It's obvious that Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and Tiger Woods are five of the best golfers on the planet. Anyone who casually follows the game or engages in the sport can tell you that much. But what about when you step outside the star and superstar realm and get a little past the most obvious contenders in this sport?
What do you find at No. 50 in the world or No. 100 or even past that? With 2020 quickly approaching and another calendar year of golf on deck, I thought it would be fun to throw 20 names at you to watch in 2020. These are in no particular order in terms of ranking, but they're 20 guys who have a chance to take a leap (or two leaps) into stardom in professional (or amateur) golf at the start of the new decade.
Let's jump in.
1. Matthew Wolff: Probably the most famous of this group, and he already has a win. It might be unfair to include him on a list of folks you need to know more about because I don't know how much you already know about him. But his intangibles are off the charts and probably more impressive than anyone else on here. I could not be more in.
2. Xinjun Xhang: Blew away the competition in the Korn Ferry Tour regular season this year. He's already earned significantly more money in the fall than he did in his entire previous season on the PGA Tour combined.
3. Ben An: This is all you need to know about Ben An and his game.
Most golf beginners would begin their journey with a mid-iron or wedge, but An was the opposite as he started with one of the hardest clubs – the 1-iron. "I liked the 1-iron, that was the first club I used," An said. "I remember it was a club with an old-school green colored grip. It just felt fun for me. I still remember it although I was very young then." [PGA Tour]
4. Tom Lewis: The former stud amateur came over and won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship by five after his highest-ever finish at a major championship (T11 at The Open). Currently No. 53 in the world, which is his highest ranking ever.
5. Abraham Ancer: Stole the show at the Presidents Cup, but the reality is that he was playing quality golf long before that. Starred for a while at the 2019 Players Championship, finished second at The Northern Trust and top 10 in his last PGA Tour events of the fall.
6. Joaquin Niemann: Just turned 21 and has almost matched his age with his tee-to-green ranking on the PGA Tour. Certified stud.
7. Sungjae Im: The real breakout star of the Presidents Cup. Im might be a superstar, and he has the kind of game that's going to go on and on and on and on. All the way up to 34th in the world, and I could see him in the top 20 this time next year.
Sungjae Im is an assassin. That guy might make $50 million on tour.— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) December 15, 2019
8. Scottie Scheffler: There's a little Spieth in there in terms of the amateur career and walking in the same footsteps. He doesn't get the same shine Spieth ever did though, but he's going to have a good, long career.
9. Corey Conners: The best ball-striker you've never heard of. He was ninth (!!) from tee to green last season.
10. Bernd Wiesberger: Did you know that Bernd Wiseberger is ranked ahead of Rickie Fowler in the Official World Golf Rankings? I bet you did not know this factual information.
11. Jazz Janewattananond: Introduced himself at the PGA Championship this spring, and likely played himself into the Masters by rising into the top 50 in the OWGR by Dec. 31. He's currently No. 45 with two weeks to go (the top 50 on Dec. 31 get in).
12. Collin Morikawa: Elite iron player. I don't know that he has the juice to hang with Wolff and Hovland long-term, but I'm extremely excited to watch him try and play his way into that.
13. Erik Van Rooyen: Come for the joggers, stay for one of the 50 best in the world.
14. Harry Higgs: Won on the Korn Ferry Tour last season and finished second at the Bermuda Championship this fall. He made $540,000 in the fall and is getting close to earning his 2021 card.
15. Robert Macintyre: Finished sixth (!) at The Open at Royal Portrush and had four other top-10 finishes to close out 2019. Still just 23 years old.
16. Takumi Kanaya: The No. 1 amateur in the world and the No. 222 player in the world overall. It's not often you see that combination, but the 21-year-old is winning legit pro events and nearly even took the Australian Open a few weeks ago.
17. Viktor Hovland: Vegas shouldn't even offer odds on him winning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. Would be like letting Kyler Murray be a rookie next year.
18. Cole Hammer: Another Texas stud. Took down Wolff in the match-play portion of the NCAAs earlier in 2019 and is currently the No. 2 amateur in the world. Right amount of swag, tons of game and a great pedigree. Here for it.
19. Victor Perez: He's won an official event in each of the last four calendar years. His fall was outstanding as he took the Dunhill Links and then nearly won in China (WGC event) and Turkey (European Tour Rolex Series event). Might be a Ryder Cup threat.
20. Justin Harding: He was the "one of these things is not like the other ones" golfer in the top 15 at Augusta in April. Last year was the first time in his career that he's played all four of the majors in a calendar year, and he made the cut at three of the four including that impressive T12 at the Masters.