Top-level professional golf is a more competitive environment than ever before. In each tournament on any of the major tours, almost every player on the start sheet has a chance of winning. Breaking into the upper echelons of the World Rankings is a tough challenge and only the very best young players have a chance of joining the likes of McIlroy, Scott, Stenson and Rose at the top of the pile.
Here below we take a look at five youngsters who have the potential to shine in 2015. Watch out for these names:
Brooks Koepka – The 24-year-old has been on the radar of golf pundits for a couple of seasons now. He qualified to play in the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club while still an amateur and then turned pro after graduating from College. He decided to begin his career on the European Challenge Tour circuit and enjoyed great success in 2013, winning three times and earning his European Tour card for 2014.
This has been a breakthrough season for the American. He finished in a tie for fourth at the US Open and had further top-10 finishes in Dubai, Switzerland and Scotland. Then, in November, he narrowly beat Ian Poulter to win the Turkish Airlines Open – one of the European Tour’s Final Series events. That victory pushed him to 35th on the Official World Golf Ranking, meaning he’ll start in the significant world events in 2015.
He’s one of the longest hitters in world golf with a fluid, natural and powerful swing. He looks like one of the few players who could give Rory McIlroy a run for his money.
Thorbjorn Olesen – The Dane is a young player who has threatened to step up to the very highest level in world golf a couple of times over the last few years. He won the European Tour’s Sicilian Open as a 22-year-old in 2012, then finished runner-up in the Dunhill Links Championship the same year.
He started 2013 strongly with top-three finishes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and was then tied sixth at the U.S. Masters. But his progress stalled somewhat as he attempted to spread his time between Europe and the States. For a year or so, his prodigious talent was not being realised to its full potential.
But, at the end of this year, he re-appeared on the world-stage with a superb win in the Perth International.
Olesen has a strong all-round game and the mental strength to mix it at the highest level. He could be a Major contender in 2015.
Renato Paratore – Just 17-years-old, the Italian came through European Tour Qualifying School in third place. The former Junior Ryder Cup star and Youth Olympics Gold medallist completed the six rounds in 16-under-par. If he can cope with the pressure cooker environment present at Q School, he’ll be able to handle anything the European Tour throws at him. He made the cut in the 2013 Italian Open aged just 16 so clearly has what it takes to mix it at the top level.
Tony Finau – Not many will have heard of the 6 foot 4 inch 25-year-old, but he might just be a surprise package in 2015. Hailing from Salt Lake City in Utah, he’s enjoyed a great start to the 2014/15 PGA Tour season.
He finished 8th on the 2014 Web.com Tour, to earn his place on the PGA Tour for this season. And he’s made the most of the opportunity. He was tied 12th in his first start at the Frys.com Open and has posted two tied 7th place finishes on the circuit in the last two months.
As you might expect from a man of his size, he’s a long-hitter (averaging 308 yards from the tee through the early part of the 2014/15 PGA Tour season) and he’s something of a birdie-machine. He has made an average of five per round so far on Tour this season.
Danny Lee – The New Zealander burst onto the scene back in 2008 when he became the youngest ever winner of the U.S. Amateur Championship, breaking Tiger Woods’ record. He then won the European Tour’s Johnnie Walker Classic early in 2009 while still an amateur.
Now, aged 24, Lee’s transition into the pro ranks has not been a smooth one. He’s tried his luck on both sides of the Atlantic with only moderate success.
But he kept his PGA Tour card for 2014/15 after a solid, if largely unspectacular 2013/14, and has started the new season well. He was tied third in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and, during the final round there, displayed the type of golf he is capable of. From the 3rd to the 9th, he made seven straight birdies to go out in 29.
He’s clearly got the ability to produce golf of the very highest order and, as his self-belief improves, so too will his results.