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Tiger Woods dominated the headlines in 2019 with his 15th major victory, his 82nd PGA Tour win, and his playing-captain triumph at the Presidents Cup.
Likewise, Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka captivated us with their battle to be the game’s new alpha.
But when we look back in 2029 or 2039, we might also remember 2019 as the year a pack of newcomers crashed on the scene in spectacular fashion.
So as we exit the year – and the decade – let’s take a look at a pack of players who made meteoric rises in the Official World Golf Ranking. It’s a group highlighted by some recent college graduates the professional world got to know quite well this summer in Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff. It also includes a former college stud who re-emerged from the professional wilderness.
Our year-end look at OWGR risers kicks off with those who cracked the top 100 after starting 2019 outside the top 1,000:
No. 63 Brendon Todd, up 1,943 spots from No. 2,006
Unlike Morikawa, who hadn’t yet started his professional career, Todd was at the very bottom of the world ranking thanks to a multi-year battle with the full-swing yips. From 2015-18, he missed 39 out of 44 PGA Tour cuts. But it all came together this fall in a magical run that saw Todd win back-to-back to events at the Bermuda Championship and Mayakoba Golf Classic and nearly take his third in a row at the RSM. A guy who couldn’t keep the golf ball on the planet now has his Tour card through 2023 and is headed back to Augusta National.
No. 66 Collin Morikawa, up 1,940 spots from No. 2,006
Since making his pro debut at the RBC Canadian Open in June, Morikawa hasn’t missed a cut. That’s 13 straight for the former Cal Bear, who needed just five starts last summer to earn his 2019-20 PGA Tour card as a non-member. During a torrid run in July, Morikawa finished T-2 at the 3M Open, T-4 at the John Deere Classic and first at the Barracuda Championship. That maiden win secured his PGA Tour status through the 2021 season and earned him invites to the 2020 Tournament of Champions, Players Championship and PGA Championship. He went on to play the 2019 postseason and finished 59th in the FedExCup points race in just nine total starts.
No. 67 Scottie Scheffler, up 1,522 spots from No. 1,589
Scheffler dominated the Korn Ferry Tour in 2019, topping the circuit’s money list thanks to 10 top-10s, including two runner-ups and two wins, at the the Evans Scholars Invitational in May and at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in August, the first of three KFT Finals events. Armed with full PGA Tour status this fall, the former Texas Longhorn made seven of seven cuts, with three top-10s and five top-25s.
No. 93 Viktor Hovland, up 1,064 spots from No. 1,157
The low amateur at the Masters (T-32) and the U.S. Open (T-12), Hovland made his professional debut with a T-54 at the Travelers Championship and then rattled off four starts of T-16 or better, his season culminating with a solo fourth-place finish at the Wyndham Championship. The only reason Hovland didn’t secure his 2019-20 Tour card on non-member points? Because his results from the U.S. Open, Masters and Arnold Palmer Invitational didn’t count towards his final total. No matter, Hovland went directly to Korn Ferry Finals and locked up full PGA Tour status in just two events (T-11, T-2). Last but not least, the 22-year-old set a new record for consecutive PGA Tour rounds in the 60s with 19, a streak that ran from the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic in June through the second round of the CJ Cup in October.
Honorable mention: No. 117 Matthew Wolff, started 2019 unranked
No, Wolff didn’t crack the top 100 this year, peaking at 105th in October. But considering he started the year unranked, he’s getting a shoutout. Wolff made his OWGR debut at No. 1,521 with a tie for 50th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open while still in school at Oklahoma State. When he won the 3M Open in July in just his third professional start, he vaulted from 1,524 spots, from 1,659th to 135th in the world.
Other notables to crack the top 100 after starting the year 200th or higher include:
- No. 56 Jim Furyk, from 233rd
- No. 60 Corey Conners, from 267th
- No. 62 Chan Kim, from 271st
- No. 64 Robert MacIntyre, from 247th
- No. 74 Paul Waring, from 225th
- No. 77 J.T. Poston, from 347th
- No. 80 Matthias Schwab, from 228th
- No. 81 Ryo Ishikawa, from 220th
- No. 84 Rory Sabbatini, from 200th
- No. 86 Sung Kang from, 203rd
- No. 87 Christiaan Bezuidenhout, from 521st
- No. 88 Nate Lashley, from 477th
And finally, a list of players who moved up more than 1,500 spots in the world ranking:
- Brendon Todd, 1,943 spots
- Collin Morikawa, 1,940 spots
- Joo Hyung Kim, 1,848 spots
- Zack Sucher, 1,843 spots
- Rasmus Hojgaard, 1,810 spots
- Matthew NeSmith, 1,718 spots
- Bai Bobby Zhengkai, 1,676 spots
- Christopher Sahlstrom, 1,582 spots
- Edoardo Raffaele Lipparelli, 1,571 spots
- Scottie Scheffler, 1,522 spots
- Garrick Higgo, 1,540 spots