These are the guys right on the cusp of becoming household names to golf fans for more than being the master of Twitter or having the best mustache in golf.
The line between irrelevance and stardom can be as thin as a hair’s breadth or wide as a canyon, depending on which side you’re standing. It’s alarmingly easy on the PGA Tour to lose status and recognition. Memories are painfully short.
On the other hand, crossing the great divide to break from the anonymous pack into the arena occupied by only a select few is so difficult that most players never arrive there. Here are five players who are in mid-flight:
If Brooks Koepka’s wrist injury hadn’t healed enough for him to play in the Ryder Cup, there’s an excellent chance Burns would have been the player chosen to replace Koepka for the Americans at Whistling Straits.
The 25-year-old Burns is well on his way to becoming one of the game’s under-30 stars, marked by his meteoric ascent in the Official World Golf Ranking, where he now sits at No. 11. Last season, Burns won the Valspar Championship, had two runner-up finishes, a third and a T4. Not only did he get to the Tour Championship but he ended the season 18th on the FedEx Cup points list.
And he didn’t slow down once the 2021-22 season started. He won at Sanderson Farms in October and finished T5 at the CJ Cup and T7 at the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open. He’ll get a serious look from captain Davis Love III for the U.S. Presidents Cup team this fall. It would be his first team competition as a professional but likely not his last.
If Twitter gets your attention and a substantial amount of your time, you should already know that Homa is a must-follow. But while he makes a lot of noise on social media, Homa is the least talked-about player with three victories on the PGA Tour.
Not only that, the 31-year-old Homa has a win in three of the last four seasons, two of which came at major championship venues. Homa earned his first victory in 2019 at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte and his second was last February at Riviera at the Genesis Invitational. And he won the opening event of the 2021-22 season last fall at the Fortinet Championship in Napa, Calif., with a pair of 65s on the weekend.
Maybe now he will have more followers in person.
Not every PGA Tour player who becomes a star finds immediate success upon entering life as a professional. Gooch is a late bloomer by today’s standards but at age 30, Gooch’s stock is finally on the rise.
His pedigree is solid but not spectacular. Gooch was at Oklahoma State for three seasons, starting in 2010, and played in every one of the Cowboys’ tournaments as a freshman, on a loaded team with future Tour players Peter Uihlein, Kevin Tway and Morgan Hoffmann. As a professional, he’s toiled on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and was slowed down by an appendix surgery in 2018.
Gooch started working with instructor Boyd Summerhays — himself an Oklahoma State alum — the week of the Players Championship last March and finished a surprising 5th. He broke through in the fall, with a T4 at Fortinet and T5 at the CJ Cup before winning the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Ga., vaulting him to No. 32 in the OWGR. Patience is only a virtue if it pays off.
Erik van Rooyen
If nothing else, van Rooyen is raising eyebrows for that magnificent mustache of his. Not since Gary McCord has a Tour player’s upper lip received so much attention. But it wasn’t van Rooyen’s grooming that opened eyes at the end of the 2020-21 season.
After winning the Barracuda Championship in August for his first PGA Tour title, van Rooyen finished 7th at the Northern Trust and 5th at the BMW Championship to make it to the Tour Championship, which is a meaningful accomplishment for a player in his first full season on the PGA Tour.
That leads one to believe that van Rooyen could be on his way to becoming the next South African star, although Garrick Higgo might have something to say about that. You can bet that International captain Trevor Immelman has both eyes on van Rooyen for the Presidents Cup later this year.
While some people who follow the game will have heard of Pereira, everyone on the Korn Ferry Tour knows him all too well. The 25-year-old native of Chile won three times on the Korn Ferry last year, earning him the coveted automatic promotion to the PGA Tour, only the 12th player in that tour’s history to do so.
In his fourth PGA Tour start in July following the promotion, Pereira was T5 at the Barbasol Championship followed with T6 at the 3M Open. The next week, he finished just outside the medals, T4, at the Olympic golf competition. And he started the current season with a third-place finish at the Fortinet.
Pereira, who played college golf at Texas Tech, is not new to professional golf. He played five events on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica in 2015 and a full schedule on that Tour in 2016 before gaining access to the Korn Ferry Tour the following season.
If you’ve paid your dues by age 25, the horizon can become breathtakingly broad.
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This story was originally published January 12, 2022 4:14 PM.