This article was written by Golf Channel senior researcher Justin Ray.
Entering this week at Riviera, the PGA Tour had seen seven consecutive winners younger than 30. Since 1970, there has never been a longer such streak of winners in their 20s.
As impressive as that may be, it doesn’t begin to describe the takeover by this new generation of elite players.
Jordan Spieth, 23; Justin Thomas, 23; and Hideki Matsuyama, 24; headline the collection of under-25 global superstars. But the quantity of 20-somethings who have claimed claim victories this season, which also includes Jon Rahm, 22; Hudson Swafford, 29; and Mackenzie Hughes, 26; has fostered some staggering age-related statistics this season.
The top of the PGA Tour is as young as it has been in generations – and possibly ever.
• From 2000-11, less than 3 percent of PGA Tour events were won by players age 23 or younger. With Spieth’s ascension, that number jumped significantly from 2012-16, up to 12.6 percent. This season, 7 of 13 tournaments – 54 percent - have been won by players under 24.
Percentage of tournaments won on PGA Tour by players 23 or younger
2000-11: 2.8 percent
2012-16: 12.6 percent
This season: 53.8 percent
• From 2003-11, there were 17 PGA Tour events won by players age 24 or younger. Since the beginning of 2012, there have been 41.
• Over the last 35 seasons, the average age of a PGA Tour winner in a given year has never been under 30. The average age of winners this season on Tour is currently 27.8 – and that’s even with 47-year-old outlier Rod Pampling’s win in Las Vegas bumping the average up.
• Speaking of average age, there have been four instances in the last 35 years where the average age of PGA Tour winners was 31.1 or younger. Those seasons: 2014, 2015, 2016 - and now - 2017.
• There have already been eight tournaments won this season by players age 25 or younger. Over the last 35 years, the record for most wins by players 25-and-below is 12, back in 1997. That year, Tiger Woods (four wins), David Duval (three), and Justin Leonard (two) led the pack. That record is in serious jeopardy, as there are still 34 trophies to hand out this season.
• How does this era compare with when Woods was younger? Woods won 29 times on the PGA Tour before turning 26, a stretch that went from when he turned pro in 1996-2001. Players age 25 or younger won a total of 48 times during that span, accounting for 17.3 percent of the victories on the PGA Tour. Since the beginning of the 2013-14 season, players 25 or younger have racked up 34 wins – good for a clip of 22.5 percent.
The youth movement on Tour can’t be tossed aside as an outlying anomaly that has lasted a month or two. The trend of players being better, younger is very real, and the numbers support that claim.