The Class of '08

First-year man Dustin Johnson has made this year's biggest initial splash on the PGA Tour, but these six fresh faces (presented alphabetically) also have shown they are worth keeping an eye on.
March 23, 2008

JASON DAY (Age: 20; Hometown: Beaudesert, Australia)
The boy wonder's stated goal is to "take down Tiger Woods" as the No. 1 player in the world. Day finished fifth on the Nationwide money list in '07 with seven top 10 finishes in 19 starts, including a win at the Legend Financial Group Classic that made him the youngest champion of a PGA Tour--sanctioned event. He brings an impressive combination of power and finesse, a la Woods—he averaged 306.8 yards off the tee (ranked sixth) and was ninth in Nationwide putting stats in '07. He finished sixth at Pebble Beach.

NICK FLANAGAN (Age: 23; Hometown: Belmont, Australia)
He's the first Aussie in 100 years to win a U.S. Amateur (Oakmont 2003) and the second youngest to hold the title (he was 19; Tiger Woods was 18 when he won in '94). Flanagan played his way onto the PGA Tour last year with three wins on the Nationwide tour, earning a battlefield promotion. He's a solid all-around player, but consistency eluded him last year; those three wins came amid only five top 10 finishes. He took ninth at the Mayakoba Classic but has struggled with the driver (180th in accuracy) and the putter (171st).

MATT JONES (Age: 27; Hometown: Sydney, Australia; College: Arizona State)
He broke out during the Honda Classic, when Johnny Miller raved about his swing. Jones was tied for the lead with four holes to play but bogeyed the par-3 15th and double-bogeyed the par-3 17th after hitting his tee shot into the water. He tied for fourth and won $227,333, the biggest payday of his career. A very consistent player, he's made all seven cuts this year after having survived 18 of 25 cuts last year on the Nationwide, where he had four seconds and finished seventh on the money list.

STEVE MARINO (Age: 28; Hometown: Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; College: Virginia)
He's not a rookie, but you probably didn't notice him last year when he quietly won $1.18 million. This year Marino has already all but locked up his card for '09, winning $832,783 in the first eight events, including a runner-up at the Mayakoba and a tie for fourth at the Sony Open. He's long (24th in driving distance), a birdie machine (first in total birdies; fifth in scoring average) and ready to win. He's been among the top 25 in five of eight events, and he has shot in the 60s in 13 of 29 rounds.

JOHN MERRICK (Age: 26; Hometown: Long Beach, Calif.; College: UCLA)
Another under-the-radar sophomore, he's the prototype of the modern young player—long, strong and fearless. He was the first-round leader at the Mayakoba after a 64 and eventually tied for third. Last year he finished 135th on the PGA Tour money list but regained privileges, barely, with a final-round 67 to tie for the last spot at Q school. Thus far in '08 he ranks 15th in driving distance, 11th in scoring average and stands 57th on the money list with a little more than $405,000.

YOUNG-EUN YANG (Age: 36; Hometown: Seoul, South Korea)
Yang held off Tiger Woods by two shots at the HSBC Champions tournament in '06, interrupting Woods's streak of six straight stroke-play wins. Yang's also a four-time winner on the Japan tour and won the '06 Korea Open. He got into nine PGA Tour events last year—his best finish was a 30th at the Masters—and he tied for sixth at Q school. He's not a big hitter but is good with a wedge and an excellent scrambler. His best result so far this year is a tie for ninth at Pebble Beach.

PHOTOROBERT BECK (DAY) PHOTOROBERT BECK (YANG) PHOTODAVID WALBERG (MARINO) PHOTODAVID WALBERG (JONES) PHOTODAVID CANNON/GETTY IMAGES (MERRICK) PHOTOJONATHAN FERREY/GETTY IMAGES (FLANAGAN)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)