PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Jack Nicklaus is among those who believe the competition has never been deeper on the PGA Tour.
Xander Schauffele is an example of how it’s never been younger.
The 23-year-old from San Diego was No. 352 in the world when he earned the final qualifying spot in Tennessee for the U.S. Open, and then he tied for fifth at Erin Hills. A month later, he calmly hit a pitching wedge to 3 feet on the par-3 closing hole at The Greenbrier for his first PGA Tour victory.
Schauffele became the eighth player under age 25 to win on the PGA Tour this year, the most dating to 1970 when the tour began compiling complete records. That also makes 12 victories this season – just over one-third of all PGA Tour events – by players who have yet to turn 25, with Justin Thomas winning three times, and Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama each winning twice.
This year’s group and their ages when they won: Thomas (23), Spieth (23), Matsuyama (24), Jon Rahm (22), Cameron Smith (23), Si Woo Kim (21), Daniel Berger (24) and Schauffele (23).
The previous record for most players under 25 to win in a season was last year when seven players won eight times (Spieth won twice). Two years ago, the under-25 group also recorded eight victories, though Spieth did most of the damage with five of them, including two majors.
It’s quite a contrast to another year in which players under 25 recorded eight victories. That was in 1999. Tiger Woods (23) won all of them.
So not only is it an example of a strong youth movement, they are sharing the wealth. And there are still 12 tournaments remaining.