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PGA Tour is experiencing a youth movement like never before

There is a youth movement like never before on the PGA Tour, and last week was a prime example. Jason Day, 22, won the Byron Nelson Championship, and in the same tournament, 16-year-old high school junior Jordan Spieth not only made the cut but was in contention on Sunday. Earlier this year, then-20-year-old Rory McIlroy won a tournament in Charlotte, N.C. While he was doing that, 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa shot 58 to win a tournament in Japan. At 16, Matteo Manassero made the cut at the Masters in April. Tiger Woods may not be much of a factor this year, but established tour players better watch out for the youngsters. Here's a look at players who have already made a splash, and those who are sure to make an impact in the near future.

The established

Rory McIlroy (21): Just days before his 21st birthday, McIlroy scorched the field at the Quail Hollow Championship in April with a final-round 62. He was already a phenom after winning the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour. He became the first 20-year-old to win a PGA Tour event since Tiger Woods won the Las Vegas Invitational in 1996. He has already earned $1,3324,743 and is ranked ninth in the official golf world rankings. Expect McIlroy, who is from Northern Ireland, to be around for years to come.

Jason Day (22): Day has been knocking on the door since he turned pro in 2006. At 19, he became the youngest winner in Nationwide Tour history with a victory at the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic. Last week, he won the Byron Nelson Championship to become the youngest player from Australia to win a PGA Tour event. Only 17 golfers in tour history have claimed their initial victories at a younger age. Day once proclaimed to the Melbourne Herald Sun in Australia: "I'm sure I can take (Tiger Woods) down. My goal is to be the No. 1 golfer in the world, and I want to chase Tiger.''

Anthony Kim (24): The old guy of the bunch, Kim already has three PGA Tour victories, including this year's Houston Open. He has been on tour full time since 2007, and at age 22 he picked up his first tour win. Kim already has a Ryder Cup under his belt; now all he needs is a major championship.

Knocking on the door

Ryo Ishikawa (18): On the same day McIlroy scorched the Quail Hollow field for his first victory, Ishikawa, right, shot 58 to win the Crowns tournament in Japan. 58! He birdied nine of the first 11 holes and missed a birdie putt on 18. Ishikawa came to America last year and made his first cut at the Transitions Championship in Palm Harbor. This year he has made only two of five cuts. He finished ninth at the Match Play event in February. He's still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour. Ishikawa has won seven tournaments in Japan and took the 2009 Japan tour money title.

Rickie Fowler (21): This is his first full year on the PGA Tour. Fowler started the season on fire, with four top-10 finishes, including a second at the Phoenix Open. He has already earned $1,309, 901. Fowler is a two-time All-American at Oklahoma State, but in order to cement his place in phenom history, he needs a win.

Jamie Lovemark (22): After a collegiate career at Southern Cal, Lovemark turned pro last summer. He lost in a playoff in October at the Frys.com Open. However, he has spent this season mainly on the Nationwide Tour, where he has four top-10 finishes.

Waiting for their chance

Matteo Manassero (17): Last year, he became the youngest player to win the British Amateur Championship, and he qualified for the British Open. He made the cut and eventually finished 13th. He was still 16 in April when he became the youngest player to make the cut at the Masters. On May 3, Manassero officially turned professional when he played in the Italian Open.

Jordan Spieth (16): Spieth had his four days in the spotlight last week when he not only made the cut at the Byron Nelson Championship but was in contention on the back nine on Sunday. The junior at Dallas' Jesuit College Preparatory School eventually faded, but golf fans haven't seen the last of him. He has a sponsor's exemption to next month's St. Jude Classic in Memphis.

Grayson Murray (16): While Spieth was making a cut on the big tour, Murray did the same on the Nationwide. The sophomore from Leesville Road High School in Raleigh, N.C., made the cut at the Rex Hospital Open to become the second-youngest to make a cut on the Nationwide Tour. He tied for 55th.

Domenico Geminiani (14): Never heard of him? You will. Geminiani lives in Bradenton and tears up the Florida Junior Tour. He was invited to play in the European Tour's Italian Open this month; he missed the cut.

The youngest of all

Bob Panasik was 15 years, 8 months and 20 days old when he made the cut at the 1957 Canadian Open. The record has stood for 53 years. It took 44 years before a 16-year-old made a cut on the PGA Tour (Ty Tryon, 2001 Honda Classic). Aside from Tryon, the next five 16-year-olds who made PGA cuts have done so in the past three years. Jordan Spieth (last week), Matteo Manassero (Masters) and Grayson Murray (last week's Nationwide event) did it this year.

The youngest winner of a PGA Tour event is Johnny McDermott, left, who was 19 when he won the 1911 U.S. Open. McDermott is the only teenage winner of a PGA Tour event. With so many teenagers bursting onto the scene, don't expect that record to last.

Too much, too fast

Early success does not mean long-term success. Ty Tryon, right, is a prime example. He was a hot shot out of the David Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton and turned pro when he was 16. He earned his tour card in 2002 when he was 17 and received a lucrative endorsement from Callaway. But he played in only six PGA events in 2002 and earned $8,620. He has not been on the tour since. He has spent several years on minor circuits like the Hooters and Gateway Tours.

Did you know?

•In 2002 the PGA Tour enacted a rule that players must be 18 years old to join. It was done because Ty Tryon and Kevin Na each qualified for the tour when they were 17 years old.

Tiger Woods had 46 wins in his 20s. Jack Nicklaus is the next closest with 30 wins in his 20s.

PGA Tour is experiencing a youth movement like never before 05/26/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:25pm]

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