Golf

Six golfing stars primed for a breakthrough season in 2016

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The last major of the year has been played and talk inevitably turns to who the frontrunners for next year's four titles will be.

Elite

Jason Day won the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in emphatic circumstances last weekend beating nearest rival Jordan Speith by three strokes.

Speith, Day and recently-made former world number 1, Rory Mcllroy, have been talked about in the press since Day's debut major championship victory as the next "big three" comparable to the three titans of golfs golden generation in the 60's through to the late 70's, with Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player dominating the sport, amassing a whopping 34 majors and 159 PGA tours wins between them. 

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The current triumvirate have a long way to go at only seven majors and 17 PGA tour wins, though.

Jason Speith's rise has been monumental, only comparable in golfing history to Tiger Woods' astounding 2000 season. Yet it is still only one season of regular success and, as with the 27-year old, Day who only won his first major a few days ago, the comparisons to golfing greats may be a little premature.

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It is only really Mcllroy who can lay claim to have had any lasting domination and even then Rory has looked a little lost this season. As exemplified by Tiger Woods, long-lasting dominance of the Palmer, Player, Nicklaus ilk is hard to maintain in the current era of heightened media spotlight and professional standards

Challengers

It then comes to look at the players who could put to bed these notions of a new big three.

Here are five players who may feel hard done by not to be including in such grand epithets, and will be hoping that major glory may eventually come their way sooner rather than later:

1) Dustin Johnson (USA) Age: 31 Current World Ranking: 7

One of the longest drivers in world golf, Johnson is more likely to snatch his debut major win at either the Masters or the PGA next year where the substantially longer course will play into his monolithic driving ability.

Johnson is unquestionably good enough to win a major but has built a reputation as an almost-ran with second places in both the US (back in 2011) and British Open (2015).

Having seemingly recovered from the drug abuse scandals that have plagued his career, he has had a hell of a comeback year with three top 10 major placings taking him a career high seventh in the world.

If he continues his ascendency he should prove a stern challenge to the big three in 2016

2) Rickie Fowler (USA) Age: 26 CWR: 8

An even bigger challenge will come from this seasons Players championship winner Rickie Fowler, who managed a top five placing in all majors back in 2014.

This year has been a bit of a backwards step for Fowler, but he is still undoubtedly one of the most exciting young players in the world with the potential to beat anyone on his day.

3) Brenden Grace (SAF) Age: 27 CWR: 20

Tied for the lead after 16 holes last Sunday, Grace enjoyed his highest ever position in a major (T3 PGA Championship 2015) to go with his impressive showing at the US open.

He has yet to win on the PGA championship, but with six European tour successes along with a fast developing game and reputation as one of world golf's brightest young stars, Grace could very well look forward to breaking through to superstar status in 2016.

4) Billy Horschel (USA) Age: 28 CWR: 23

2014 FedEx cup winner, Horschel's victory last year was as impressive in its manner as it was surprising as he started the postseason in 69th place before rising to become the number one player on the tour.

His run included winning arguably the two biggest tournaments on the PGA tour, The BMW championship and the Tour championship, both in consecutive weeks.

The only other player to have matched this feat was Tiger Woods back in 2007. This season has been a little tougher for Horschel but he has already shown the pedigree to compete at the very top.

5) Justin Thomas (USA) Age: 22 CWR: 75

Breaking into the limelight age 16 back in 2009 as the third youngest player to make the cut on a PGA tour event, Thomas went on to enjoy a distinguished college career where he would regularly come up against friend and current world number one, Jordan Speith.

In his debut season on the tour, Thomas has posted an impressive seven top 10 finishes and is frontrunner for rookie of the year, an honour captured by his stablemate Speith back in 2013.

6) Jordan Niebrugge (USA) Age: 22 CWR: 391

Playing the lowest ever score by an amateur in the history of The Open Championship is one way to get noticed.

The 2015 silver medal winner tied for sixth in this year's tournament and showed an unbelievably cool head throughout. Having already played in the 2013 Walker cup he is sure to be a big star in next months showing before going pro next season. 

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Topics:
PGA Championships
Golf
Rory McIlroy

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