Top 10 Players Under 25
By Rick Lipsey
10. Ryo Ishikawa, 16, Japan
The Stats: In May, the 15-year-old high school freshman took the Munsingwear KSB Open and became the youngest player to win on the Japanese Tour. (Seve Ballesteros won the Japan Open at 20.) Overnight, Ryo helped rejuvenate the sagging Japanese Tour, which has dwindled to 24 events from 44 in 1990. Every time Ishikawa plays, he attracts a massive media posse, even in America. Indeed, 70 credentials were issued to Japanese reporters to follow him at the Junior Worlds near San Diego this summer.
The Skinny: So far, Ryo hasn't wilted under the Jordan-esque hype. This summer, the youngster backed up his tour title by taking four amateur events, including the Japan junior.
2 of 10Jonathan Ferrey/WireImage.com
2. Anthony Kim, 22, U.S.
The Stats: Kim left Oklahoma to turn pro in 2006 and then tied for second in his Tour debut at the Texas Open. He grinded through three stages of Q-school to get his card. The Tour's youngest rookie this year, he's 51st on the money list and third in earnings among first-year players ($1.55 million) behind Brandt Snedeker and John Mallinger. He's ranked 66th in the world, the highest of any player under 25. As a child he slept with a golf club, and his parents put him in front of a TV when golf was on to stop his cries.
The Skinny: Kim's cocksure attitude (he once criticized a Tour event for not giving him a sponsor's exemption) hasn't made him Mr. Popularity, but it has helped him become a threat to win whenever he tees it up.
3 of 10Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
3. Charles Schwartzel, 23, South Africa
The Stats: At 75th in the world, this can't-miss kid, who turned pro five years ago, has established himself everywhere except the U.S. He's won three consecutive money titles on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa, and at 18 he became the third youngest to ever get a card at the European Tour Q-school. He's won twice on the European Tour: the 2005 Dunhill Championship and this year's Spanish Open.
The Skinny: The top dog in a super-talented batch of young guns from South Africa, Schwartzel might switch his focus to the U.S., where he made the cut this season in the Players Championship, the Memorial Tournament and the U.S. Open.
4 of 10Jim Rogash/WireImage.com
4. Jason Day, 19, Australia
The Stats: Day became the youngest winner of a Tour-sanctioned event (19 years, 7 months, 26 days) with his victory at the Nationwide's Legend Financial Group Classic in July. He took up golf at 7 and excelled as a tyke, but he almost quit the game at 11 after his father, Alvin, died of cancer. Day drank heavily for a spell after his father died, but he got back into golf while attending a boarding school in Australia and quickly became one of the country's winningest amateurs. Currently ranked third on the Nationwide Tour money list, he'll be a Tour rookie in '08.
The Skinny: Stellar putting (7th on the Nationwide) and huge driving (4th, 306.8 yards) give him the tools to do something no other Australian has ever done: win the green jacket at Augusta.
5 of 10Matt Dunham/AP
5. Rory McIlroy, 18, Northern Ireland
The Stats: McIlroy has won virtually every important junior and amateur title in Ireland and Europe, capped by the 2006 European Amateur. He has a knack for going very low, as he showed with an 11-under 61 at Royal Portrush in 2005. His breakout performance came at this summer's British Open, where he was tied for third after a first-round 68 and finished 42nd. In his second European Tour start as a pro, he virtually secured affiliate European Tour membership by finishing third and winning $300,000 at the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links at St. Andrews. He also tied for fourth at last week's Madrid Open.
The Skinny: Don't be surprised if McIlroy makes the 2008 European Ryder Cup team and plays a key role for the Euros.
6 of 10Eric Risberg/AP
7. Jamie Lovemark, 19, U.S.
The Stats: The 6-foot-4 Californian, who plays at USC, had a breakout June, winning the NCAA title as a freshman and then losing the Nationwide Tour's Rochester Area Charities Showdown in a playoff as an amateur. He's three for three in making cuts on Tour, with his best finish a 39th at this year's Buick Invitational, where he had a first-round 66.
The Skinny: Could've easily turned pro after his hot run this summer, but he'll stay in school until at least next summer.
7 of 10M. Ehrmann/GettyImages/WireImage
6. Ryan Moore, 24, U.S.
The Stats: The Tacoma, Wash., native was one of the most decorated amateurs in history. In the 2004 season, he took the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Public Links, the NCAAs, the Western Amateur and the Sahalee Players. He had no formal lessons growing up but was taught by his father, Mike, the general manager of a golf course. His streaky Tour career has included three seconds and 15 other top 25s, but also 25 missed cuts in 65 total starts.
The Skinny: Turned pro with huge expectations. After three solid-but-winless years of cashing checks, he's got to be wondering if goodness, rather than greatness, will define his career.
8 of 10Gail Burton/AP
8. Kevin Na, 24, South Korea
The Stats: Na's family immigrated to the U.S. when he was 8, and he took up golf a year later. After vaulting to the top of the national junior rankings, Na dropped out of high school after his junior year to turn pro. He started his career on the Asian tour in 2002, winning once and finishing fourth in earnings. He earned a Tour card at the 2003 Q-school and had a respectable rookie season, finishing 87th in earnings in '04. In 2006, Na broke his right hand in a car door and missed most of the season, but this season he climbed to 114th on the money list.
The Skinny: With his health back and one of the Tour's best short games (2nd in scrambling, 1st in putts per round), Na should mature into a regular contender.
9 of 10Warren Little/Getty Images
9. Anton Haig. 21, South Africa
The Stats: Haig took up the game at 12 and was a scratch player by 13. Since turning pro three years ago, he's won four international titles on three tours. He has two victories on the Sunshine Tour in his native South Africa, one on the Asian Tour (2006 Malaysian Masters) and another in an event jointly sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours. That last win came at this year's Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand, where he held off Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. The long-hitting Haig (16th on the European tour at 296.2 yards) is a globetrotter, splitting time between the Asian (8th on 2007 money list), European (45th) and Sunshine (41st) Tours. He's also a health nut who takes a steady diet of vitamins, fish oils and protein shakes that are often selected and packed by his mother, Lorraine.
The Skinny: Only Gary Player has been able to become a global superstar playing out of a suitcase. Unless Haig hones in on one or two tours, it's unlikely that he'll break into golf's upper echelon.
10 of 10Jonathan Ferrey/WireImage.com
1. Nick Flanagan, 23, Australia
The Stats: The lanky (145 pounds) bomber (297.3 yards per drive), who also finds lots of fairways (70%), earned a PGA Tour battlefield promotion in August after winning his third Nationwide event of the season. Since then, he's earned $122,029 in three PGA Tour starts. A late bloomer, punk-rock fan, and former competitive BMX racer, Flanagan took up golf at 12 and broke par for the first time at 15. He won the 2003 U.S. Amateur.
The Skinny: He's been a cold-blooded winner at every level, and he'll be a leading candidate in 2008 to be the Tour's rookie of the year.
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