money list and is on everyone’s short list for Rookie of the Year candidates. Mullinax has the strong tee-to-green game and deft touch you look for when identifying future stars and he has shown it at every level of golf he has played. Read more about Trey Mullinax.
13. Robby Shelton
Shelton turned professional in 2016 after his Junior season and third straight All-American nod while at the University of Alabama. He joined Bud Cauley as the only other player to earn All-American honors in every season they tee’d it up at the golf powerhouse. Greatness has been expected of Shelton for sometime after as the prep joined the likes of Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth as players with multiple U.S. Junior titles. Shelton has also proven that his game travels as in his PGA Tour debut at the 2015 Barbasol Championship he finished in a tie for 3rd. Currently, Shelton is awaiting the 2nd stage of Web.com Tour Q-School in hopes of earning his card for the 2017 season.
14. Richy Werenski
One for all the Big Break fans out there (are there any?), Werenski won the 2015 edition of Golf Channel’s reality show. Outside of reality golf, Werenski has quite the resume playing his college ball at Georgia Tech and winning the prestigious Porter Cup amateur event in 2012. Since turning pro, Werenski has quickly ascended to the PGA Tour through one season on the Web.com Tour where he finished 2nd on the regular season money list.
15. Jordan Niebrugge
The former Oklahoma State standout hit the first speed bump of his professional career a few weeks ago when he failed to advance past the first stage of Web.com Tour Q-School, but I think Niebrugge will be just fine. Niebrugge turned pro after a stellar amateur career which included a t6th and lowest score ever recorded by an amateur at the 2015 Open Championship, wins at the 2013 U.S. Public Links Championship and Western Amateur and selections to the 2013 & 2015 Walker Cup teams. With Niebrugge’s amateur record, I would expect him to get a handful of sponsors invites and have a chance to earn status on the Web or PGA Tour the unconventional way.
16. JT Poston
The only player to make the list who didn’t go to a big-time college program, Poston opted for Western Carolina despite offers from some of the best golf programs in the country. In college, Poston excelled, winning back to back Southern Conference Championships and being named an All-American his Junior and Senior season. Poston earned his 2016 Web.com Tour Card via Q-School and was one of the most consistent players on the Web.com Tour, racking up 8 top 25 finishes highlighted by 3 top 3 finishes. Poston ranked 4th in birdies and 10th in total ball-striking on the Web Tour, stats that tend to predict success on the PGA Tour.
17. Bobby Wyatt
Another ‘Bama product, Bobby Wyatt’s name might ring a bell with PGA Tour fans from his performance at last season’s Zurich Classic. Wyatt held the lead late in the final round, eventually finishing one-shot out of a three-man playoff despite entering the week as a sponsor’s invite and with no playing status on any tour. A few months later and the former Walker Cupper has his PGA Tour card which he earned through the Web.com Tour Finals. I like Wyatt’s prospects at the PGA Tour Level because of his ability to go really low. In fact, Wyatt shot a 57 Alabama Boys State Junior Championship.
18. Taylor Moore
Moore enjoyed a nice college career at the University of Arkansas, but the highlight of his amateur career was co-medaling at the 2014 U.S. Amateur with Lee McCoy. Moore played his first professional season in 2016 on the Canadian Tour where he was stellar winning the Staal Foundation Open in record-tying fashion and finishing 3rd on the season long money list. His play in Canada has earned Moore full-status on the Web.com Tour in 2017 where he will look to continue his ascension to the PGA Tour.
19. Lee McCoy
The former University of Georgia star’s notoriety rose when he contended in one of the PGA Tour’s strong events, the Valspar Championship. The Tampa native felt at home at the tough Innisbrook setup and parlayed it into a t4th finish. PGA Tour fans learned something that amateur golf fans knew for a long time, McCoy can really play. A 3-time All-American, McCoy notched 7 wins and now holds the career and single-season scoring records and possibly the best collegiate career of any player at the golf powerhouse Georgia. McCoy’s game won’t wow you, but the 22 year-old is extremely solid in all facets and is currently in the process of attempting to earn his Web.com Tour card through Q-School.
20. Patrick Cantlay
Cantlay appeared to be headed for PGA Tour stardom with many expecting him to join the legends of the game as one of the all-time great players. Cantlay’s amateur accolades are jaw-dropping. He held the number 1 ranking in the world amateur rankings for a record 55 weeks before turning pro. He shot the lowest round ever by an amateur on the PGA Tour, a 12-under par 60 at the 2011 Travelers Championship. At UCLA, Cantlay won 4 tournaments in 2011 as well as the Haskins Award and the Jack Nicklaus Award for player of the Year as a Freshman!!! Other accolades include runner-up finishes in both the Western and U.S. Amateur and the low amateur honor at the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 Masters.
Unfortunately for Cantlay and golf fans, the former UCLA star’s professional career has been derailed by a severe back injury which makes his return to golf cloudy.
21. Charlie Danielson
Although Danielson hails from from the small Wisconsin town of Osceola, Danielson has big-time game. While in college at the University of Illinois, Danielson became the first and only 4-time All-American in school history. Earlier in 2016, Danielson proved his game was PGA Tour ready by winning the Northern Trust’s Collegiate Showcase, earning him a spot in the Northern Trust Open where he fired an opening round 67 and made the cut ultimately finishing in a tie for 72nd. Unfortunately for Danielson, he is in the same boat as fellow Wisconsin native Jordan Niebrugge as Danielson failed to make it past the first stage of Web.com Tour Q-School. With his strong amateur record, Danielson should get plenty of opportunities to earn status in 2017 through sponsor’s exemptions.
22. Jack Maguire
Maguire turned pro after 2 1/2 strong seasons at Florida State after he made it through the Web.com Tour Q-School in the winter of 2015. Maguire left FSU holding the record for the lowest career scoring average in the school’s storied history. The long-hitting Maguire finished his first season on the Web.com Tour ranked 61st on the money list and failed to earn enough money in the Web.com Tour Finals to earn a card on the PGA Tour. Despite the setback, Maguire showed a lot of promise with 4 top 10 finishes and ranking 10th in driving distance on the Tour.
23. Brian Campbell
Another University of Illinois product, Campbell has quickly ascended to the PGA Tour after graduating in the spring of 2015. As an amateur, Campbell qualified for 2 U.S. Opens (‘14 & ‘15), earning low-amateur honors at the ‘15 championship and won two NCAA regionals. Last season on the Web.com Tour, Campbell rode a hot start to the season to a card and the 15th place on the money list. In his PGA Tour debut, Campbell found himself in contention during Saturday’s round before fading on Sunday. With his ability to roll in putts from all over, I expect Campbell to have a long and successful PGA Tour career.
24. Michael Johnson
The former Auburn standout finished the 2015-2016 season ranked number 1 in the Golfweek individual rankings after winning 3 times. Johnson made headlines with his spectacular professional debut at this year’s Barbasol Championship where he finished 1 shot out of a playoff in solo third place. Johnson earned 3 more starts on the PGA Tour and was unable to make any other cuts and currently finds himself awaiting the 2nd stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.
25. Denny McCarthy
McCarthy starred at the University of Virginia where he was a two-time All-American and played in 4 consecutive NCAA Championships. McCarthy’s amateur career is stellar having played on the 2015 Walker Cup team and 5 straight U.S. Amateurs (that is incredibly difficult to do), as well as winning the Maryland Open (a professional event) twice. Last year, McCarthy played on the Web.com Tour after making it through Q-School at the end of 2015 finishing 45th on the money list. McCarthy will spend 2017 on the Web.com looking to earn his spot on the PGA Tour with his fellow class of 2011 high school mates.