The New Young Guns of Golf

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I lamented the lack of solid young players of golf. All the tournaments were being won by guys in their late 30s and 40s: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh.

Now one has to wonder if we are ever going to see again a dominant player in his late 30s or early 40s, or whether it's the kids who will continue to win everything.

You already know about Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, and Rickie Fowler, each of whom has yet to turn 30.

Here, however are three more guys, all under 25, to watch out for. You may not have yet heard of them if you're not following golf very closely. They'll be household names soon enough.

Xander Schauffele

Counting back a calendar year from now, not a ton of players have won multiple PGA tour events: Speith, Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Patton Kizzire...

... and Schauffele, the youngest of the bunch, who won the Greenbrier Classic and the Tour Championship in a 2.5-month span in 2017. Not bad for his first year on tour. Indeed, he is the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.

The son of immigrants, Schauffele comes from impressive athletic stock, with two great-grandfathers that were professional soccer players at a high level — one for the Austrian national team, the other for Stuttgart. The Stuttgart guy was a decorated track-and-fielder, as well in several events.

Jon Rahm

This one, we should've seen coming.

Rahm, 23, has won twice on the PGA Tour and thrice on the European Tour. Even when he doesn't win, he almost always contends, which is why he is currently third in the Official World Golf Rankings.

Why should we have seen this coming? Because he has, arguably, the most impressive amateur career of all time. He's the only man to win the Ben Hogan Award (college golf's answer to the Heisman Trophy) twice (at Arizona State, if you were wondering). He was the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world for a record 60 weeks.

Rahm was born and raised in Spain. Is he the next Ballesteros, the next Garcia? At this point, it'd be more surprising if he wasn't.

Shubhankar Sharma

Over on the European Tour, the current season money leader is American Patrick Reed. This is by virtue of Reed's win at the Masters.

That arguably doesn't count, though, because Reed is not playing a European Tour schedule. He's a PGA guy. So you might say the real leader is Sharma.

In December, he won the Joburg Open, co-sponsored by the South African Sunshine Tour, the Asian Tour, and the European Tour. Sharma got into the field by virtue of his membership on the Asian Tour. But up until then, he hadn't even won on that circuit. Thanks to his victory, he found himself a full member of the European Tour. At the time, he was ranked 462nd in the world.

Neat out-of-nowhere underdog victory. But Sharma wasn't done, and his win was no fluke. He won for the second time on the European Tour less than two months later at the Maybank Championship. Three weeks after that, at the World Golf Championships in Mexico, he took the sole lead into the third and final rounds before faltering on Sunday and slipping to a tie for 9th. Phil Mickelson won.

He's struggled a bit since then, but he's only 21 and already looking like a very solid bet to be the first Indian golfer to win a major.

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