If you predicted two years ago that Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland would currently have six combined PGA Tour wins, including a major championship, give yourself a pat on the back – even though you're probably not alone.
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Now, who are the next young players who will break out and become household names in the world of professional golf?
With no new rookies on the PGA Tour this year, it's not likely we'll have a Tour winner come out of nowhere in 2021. Will Zalatoris will be a popular breakout candidate, but one could argue that he already has as he enters the new year ranked inside of the top 60 in the world and was favored to win a Tour event last fall. We know about Davis Riley and Sam Horsfield, too, as each won twice last year.
So, here are 10 potential candidates who the average golf fan is likely unfamiliar with and who could take big steps forward in 2021:
World rank to start year: 123
Since turning pro last fall, the former world No. 1 amateur from Japan has four top-7s in five starts, including a victory at the Japan Tour’s Dunlop Phoenix, where he won in a playoff while topping a field that includes the likes of Chan Kim, Ryo Ishikawa and Shugo Imahira. As a result, the 22-year-old is fast closing in on the top 100 in the world. Don’t be surprised if his name ends up on a PGA Championship leaderboard this year.
World rank to start year: 170
If we’re talking biggest OWGR jumps, no player who began 2020 inside the top 1,000 made a larger leap than Wu. The Stanford product won on the Korn Ferry Tour last summer and had two other runner-up finishes. With KFT points leader Will Zalatoris trying to play solely on the PGA Tour this year, the 23-year-old Wu will have the money title in his sights as he battles Taylor Pendrith, Davis Riley and others for that honor.
World rank to start year: 416
Remember this guy? He was the fourth member of that All-American group that turned pro in the Summer of 2019. After battling a wrist injury to begin his pro career, Suh looks to finally be finding his footing. He tied for eighth at the Shriners Open last fall while posting four more top-10s in the LOCALiQ Series. He’s got status on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica this year, but he’s got the talent to make some noise via exemptions on bigger tours. He also has 126 non-member FedExCup points, so special temporary status could be in his cards this year, too.
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Gallery: These six players made the most of a trying 2020 (SMG)
World rank to start year: 342
It’s hard to believe this 19-year-old South African was playing in a Junior Presidents Cup, but Schaper is poised to break out in a big way after a solid first year as a pro. He notched three top-10s on the Sunshine Tour and added two more in his co-sanctioned European Tour starts in his native country, including a T-2 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in November.
World rank to start year: 90
With two worldwide wins in each of the past two years, Higgo enters 2021 ranked inside the top 100 in the world. The 21-year-old South African, who played college golf at UNLV, won the dual-ranking Open de Portugal last September, so with his European Tour card this season, Higgo will have a bigger stage to showcase his talent.
Min Woo Lee
World rank to start year: 172
After breaking through for his first professional win at the Vic Open last February, the 22-year-old past U.S. Junior Amateur champion managed just one more top-10 the rest of the year. However, Minjee Lee’s little brother is supremely talented (have you seen him hit a stinger?) and should contend more often this season.
World rank to start year: 562
Entering his fifth year as a pro, the 22-year-old Australian still hasn’t won professionally. However, he does have seven career runner-up finishes, including the Korn Ferry Tour’s Pinnacle Bank Championship last year. In other words, he’s knocked on the door a bunch. Will it open this year? If it does, it could help Ruffels, currently 61st in KFT points, earn his PGA Tour card come August.
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World rank to start year: 161
Yes, he hits the ball a long way, but the 20-year-old South African has game throughout the bag. His runner-up finish last fall at the Joburg Open put him on many peoples’ radars, but he also had seven other top-15 finishes in 2020. With Schaper and Higgo also rising, South Africa has quite the influx of potential stars.
World rank to start year: 139
At just 18 years old, Kim, who goes by Tom, already has four professional wins to his credit. However, he’s just starting to play in the U.S. He made his major debut at the 2020 PGA, where he missed the cut, and logged three other Tour starts last fall. To this point, he’s best known for being named after Thomas the Tank Engine, but should he receive a few Tour exemptions this year, Sir Topham Hatt will have plenty of reason to celebrate.
World rank to start year: 352
There are a few names to watch on the Challenge Tour this year and Rosenmuller will be one of them. He won three times and added three more top-6s finishes on the Pro Golf Tour last year to finish just ahead of other potential breakout players Julien Brun and Jeremy Freiburghaus on the feeder tour’s Order of Merit. The 23-year-old Rosenmuller played college golf at North Texas and won the Trinity Forest Invitational back in 2018.