Counting down the best young players on the European Tour...
There's no doubt that golf is entering a new era with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day taking turns at the top of the Official Golf World Ranking. But who are the best young players on the European Tour and where do they rank on a global scale?
Below is a list of the top 30 European Tour members under the age of 30.
30. Phachara Khongwatmai
World Ranking: 159
He may be the youngest player on the list but Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai has already amassed an impressive golfing résumé. In 2013, aged just 14, he became the youngest ever winner of a professional tournament, winning the Sing Hua Hin Open in his home country. Having finished in the top 20 in his first European Tour start of 2017 at the Maybank Championship, the 17 year old then went onto the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 in Australia and made it all the way to final before losing out to Brett Rumford. Following that week, he become the third youngest player to ever to break into the top 150 in the Official Golf World Ranking.
29. Joakim Lagergren
World Ranking: 136
At just five feet nine inches and less than 140 pounds, Joakim Lagergren might be one of the smaller players on Tour but he possesses a big game. With five wins to his name already, four in the Nordic Golf League and one on the Challenge Tour, the 25 year old has plenty of experience already in a six year professional career. He narrowly lost out in a play-off at the 2017 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, having finished in the top 50 in the Race to Dubai in 2016.
28. Li Haotong
World Ranking: 146
Aged just 21, Haotong Li has cemented himself as China’s top golfer. He turned professional at 16 and won the PGA Tour China Order of Merit after three wins in 2014. He lost in a playoff at the Shenzhen International in 2015 but won in China nine months later at the Volvo China Open. He finished 23rd in the Race to Dubai in 2016 and immediately signed with the same management agency as Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.
27. Alexander Knappe
World Ranking: 139
He may only be 27 years old but Germany’s Alexander Knappe has worldwide experience in abundance. Having spent one year at Texas Christian University in America, he turned professional in 2011 and spent time on the European Professional Development Tour, the Sunshine Tour and most recently on the Challenge Tour. Two wins, seven top threes and 11 top tens in 2016 saw him earn his European Tour card and rise from outside the top 1000 in the world to inside the top 115.
26. Harold Varner III
World Ranking: 133
Despite his small size of just five feet and nine inches, Harold Varner III has made a name for himself in professional golf for hitting it hard and enjoying doing it. Having become the first player from East Carolina University to be named Conference Player of the Year, in 2012. In his rookie season on the PGA Tour last year he notched seven top 25 finishes and finished the year in style winning his first European Tour event, becoming only the second American to win the Australian PGA Championship.
25. Dylan Frittelli
World Ranking: 131
South Africa’s Dylan Fritelli has made his way onto the European Tour via the American college system and more recently the Challenge Tour. Having won the South African Boys Championship in 2008, Frittelli went to the University of Texas where he played alongside Jordan Spieth and won the decisive match in the 2012 NCAA Championship. He turned pro shortly after and won on the Challenge Tour in 2013 at the Kärnten Golf Open. It was in 2016 that the 26 year old really made a name for himself, earning his Tour card thanks to nine top ten finishes in 18 starts on the Challenge Tour, including a win at the Rolex Trophy.
24. Andrew Johnston
World Ranking: 101
Most of the golfing world now know him as “Beef” but Andrew Johnston has been making a name for himself in Europe for the last three years. Having first made the European Tour in 2012, he returned to the Challenge Tour the following two years before eventually winning the Road to Oman in 2014 by winning two events. He went on to pick up his first European Tour victory at the Open de España in 2016, three months before finishing in the top ten at The Open at Troon. His immense popularity is paired with impressive power and iron play.
23. Alexander Levy
World Ranking: 100
Frenchman Alex Levy is one of the most exciting young players on Tour. He won the French Amateur Championship aged just 18 and became the youngest Frenchman to win three times on the European Tour when he won wire-to-wire at the Porsche European Open in 2016. He is one of only two players to win a European Tour event over 36, 54 and 72 holes, along with Paul Lawrie. Levy won the rain-shortened Portugal Masters in 2014 having made 18 pars and 18 birdies.
22. David Lipsky
World Ranking: 102
Having graduated from Northwestern University as an All-American in 2011, the same college as Luke Donald attended, David Lipsky turned pro and immediately won the Asian Tour Qualifying School. From there he picked up his first pro win the following year and two years later won his first European Tour event at the Omega European Masters, winning the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2014. Since August, the American has six top six finishes including a runner-up finish at the Maybank Championship. Lipsky is a notorious hard worker and possesses an all-round game that has seen him hit more than 65 percent of greens and average less than 30 putts in all three of his seasons on the European Tour.
21. Victor Dubuisson
World Ranking: 99
Victor Dubuisson is one of the most fascinating characters on the European Tour. Having won the 2009 European Amateur he went on to become the top ranked amateur player in the world later than year. Blessed with an amazing touch around the greens, he has twice won the Turkish Airlines Open and narrowly lost out to Jason Day at the 2014 WGC Match Play on the fifth extra hole. At 24 he played an integral role in the winning Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles, earning 2.5 points from his three matches. At just 26 years old he has 11 top three finishes on Tour and has already earned more than €8m.
20. Jordan Smith
World Ranking: 95
If this list was written 12 months ago, Jordan Smith’s name wouldn’t feature. The 24 made a name for himself winning the Road to Oman on the Challenge Tour in 2016 and has started his European Tour career in the same fashion. In his third start on the main Tour he joined Rory McIlroy in the final group of the BMW SA Open, where he finished one shot out of the playoff. The 2013 Walker Cup player is now in the top 100 in the world, having been ranked outside the top 600 in April last year.
19. Dean Burmester
World Ranking: 97
South African Dean Burmester fulfilled his much talked about potential early this season winning the 2017 Tshwane Open for his first European Tour victory. With six wins in the previous three years on the Sunshine Tour it appeared just a matter of time before the 27 year old broke through. The 27 year old led the European Tour in driving distance in 2016 with an average drive of over 315 yards. In all competitions since the start of 2015, Burmester has 20 top ten finishes, including ten top threes.
18. David Lingmerth
World Ranking: 88
Sweden’s David Lingmerth joined the European Tour in December 2015 and finished in the top 25 six times in his rookie season. The 29 year old plays predominantly in America, where he won The Memorial in 2015 and once shot 29 on the front nine in his first ever Open Championship round, at the Old Course.
17. Kiradech Aphibarnrat
World Ranking: 82
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat once won the Junior World Golf Championship in consecutive years and has put that talent to good use on the professional stage. He is the youngest Asian golfer to win three European Tour titles, doing so in Malaysia, China and Scotland and has been ranked as high as the top 40 in the world before.
16. Thorbjørn Olesen
World Ranking: 80
Thorbjørn Olesen is one of only five players to win in each of the last three European Tour seasons and is the youngest Danish players to win four times. He won the Turkish Airlines Open by three shots in 2016 and finished sixth in his Masters debut back in 2013.
15. Anirban Lahiri
World Ranking: 77
In ten years as a pro, Anirban Lahiri has won 18 times across the world, all before his 30th birthday. Having earned his European Tour card via the Qualifying School in 2014, Lahiri won twice in his first four starts in 2015 and went on to become the first Indian golfer to finish in the top five of a Major, doing so at Whistling Straits in the PGA Championship.
14. Brandon Stone
World Ranking: 74
Brandon Stone has been tipped by many to be the next great, young South African player and he has living up to the hype in recent months. Having won three times in his first year at the University of Texas, Stone earned his European Tour card via the Challenge Tour and has won twice since, most recently by seven shots at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December.
13. Shane Lowry
World Ranking: 57
Shane Lowry remains the last amateur to win on the European Tour, doing so in front of a home crowd at the 2009 Irish Open. He turned pro the next week and has won twice more, at the 2012 Portugal Masters and an impressive win at the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The 29 year old has notched a Major top ten in each of the last three years, including a runner-up finish at the 2016 U.S. Open.
12. Chris Wood
World Ranking: 55
Just sneaking under the age threshold, Chris Wood made headlines when he finished in the top five at the 2008 Open Championship as an amateur. He turned pro shortly after, finished third in The Open the following year and has since won three times on Tour, including the BMW PGA Championship in his home country last year. From 2014 to 2016, Wood finished in the top ten on the European Tour 18 times and earned a place on the Ryder Cup team for the first time last September.
11. Byeong Hun An
World Ranking: 48
In 2009, Byeong Hun An became the youngest player to win the US Amateur at 17 years old and he hasn’t looked back since. The Korean won Rookie of the Year honours in 2015, on the back of a six-shot win at the BMW PGA Championship, and went on to finish in the top five in three of the four Final Series events five months later. At 25 years old he already has 29 career top ten finishes.
10. Jeunghun Wang
World Ranking: 45
Small in stature but big in talent, 2016 European Tour Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Jeunghun Wang is the youngest player in the top 100 in the world. In January he won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, becoming the fastest player to win three European Tour events since Tiger Woods, doing so in just 29 events.
9. Tommy Fleetwood
World Ranking: 35
After a distinguished amateur career in England, Tommy Fleetwood turned pro in 2010, won on the Challenge Tour in 2011 and lifted his first European Tour title at the Johnnie Walker Championship in 2013. Having finished 2016 on a run that included 28 straight rounds of par or better, Fleetwood won the biggest event of his career earlier this year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. A final round 66 at the WGC-Mexico Championship saw the Englishman finish second, just one shot behind Dustin Johnson, and move into the top 50 in the world for the first time.
8. Matt Fitzpatrick
World Ranking: 30
From amateur golf to professional, Matt Fitzpatrick has continued to win on the biggest stage. Having won the 2013 US Amateur, the 22 year old has gone on to pick up three wins in his first two years on Tour, including the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai in November, whilst a closing 66 at Augusta last year saw him notch his first Major top ten.
7. Thomas Pieters
World Ranking: 29
Thomas Pieters continues to improve as a player each and every year on Tour. Having won the NCAA Division I Championship in America in 2012, he turned pro in 2013, won twice in 2015, once in 2016 and went on to become the first European Ryder Cup rookie to win four points on his debut. In March he became the first Belgian golfer to ever rank inside the top 30 in the world.
6. Jon Rahm
World Ranking: 26
The most recent European Tour member on the list, Jon Rahm has made his Ryder Cup aspirations clear by joining the European Tour ahead of the WGC-Mexico Championship, before going on to finish in the top five. Rahm was the number one ranked amateur in the world for 60 weeks and turned pro late in 2016. He finished third in his first PGA Tour start and has since picked up nine more top 25s including a win at Torrey Pines in January. Having ranked outside the top 500 in the world at the start of last year, the Spaniard now ranks inside the top 25 and appears to have the tools to continue his incredible rise.
5. Branden Grace
World Ranking: 19
Branden Grace made a name for himself when he won four times on the European Tour in 2012. Whilst he struggled to regain that form in the months that followed, he has picked up three further wins in the last two years and has finished in the top five in four of the last eight Majors.
4. Tyrrell Hatton
World Ranking: 16
Tyrrell Hatton may have made the biggest jump in this list in recent months. In the last 12 months Hatton has picked up his first victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, tying the Old Course course record, and moved from outside the top 100 in the world to inside the top 20.
3. Danny Willett
World Ranking: 14
Many people may associate Danny Willett with winning the Masters but the 29 year old has far more than a Green Jacket to show for his nine years on Tour. The Yorkshireman has five European Tour wins, 51 top tens and in 2016 became just the second player to finish runner-up in the Race to Dubai in consecutive years.
2. Patrick Reed
World Ranking: 12
Patrick Reed may have come out on top in his Ryder Cup showdown with Rory McIlroy but he is second in this list. The American has five wins, including a WGC, and has remained inside the top 20 in the world since reaching the mark for the first time in January 2015. In his first full season on the European Tour, Reed finished in the top 30 in all 12 of his starts, with top 10s in his three Final Series appearances.
1. Rory McIlroy
World Ranking: 3
Unsurprisingly Rory McIlroy is the top player under 30. He has more European Tour wins (13) than any player in their 20s and more Majors (4) than anyone else in the game born after 1975. In the last three years, the Northern Irishman has 41 top ten finishes and 11 wins worldwide. McIlroy has been ranked inside the top five in the world every week since winning the Claret Jug in July 2014.