The Next Big Stars in Golf – Golfers to Watch in 2021
Imagine turning pro in the summer of 2019 and turning into a top-15 player in the world by the end of 2020. Not only did Collin Morikawa achieve that incredible feat, but so did Matthew Wolff, as did Viktor Hovland.
This triumvirate has accounted for five wins, a major, and a boatload of money just 18 months into their PGA Tour careers.
In other words, the days of the top-ranked amateurs needing time to get their feet wet are becoming obsolete. As far as the next crop of golfers ready to break out on the PGA Tour, five players come to mind.
- College: Wake Forest
- Current OWGR: 57
- Best PGA Tour Finish: 5th (2020 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open)
Some say Will Zalatoris already broke out in 2020, and there’s no denying that he played spectacular golf throughout the calendar year. In 22 starts across the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Tour, Zalatoris made 21 cuts and logged 13 top-10s.
Even more impressive is the fact that Will ripped off 13 consecutive top-20s once play resumed in June, which includes a T6 at the US Open.
Unanimous. ? pic.twitter.com/z4aP3C6Tla— Korn Ferry Tour (@KornFerryTour) December 10, 2020
An elite ball-striker all through his decorated amateur career, the Wake Forest product just needed to find a comfortable way to putt. Adapting an arm-locking putting technique with a delicate claw grip seems to be working wonders.
- College: Clemson
- Current OWGR: 88
- Best PGA Tour Finish: 2nd (2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic)
As hard as it is to win on the PGA Tour, It’ll be borderline shocking if 2021 comes and goes and Doc Redman remains winless. That might sound like a bold statement, but ever since finishing runner-up at the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic, the 2017 US Amateur champ has continued to knock on the door.
T3 at the Wyndham Championship propelled Redman into another T3 a few weeks later at the Safeway Open. T4 in Bermuda vaulted him up the FedEx Cup standings where he’ll begin 2021 just outside of the top 30.
Ended the 2019-20 campaign 11th in SG: Approach – ahead of the likes of Dustin and Rory.
- College: LSU
- Current OWGR: 154
- Best PGA Tour Finish: 3rd (2018 Sanderson Farms Championship)
After pegging Sam Burns to be one of the breakout golfers at this time last year, the time is officially now for the 2017 Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year. Burns flashed signs of being on the verge of breaking through with a couple of 7th-place finishes in the fall, but for the most part, it was a disappointing year overall.
The good news is talent this strong seems to have a knack for resurfacing.
His iron play and chipping have been spotty at times, but Sam excels at the two most important phases of today’s game. Driving it long and holing putts.
Burns clocked in 16th in SG: Off-the-Tee last season and currently sits 5th in that same stat. He ended last year 8th in driving distance. Shifting gears to the flat stick, the former LSU Tiger golfer finished 2019-20 ranked inside the top-30 in SG: Putting.
- College: Vanderbilt
- Current OWGR: 1,272
- Best PGA Tour Finish: 55th (2020 Masters)
A standout at Vanderbilt who made the cut at the 2020 Masters on the heels of finishing runner-up in the 2019 U.S. Amateur. Set to turn pro and skip his final semester of eligibility in Nashville, there’s nothing else John Augenstein needs to prove at the amateur level.
According to Scott Limbaugh, the head men’s golf coach at Vandy, don’t expect Augenstein to need much time making his presence felt.
Due to the firepower and consistency he’s established in this sport, John has a good shot at receiving the maximum number of PGA Tour sponsor invites (7) in 2021. Given his aptitude, that could be enough to rack up temporary status.
- College: Alabama
- Current OWGR: 219
- Best PGA Tour Finish: 29th (2019 AT&T Byron Nelson)
Had it not been for the lights-out play of Will Zalatoris, we’d probably be talking a lot more about his roommate, Davis Riley. After spending a chunk of his time in Tuscaloosa as the nation’s top-ranked college golfer, Riley won twice on Korn Ferry Tour in 2020.
Considering Davis ended 2019 ranked 931st in the world, saying he took massive strides in 2020 would be quite the understatement. Despite not beginning 2021 with full-time status on the big stage, look for Davis to play his way onto the PGA Tour and continue shooting up the world ranks.
Scottie Scheffler has already arrived, and one of his former teammates in Austin (Doug Ghim) may not be too far behind. I would have included Ghim as one of the PGA Tour breakout players in 2021, but I had to draw the line somewhere.
Five felt like a nice round number.
When January rolls around and you’re ready to resume betting on golf, be sure to check out our golf picks.