The Golfers Who Could Become World Number One
Rankings in sport is something that is common, but they attract extra interest in sports that are played by an individual.
To be the world’s best is something that every aspiring golfer dreams of, but it is certainly not something that every golfer can achieve.
Becoming the number one ranked player in the world is understandably difficult; but here are six golfers who hold realistic hopes of sitting at the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings. Golfshake's Liam Moore analyses those players and provides data insights as at December 2021.
Pro Wins: 6
Highest OWGR: 2nd
Collin Morikawa is beyond a superstar in the making: he is one now. His latest triumph, the DP World Tour Championship, is a testament to his grittiness as a golfer after refusing to budge from the chasing pack. He has already won on two of the biggest stages - PGA Championship and Open Championship - and he is still only 24 years of age.
It’s inevitable that Morikawa will become world number one, and I would not be surprised if he achieves this feat by the start of summer. There are two areas of his game that are underwhelming compared to the majority of his competitors, which is putting and driving distance. However, his accuracy with the big stick makes amends for his supposed lack of distance but if he can improve his putting then we could be on the cusp of witnessing a truly special golfer who surely has all of the records in his sights.
2021 Best Statistic: Greens in Regulation - 70.80% (5th)
Pro Wins: 6
Highest OWGR: 4th
There was little reason to doubt the ability that flows through the veins of Xander Schauffele but his dominance in the Ryder Cup with teammate Patrick Cantlay, solidified what was known to the majority: he is a potential future hall of famer. The gold medal earned at the Tokyo Olympics was long overdue, in regard to an important victory, but the absence of a major championship on his CV will understandably frustrate him - especially after being on top for quite some time.
Schauffele has recorded top ten finishes at every major. Included within these are: 2019 Masters (T2nd), 2019 U.S. Open (T3rd), 2018 Open Championship (T2nd) and the 2020 PGA Championship (T10th). The evidence above should be all that’s needed to justify his presence on this list but if there is one aspect of his game that needs to be improved, it’s driving accuracy. He recorded 58.33% during the 2021 season, which ranked him at 126th throughout the PGA Tour. Away from that minor blemish, however, and the sky is truly the limit - he just needs to secure his first major.
2021 Best Statistic: Scoring Average - 69.859 (7th)
Pro Wins: 4
Highest OWGR: 9th
Similarly to the previous entry, those who may have doubted Viktor Hovland prior to the Ryder Cup would have - hopefully - understood his traits as a golfer more as he truly shone in what was a sub-par European team. I often refer to Hovland as Europe’s Morikawa and while there remains a rather large gap between the two (in terms of success) I maintain that statement: he is arguably the brightest prospect for European golf and he’s improving constantly.
The successful defence of his title at the Mayakoba Golf Classic produced his greatest performance of the season and he finished within the confines of the top 10 on seven occasions. If you peruse his statistics for the previous PGA Tour campaign, there aren’t any major flaws in his game - in contrast to the rest of the tour. His chipping, however, has come under heavy scrutiny in the past and it’s probably the sole area of his game that needs to continue to be honed. If Hovland is looking to raise his profile, he’ll need a big 2022 that ends with the capture of a more revered ranking title.
2021 Best Statistic: Birdie Average - 4.40 (6th)
Pro Wins: 3
Highest OWGR: 18th
I agree with those who are contemplating: ‘this is a bold choice’. Indeed it is, but it’s also fully deserved as I’m unsure if there’s been a more consistent and harder working golfer than Sam Burns this year. Unlike the highest world ranking golfers, Burns has played in the majority of tournaments this season and he came so close to securing his maiden PGA Tour victory prior to the Valspar Championship back in May.
The American had recorded a good finish at the prestigious Genesis Invitational (3rd) before going on to capture the Valspar. His very next event, the AT&T Byron Nelson, saw him finish as runner-up in what would have been back-to-back PGA Tour victories - only something the very best can dream of. Burns, rather peculiarly, mirrors the statistics of Schauffele and both men come undone with their driving accuracy. However, away from that and Burns is solid in almost every other department: which is something that’s needed for world number ones!
2021 Best Statistic: Birdie Average - 4.43 (5th)
Pro Wins: 1
Highest OWGR: 12th
Please stay with me for this one. Sure, as it stands, Matthew Wolff does not have what it takes to be world number one any time soon. If you watch the content that TaylorMade release with their sponsored players, you’d understand just how young Wolff is as he’s often teased by the older and successful players. However, what he has is raw talent and that is not something that everyone on tour possesses.
What’s fascinating is the fact that Wolff has won once in his career - the 3M Open back in 2019 - but his limited record in major championship golf should pique the interest of fans. Of the five major starts he has made, he has recorded T4th (PGA Championship) and an outright runner-up finish (U.S. Open) and yet, he’s still in the infancy of his career. At times he can be his own worst enemy and whilst it’s evidently beneficial being able to drive the ball 315+ yards consistently, he is forfeiting that advantage when his accuracy of 51.04% ranks at 189th for the tour. A good coach should help prioritise what’s important but 2022 could be a big year for Wolff, providing he gets to work on that driver.
2021 Best Statistic: Driving Distance - 315.9 yards (4th)
Min Woo Lee
Pro Wins: 2
Highest OWGR: 51st
For anyone who has had the chance to witness what Min Woo Lee does on a regular basis, isn’t it just so awe-inspiring? The Australian is a seriously good golfer and he’s still only 23 years of age. Victory at the Scottish Open demonstrated that he can compete with the best and while the following performance at the Open Championship was largely disappointing, he will undoubtedly be back for another crack at golf’s oldest prize.
Considering that this has been a breakthrough year for him, he still remains largely unknown but I’m not so sure the same will be said in 12 months’ time. A fun fact about Lee, his older sister, Minjee Lee, is also a professional golfer and major champion. When Min Woo Lee won the 2016 U.S. Junior Amateur, he and his sister became the first brother/sister pair to win the USGA’s junior championships after his sister triumphed in the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior. Expect continued big things from the Lee siblings going forward!
2021 Best Statistic: Driving Distance - 310.33 yards (13th)
The current talent pool in golf is something that the sport has never experienced, with a new winner typically announced for every tournament!
However, the six that have been listed here hold the potential for extra special careers and considering that they are all still in their 20s, the future is bright for all six of them.
Who do you think holds the capability of becoming a future world number one?
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