Best Americans Under 25
By Rick Lipsey
It may seem as if every rising young golfer comes from somewhere else particularly Australia or South Africa but Uncle Sam's cupboard isn't
bare. In addition to the promising young Americans who have already
emerged (Anthony Kim, Kevin Na), there are some serious up-and-comers
waiting to break through. Here are our picks for the top 10 American golfers under the age of 25.
10. Tony Finau, 18
Stats: Finau is part of the rapidly growing group of Tour-seeking teenagers who are eschewing college. Finau turned pro this spring after graduating from West High in Salt Lake City. His resume included a Utah amateur, a Utah schoolboy crown and a runner-up at the Junior PGA, where he Monday qualified, made the cut and led the field in driving distance with a jaw-dropping 331.6-yard average. After playing Nationwide and European tour events this summer, Finau and his 17-year-old brother, Gipper, are hoping to accomplish the improbable and make it through all three stages of the Tour's Q-school.
Skinny: Aside from prodigious power, Finau's best asset is a realistic attitude. He seems patient and sounds like he understands that it might take a few years in the minors to develop into a Tour-quality player.
2 of 10Mike Ehrmann/WireImage.com
2. Ryan Moore, 24
Stats: The Tacoma, Wash., native was one of the most decorated amateurs in history. In the 2004 season, he took the U.S. Amateur, 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 at a golf course. His streaky Tour career has included four seconds and 18 other top 25s, but also 23 missed cuts in 67 total starts. This week, he passed Anthony Kim to become the highest-ranked male under 25 in the World Ranking.
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.
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3. Kevin Na, 24
Stats: Na's family immigrated to the U.S. when he was 8, and he took up golf a year later. After quickly 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. Last year, Na broke his right hand in a car door and missed most of the season, but he's recovered well and climbed to 116th on the money list this season.
Skinny: With his health back and one of the Tour's best short games (2nd in scrambling, 2nd in putts per round, 4th in sand saves), Na should mature into a regular contender.
4 of 10Scott Halleran/Getty Images
4. Jamie Lovemark, 19
Stats: The tall (6' 4'') Californian who plays at Southern Cal
had a breakout June, winning the NCAA title as a freshman
and then losing in a playoff as an amateur at the Nationwide
tour's Rochester Area Charities Showdown. He's 3 for 3 in
making cuts on the PGA Tour, with his best finish a 39th at
the Buick Invitational, at which he had a first-round 66.
Skinny: Could've easily turned pro after a hot run this year
but will stay in school until at least next summer.
5 of 10Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images
5. Rickie Fowler, 18
Stats: A freshman at Oklahoma State, Fowler was the
youngest player on this year's victorious Walker Cup team
(3-1 individual record) and won two prestigious amateur
titles (Sunnehanna and Players). He has a win and a fourth
in his first two collegiate starts and shot a seven-under 63 at
Olympia Fields, which tied Vijay Singh's course record.
Skinny: Fowler says he'll spend four years at Oklahoma
State and graduate. If he keeps winning, we'll see.
6 of 10Marc Feldman/Getty Images
6. Jeff Overton, 24
Stats: The '05 Indiana grad is one of only six players to make
it through all three stages of Q-school and earn a PGA Tour
card in the same year he graduated. A late surge last year
helped him keep his card, and now he's 108th on the money
list, with a tie for second at the Wyndham Championship.
Skinny: Cut from the Zach Johnson mold, Overton's been
on a slow but steady upward curve since high school.
7 of 10Eric Risberg/AP
7. Colt Knost, 22
Stats: After wrapping up his career at SMU last spring,
Knost, the 2007 Conference USA player of the year and
winner of three collegiate titles, won the U.S. Amateur Public Links and
the U.S. Amateur and turned pro. He finished 49th in his first
Tour start, at the Texas Open, and since then was 38th at the
Frys.com Open and missed the cut at the Fry's Electronics.
Skinny: Solid, but can he handle the sky-high expectations?
8 of 10Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
8. Phillip Francis, 18
Stats: Now a freshman at UCLA, Francis was the most
accomplished junior player since Tiger Woods, winning
the first of his 147 titles at age 4. In addition to winning
the 2006 U.S. Junior, he also won the Junior Worlds four
straight times, which broke Woods's record of three. Francis
made his PGA Tour debut this summer, at the John Deere
and U.S. Bank, but missed both cuts.
Skinny: No single aspect of his game makes you say,
"Wow." He's simply very good at everything.
9 of 10Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
9. Michael Putnam, 24
Stats: A Tour rookie from Tacoma, Wash., Putnam is 155th on the money list and needs a huge finish to keep his card. After finishing 17th on the Nationwide tour in 2006, Putnam, the runner-up at the 2005 NCAAs for Pepperdine, played well at the start of this season, making 13 cuts in his first 14 events. But since then he's made just five of 13 cuts. His best Tour finish came in his first start as a pro, when he tied for fourth at the '05 Buick Championship.
Skinny: Putnam needs to improve his putting (186th in putts per round) and learn how to handle the pressure that comes with playing on the weekend (183rd and 150th in third- and fourth-round scoring average, respectively).
10 of 10M. Ehrmann/Getty Images
1. Anthony Kim, 22
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 56th on the money list and third in earnings among first-year players ($1.55 million) behind Brandt Snedeker and John Mallinger. He's ranked 69th in the world, the second 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.
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.
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