Golf has never been in better hands as some of the biggest names in the sport are still on the younger side. Securely in the prime of their careers, these players have been able to etch their names into golf's history books and will continue to add to their stories in the coming years.
In 2022, all four major championship winners checked in as golfers under age 30, and the same would be true for 2021 if not for Phil Mickelson's memorable PGA Championship victory at Kiawah Island. Dating back to 2017, 16 of the last 23 major championship winners were yet to reach 30 with outliers like Tiger Woods' 2019 Masters triumph and Dustin Johnson's green jacket win a year later.
Some of those also included Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka, who have since surpassed age 30. Patrick Cantlay is another player who recently celebrated his 30th birthday, and as such, will not be on the list below.
While the world of golf is divided, for this particular list, the focus remains on the PGA Tour. Cameron Smith should be among this group of players and Joaquin Niemann perhaps on the outskirts, but without playing against the best on a consistent basis, the water in which they tread has only become muddier.
Here's a look at 10 best golfers under the age of 30 on the PGA Tour and what to expect from them in 2023.
Top 10 under 30
1. Jon Rahm (28): Three wins was considered a down year by most prognosticators, just not by Rahm himself. Winning the Mexico Open, Open de España and the DP World Tour Championship, the man who began 2022 as the world No. 1 ended his year winning three times in his last 14 worldwide starts. Making all four cuts in the major championships, the Spaniard's best finish was T12 at the U.S. Open where he shot 5 over his last 36 holes. Contention and victory in major championships is the barometer in which success is defined for him moving forward -- whether he likes it or not. If able to recreate his 2020-21 where in six major championships he captured five top-10 finishes, including his lone major title at the 2021 U.S. Open, there is a good chance Rahm returns to the top of the golf world in 2023.
2. Scottie Scheffler (26): His coming out party was the spring of 2022, but the rest of Scheffler's year was still impressive. Winning four times in a six tournament stretch, the Texan captured a World Golf Championship, rose to world No. 1 and donned the green jacket all in less than two months. Scheffler went onto squander late leads at the Charles Schwab Challenge and the Tour Championship where he ultimately finished runner up. A third second-place finished occurred at the U.S. Open where had a near birdie miss on the 72nd hole dropped, a playoff with Matt Fitzpatrick would have been forced. The Presidents Cup was a letdown, but even the best players have lulls from time-to-time. Scheffler will be a fixture on this list for the foreseeable future and given the well-rounded nature of his game, additional major championship trophies are likely to be his.
3. Xander Schauffele (29): This past year was a transformative one for Schauffele, who much like Tony Finau was labeled as a player who shrivels down the stretch of big tournaments. Winning the Zurich Classic alongside Cantlay added to the bizarre nature in which he raised trophies (limited field, no cuts, The Olympics), but Schauffele added to his own total during the summer. Outlasting Sahith Theegala at the Travelers Championship, he returned to the winner's circle again in his following start at the Scottish Open. A strong showing in the FedEx Cup Playoffs put a bow on a nice season, but similar to Rahm, the major championship acumen we are used to seeing was nowhere to be found. Since 2017, Schauffele has 15 top-20 finishes in 22 major championship appearances. With six of those coming in the form of top-five finishes -- and two of those runners-up -- Schauffele may have shed one label in 2022 but will likely add another in "best player without a major" in 2023 unless he does something, well, major.
4. Justin Thomas (29): Now 15 times a winner on the PGA Tour, Thomas is firmly among the elite in the game. Placing him fourth on the list may even be a bit harsh, but while the quality of his victories persist, the quantity has lagged behind. It took a herculean effort -- and some help from Mito Pereira -- at the PGA Championship to nab his second Wanamaker Trophy for his lone title of 2022. Outmanned by Sam Burns at the Valspar Championship and Rory McIlroy at the Canadian Open, Thomas put himself in contention enough to garner a multiple-win season, but was unable to do so. This marked the third season in the last four years where he came away with only one trophy. Those may consist of the 2022 PGA Championship and 2021 Players Championship; however, Thomas is too good a player to enter the winner's circle one time a year. Expect this to change in 2023.
5. Collin Morikawa (25): Tell most players they would finish inside the top five in two of the four major championships, and they would take it and run. Morikawa? Not so much. Nearly tracking down Niemann at the Genesis Invitational, the two-time major champion looked prime to enter the winner's circle in the early spring. Not to be, Morikawa finished solo fifth at the Masters before a relatively uneventful start to his summer. Fighting his swing, he arrived at The Country Club for the U.S. Open frustrated with the flight of his iron shots, only to be the 36-hole leader days later. A 7-over 77 in the third round derailed his chance to add the third leg of the career grand slam, but still he battled in the final round to finish T5. Without a worldwide win in over a year, Morikawa is remains a top-tier player. Given the quality of his irons and the implementation of a putting coach, he should have no problem ending this dry spell in 2023.
6. Matt Fitzpatrick (28): The perception of Fitzpatrick changed in 2022. Once a scrawny Englishman in need of a hot putting week to just contend, he transformed into a major champion wielding his driver with the best of the them. While it appeared to happen overnight, consistent speed training sessions and hard work were the cog for Fitzpatrick's ascension. Joining Jack Nicklaus and Juli Inkster as the only players to win the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open on the same golf course, Fitzpatrick squashed the haters who questioned if he would ever win on the PGA Tour. In total, Fitzpatrick captured 17 top-25 finishes in 24 worldwide starts and showcased his upside that has been on full display in Europe since 2015.
7. Will Zalatoris (26): He is built for the moment, and while the bounces didn't go his way for much of 2022, they finally did in the end. Zalatoris continued to be one of the best major championship competitors this past year as he lost in a playoff at the PGA Championship and fell one stroke short of Fitzpatrick at the U.S. Open. In 10 major championship appearances, he has three runners-up and three additional top-10 finishes. His ball-striking allows him to factor at difficult golf courses and it did just that at the St. Jude Championship in August. In unison with some timely putting, Zalatoris beat Sepp Straka in a playoff in Memphis to win his first PGA Tour title. The floodgates were promptly shut the following week when he was forced to withdraw during the BMW Championship due to a back injury, and he has not been seen in action since. Back injuries are always scary when discussing golfers, and Zalatoris will be no different. Possessing a wiry frame, he will make his return at the Tournament of Champions and hopefully put any health concerns in the rearview mirror.
8. Viktor Hovland (25): Simply put, Hovland wins. It may not be pretty, it may not be flashy, and it may not happen at the most prestigious tournaments, but still, the Norwegian finds a way to collect hardware on a consistent basis. That has to count for something. Since 2020, he has won seven times worldwide and 2022 showed us he may soon rise to the occasion in the biggest of championships. Alongside Rory McIlroy in the final pair in the final round of the 150th Open at St. Andrews, Hovland ultimately fell off the pace to finish T4. Experiencing his first taste of contention in a major championship, this should only aid him in his future endeavors. His short game has improved drastically from the low point of the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational where he let that trophy slip from his grasp, and if it continues on this trajectory, Hovland's underrated win total should only tick up.
9. Jordan Spieth (29): This time next year, he'll be 30, but still Spieth finds his way onto this list. Since going through the lowest of lows from 2018-20, he has clawed his way back into relevance with wins at the 2021 Texas Open and 2022 RBC Heritage. A member of winning Ryder Cup and Presidents teams the last two years, the next step in the three-time major champion's return to prominence is to bag a a big one. He has been close with a couple podium finishes in 2021 and given his improvements both off the tee and on approach in 2022, this upcoming year will say a lot about the state of Spieth's place in the game. The putter will unquestionably have to be on better behavior, and if it is, Spieth could be on the cusp of his first multiple-win season since 2017.
10. Cameron Young (25): He will win in 2023. Finishing on the podium seven times in his rookie campaign -- without getting over the hump once -- Young consistently put himself in position to win golf tournaments. Variance, luck and perhaps some inexperience hindered his efforts to raise a trophy, but that will no longer be an appropriate excuse in 2023. Finishing second at the Genesis Invitational, third at the PGA Championship and second at The Open, his name became a staple on the first page of the leaderboard in some of the biggest events of the year. His father has left his post at Sleppy Hollow to join him on Tour on a full-time basis and perhaps this familiar face will propel Young to new heights and into the winner's circle.
Honorable mentions: Sam Burns, Sungjae Im, Tom Kim