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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Five young golfers to keep an eye on during the 2016-17 PGA Tour season

Tiger Woods pulling out of the Safeway Open cracked open the door for a 25-year-old named Max Homa to enter the tournament this week. You might not know who Max Homa is, and you certainly don't know as much about him as you do about Tiger Woods, but he is one of a host of under-25 golfers trying to get that elusive win and lock up a PGA Tour card for the next two years.
The professional golf ranks are rife with golfers like Homa. Some you have heard of. Some you need to get to know. Some bounce from PGA Tour to Tour to PGA Tour Latinoamerica (Jordan Spieth was in this position just a few years ago). Some never
make it. Some go on to become stars.
Golf is wily in ways that make it nearly impossible to predict who will hit it big, but here are five guys playing their first full seasons this year that I'm keeping my eye on going into the first event of 2016-17.
Bryson DeChambeau (age: 23): The one everyone knows about. DeChambeau is going to try and build a brand and a career at the same time. He's going the Rickie Fowler route. That has gone well for Fowler and should go well for DeChambeau given his outrageous talent. He won in the first playoff event to get his first professional victory under his belt. I'm picking him to make the 2018 Ryder Cup team.
Jon Rahm (21): The Spaniard is the European DeChambeau ... but probably better. Finished top five at the Phoenix Open as an amateur. Finished T3 at the Quicken Loans National last year. Finished T2 at the Canadian Open. Has 2018 Ryder Cup star written all over him. He hits it forever (averaged 307 yards off the tee in limited play in 2016) and has that "screw you" attitude all the great ones have. I would be stunned if he didn't win three or more times on the PGA Tour in his career.
Wesley Bryan (26): He got an automatic PGA Tour status after winning three times on the Tour last season. Bryan doesn't possess the ceiling of DeChambeau or Rahm, but he clearly has the drive. His story of going from trick-shot artist to three-time pro winner is remarkable. His meteoric rise also explains away the age thing a little bit. He's a late bloomer, but that doesn't take the shine off of what he has accomplished.
Cheng Tsung Pan (24): Gained the most strokes on the Tour although not the most strokes per round. Won twice in Canada in 2015 and has made two of three U.S. Open cuts and won eight times at the University of Washington in his college career. He was the No. 1 amateur golfer in the world for a while in 2013. Not necessarily a future superstar, but he certainly could be a mainstay on the PGA Tour for decades.
Grayson Murray (23): He is my sleeper this week at the Safeway Open. Murray won the final event on the Tour last year and finished in the top 10 in four of his last seven. He was one of only two golfers (Bryan) to gain over two strokes per round on the rest of the field last season on the Tour. Finished No. 18 on the Tour money list last year and could have pretty easily won a handful of tournaments.
All five of these golfers will be in the field with Homa (and without Tiger) at the Safeway Open this week trying to get off to a fast start on the 2016-17 season.
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