Each week, our panel of writers will be asked a question about the game of golf. Topics will range from their predictions for the Tour season to what they would order from the concession stand at Augusta National Golf Club. No subject is off limits for this esteemed group. As always, reader suggestions are welcome. Leave a comment or reach out to us on Instagram or Twitter to have your question answered.
The game of golf is in a great place. There are a number of savvy veterans who continue to play at a high level. There is also a new wave of young studs who are coming up through the ranks and establishing themselves amongst the elite players in the world. Just this past Sunday, Sungjae Im joined that group and became the 5th player since July 2019 under the age of 22 to win a TOUR event. With that in mind, we asked our writers to look in their crystal ball to answer this version of the QOTW.
This week’s question: Who will be the best player in the world in five years?
Kevin Walsh: Depends how you go about the best golfer in the world debate, but I’ll go with the best golfer right now also being the best golfer in 5 years: Rory McIlroy. Rory has displayed some of his best golf in the last year or so and while he may not be winning as much as he should, he continues to put himself in contention. He is learning each year and realizing that the name of the game is to control what you can and give yourself chances. Soon enough, he will win a few more events and if he gets some confidence back and wins a major, it could be a really nice run for Rory over the next decade. There are others who could easily contend for this post, but I do not see any with the pure talent of Rory McIlroy and that’s what I’ll go with winning out in the long run. As I said, there are plenty of guys who have a chance to be #1 in five years so it will be very fun to watch it all play out!
Sean Carney: Not going to turn any heads with this answer, but think it has to be Rory because I still believe his best golf is ahead of him. The way he is able to hit the driver and attack pins is really special. The putter is much improved, but still could be much better. If he gets that figured out, watch out.
Tony Kasper: He has already won three times and finished in the top five at three of the four majors (and as high as 11th in The Open). Every time he tees it up he’s on the shortlist of favorites, and he can excel at any course because his game is so diverse. The only things holding him back right now are his inconsistency with both his game and temper, but this guy oozes talent. Both of those issues are not uncommon for a 25 year old, and in five years I believe he’ll have both of them under control to a point where he’s the best golfer in the world.
Frank Laterza: Let’s start with some quick facts about him:
- He’s 26 years old (31 for the purpose of this exercise)
- Has as played in 145 events, of which he has 49 Top 10 finishes, 20 of those are Top 3, and 12 are winners, including 1 Major (2017 PGA Championship)
- Since 2017, including this year, he has been top 4 in Total Strokes Gained, and that is despite the fact that he has never finished above 43rd in Strokes Gained: putting
Now we can get into the more opinionated portion of this argument.
JT has an elite mental makeup. He clearly not only believes he has the ability to, at any time, be the best player in the world, but he also has a hunger to keep improving and getting better. His confidence on the course is second to none as well, which can sometimes derail golfers especially after a bad hole or 2, but his ability to bounce back after bogeys is very impressive and important for his trajectory to become what I believe he will. This may be over looked, but he is great friends with the best golfer to ever do it: Tiger Woods. They practice together all the time, and I could see Tigers tutelage paying major dividends to Thomas as he continues to take his game to the next level. If the putting can follow the rest of his game, and the rest of his game remains elite, there is no reason to not think that in 5 years, JT will be the best player in the world.
Mike McNamara: This is March.
Interesting question. My crystal ball is telling me that in March of 2025 the #1 ranked player in the world will be Justin Thomas. JT is the most surefire bet to be #1 because barring injuries, there are absolutely no red flags. He loves the game, has a burning desire to win, and will continue to play full schedules for the next 10-15 years. He does not have any weaknesses in his game, and since joining the TOUR full-time he has been pretty darn consistent every year. I expect Justin to win multiple majors between now and 2025, which would only add to the likelihood of him being the world’s best. There are certainly other players worth a look (Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, and Brooks Koepka to name a few), but I am going with JT.
Bear: At 31 years old, Justin Thomas will be in his prime in 2025. Rory and Brooks will be in their mid-30s and DJ will be 40. Don’t get me wrong, these guys will certainly be in the mix, but JT will just be better. I’m sure plenty of guys will give the Jon Rahm answer here, but until I see him actually win a major, I won’t be ready to predict him as the best.
With just the 1 major now for Thomas, I expect that number to be at 6 when he tees it up April 2025 at Augusta. It’ll grow to 8 by the end of 2025, after JT picks up wins at Oakmont and the TBD PGA Championship course (speculated courses include Southern Hills and Aronimink), asserting his dominance as the best golfer in the world.
Jack Corrigan: There are plenty of names to consider. The other guys I thought of were JT, Rahmbo, and Patrick Reed. One thing these guys all have in common is a killer instinct. When I say who will be the best, I’m taking a guy that has the potential at all major championship venues. Rory has shown his mind can drift away from the game. Can Brooks stay healthy? Jordan seems to be lost for good at this moment, and there are several fringe guys like X, Finau, Cantlay etc. who have a lot more to prove.
I see Bryson as having almost everything it takes to win: he bombs it, he hits it straight and I believe he’ll figure out his putting and become elite. This guy is a mad scientist and will do whatever it fundamentally takes to win and we have seen the progress he has put forth and he may revolutionize this game when it’s all said and done. I just think we haven’t even seen him hit his peak and when he does it could get scary.
Jake Mulholland: This one is tough…five years ago I think people would have considered Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, or Justin Rose for this question. From 2014-2016, these were the Fed Ex Cup results for the previously mentioned candidates:
- Jordan Spieth: (8th, 1st, 5th)
- Jason Day: (Outside Top 10, 2nd, 1st)
- Rory McIlroy (1st, 9th, Outside Top 10)
- Dustin Johnson (6th, 7th, 2nd)
- Justin Rose (Outside Top 10, 5th, Outside Top 10)
Fast forward to 2020 and we are seeing Rory take hold of the top spot and displaying his all-around great play week-in and week-out. Justin Thomas is contending in every big tournament, Jon Rahm finding the right balance between his aggression and talent, as well as Patrick Reed entering, leaving then re-entering the conversation among those considered the best for this time period. I would wager that Rory has been one of, if not the, most consistent stars over the past 10 years. I am not surprised to see him at World #1 right now and expect him to hang around for a while. People like Rahm as one of the up and coming stars on tour and I wouldn’t disagree with those individuals who advocate that position.
In the next five years I see guys like DJ, Scott, Day, Simpson, Reed, Rose, Woodland, Fowler and Finau fading out of the top 10-15 OWGR giving way to younger players making their mark early. Guys who I see contending for World #1 include: Koepka (if he maintains his health), Rahm, JT, Bryson, Cameron Smith, Colin Morikawa, and outside shots for Xander, Sungjae, and Tommy Fleetwood. If I am going to drill down to one guy, I’m taking the Mad Scientist. I think he is a generational talent with an absurd amount of drive, on the course intelligence, and confidence. I think if he notches a Major in the next couple years he will take hold of World #1. Rounding out the top 3 in the world in 2025 I see Rory McIlory and Jon Rahm.