Wes Bryan joins list of greats to go from outside top 1,000 to top 50 in the world

Wesley Bryan is ranked No. 37 in the Official World Golf Rankings on Monday after his win at the RBC Heritage by one stroke over Luke Donald. He is ranked ahead of two-time major winner Martin Kaymer, Bill Haas, Lee Westwood, Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk and Jason Dufner. 

One month ago, Bryan was ranked No. 72. Three months ago, he was No. 134. One year ago, he was No. 364. At the beginning of February 2016, he was No. 1,127.

Right now, the No. 1,127 golfer in the world is a guy by the name of Daehyun Kim. So how does one go from outside the top 1,100 in the world to the No. 37 golfer who will now be invited to all the WGCs, the Players Championship and all the majors? As is so often the answer in golf: Play better.

Bryan won the Louisiana Open in March 2016, the El Bosque Mexico Championship in April and then the Digital Ally Open in August. All of those were Web.com Tour events. Since that final Web.com Tour win and a promotion onto the PGA Tour, Bryan has finished in the top 10 five times and won. That will do it.

Improbably, Bryan was doing trick shots videos with his brother George and playing something called the SwingThought Tour three years ago. It is a mini tour of mini tours. 

"I don't know if I was winning on the SwingThought Tour," Bryan said on Sunday when asked about how the graduation from winning at a low level event to winning at a high one went. "I won a two-day event once. But that was about all the mini tour success I had. Last year, to win three times on the Web.com Tour was unbelievable. I definitely didn't foresee that happening when I started the year.

"Then starting this year, I knew that I was good enough to compete out here on this level because I'd gotten in contention a couple of times. And I knew that my game was good enough to win. And just to be able to come out here and show it for four days and the last couple of holes is something you can only dream of honestly."

The dream is just beginning, though. Bryan is just 27-years old and has a long runway in front of him. The collection of golfers who have risen with as much velocity as Bryan has is outrageously good, and it is one Bryan is surely glad to be a part of. The list of guys who have gone from outside the top 1,000 to inside the top 50 includes Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy. Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Martin Kaymer and Dustin Johnson are all part of it as well. Only Fowler rose more quickly than Bryan. 

There are 28 majors won collectively by this group. 

Let's take a look at Fowler specifically to see how he did it even more quickly than Bryan. Fowler was No. 1,202 in 2008 when he finished second at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational. That bumped him into the top 600. Then he finished T2 at the Frys.com Open to get inside the top 300. Keep in mind, this is his 11th start in a professional event. Bryan has had 33. In Fowler's 18th start, he finished second at the Phoenix Open to get inside the top 100. Then he touched it off with a second at The Memorial in his 28th start. Boom, he moved to No. 32.

It is true that Bryan's career has bloomed at a later age, but it has bloomed in a similar manner. Talent is talent, and I think Bryan's four straight missed cuts this year prove he's not just riding a heater even if he has no idea why he's all of a sudden playing so well.

"There are times I feel I was way better back in high school than I am now," Bryan said. "I think I just manage my emotions a little better now. I feel like I'm a slightly better ball-striker from let's say 150 to 200 yards, definitely better than I was. But everything else I feel like stayed the same. It's not like I all of a sudden hit the ball really far or hit the ball really straight. I've got no idea what changed."

The best thing about golf is that your resume doesn't matter. Only your scorecard means anything, and your scorecard doesn't care what you did in high school or college or for the last 10 years.

So you can call the last year and a half a fluke, but you're arguing with a cascade of recent history that proves otherwise. The names on that list above are monumental, and while I'm not saying Bryan is necessarily going to join them, it warrants discussion. It's also worth pointing out that Bryan's rise was not aided by a win at a major (like Ben Curtis who went from No. 393 to No. 35 by winning The Open). He's just played really well and won a lot.

It all sounds so simple.

Speaking of majors, Bryan will be playing a lot of them in the near future. The one he covets the most, though, is played in the same town where he lives: Augusta.

"I've got a master bedroom to keep available for myself," Bryan said. "(We) were talking on the ride over here, this is the best case scenario winning this week, now I've got 51 weeks to get ready for Augusta in my own city. So that's like, honestly, a dream come true. Call it my home golf course for the next 51 weeks."

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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