Punch Shot: First Tour player under 25 to win a major

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Brooks Koepka became the latest player under 25 to win on the PGA Tour. With so many young, talented players claiming Tour titles, who will be the first to author a major? GolfChannel.com writers offer up their picks on which current player under 25 will be the first to win a major.

By REX HOGGARD

Current revelations outlining a singular and self-absorbed past aside, Patrick Reed is the best prepared player under 25 years old to win a major championship.

While it’s become easy to doubt and criticize Mr. Top 5 ... eh, Reed, the detached facts are rather clear when it comes to the new guy in red and black.

Since he first made his mark in 2012 blazing through the Monday qualifying trail – he advanced out of six qualifiers that year, which is as telling an indication of potential success as anything in professional golf – Reed has won four times on the PGA Tour including his playoff triumph to start this year at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Along the way he qualified for and played a starring role in last September’s Ryder Cup, lapped a deep field at Doral for his first World Golf Championship keepsake and alienated some with a persona that, at times, has veered dangerously close to cocky.

Although Reed’s Grand Slam record is far from impressive (in four major starts his best finish is a tie for 35th) his drive for success goes well beyond a simple desire to win. Instead, it’s rooted in an appetite to prove others wrong, and that can be a powerful motivator.


By RYAN LAVNER

Still just 22, Hideki Matsuyama will make his 10th career major start at the upcoming Masters. That’s more than Jordan Spieth (nine). More than Brooks Koepka (seven). And more than Patrick Reed (five).

Matsuyama, it seems, does everything on an accelerated timeline, because despite his youth and relative inexperience, he’s already managed a pair of top-10s in the majors and missed only one cut. That speaks to his remarkable ball-striking skills, for the Japanese star ranks annually as one of the Tour’s leaders in proximity to the hole.

Granted, his putting leaves much to be desired – perhaps you saw his shaky attempts on the back nine at both Kapalua and Phoenix – but his long game is good enough to give him more opportunities to win than the other under-25 studs. He won’t just become the first Japanese male to win a major. He’ll win a few of ’em, sooner rather than later. 


By RANDALL MELL

Deserved or not, Patrick Reed is gaining a reputation as a cutthroat competitor.

For better or worse, he's being depicted as ruthless.

Whether he likes it or not, whether more than whispers are true or not, his image is growing harder and edgier.

Fair or not, if he is the kind of guy who thrives with a chip on his shoulder, he may be looking to shush more than European galleries this year. He may be ready to shush everyone with his bold game steamrolling through the majors. He is a complex figure whose attitude seems as vital to his performance as his talent. He looks ready to kick butt in majors, whether anyone outside his camp likes it or not.


By WILL GRAY

I have been bullish on last week’s winner Brooks Koepka for months, but I still believe Jordan Spieth is the most likely candidate from the under-25 crop to snag a major win. While Patrick Reed has more wins, Spieth has shown a consistent ability to put himself into contention – including at majors, where Reed has yet to crack the top 30 in four tries.

Spieth knows what it takes to win on the PGA Tour, and his international double-dip to end 2014 supplied an extra dose of confidence. Even in his 2015 debut at TPC Scottsdale, Spieth never truly felt in contention but still left with a T-7 finish.

The game is there for Spieth, and the stats back it up: sixth on Tour in birdie average last season, 13th in scrambling and 14th in scoring average. Soon the major trophy will be there as well.