Our bold list of 11 lesser-known PGA Tour players we expect big things from in the 2013-2014 season
Matsuyama didn't play particularly well at the Presidents Cup, but the fact he was at Muirfield Village after turning pro six months earlier tells you everything you need to know about the 21-year-old. After top 10s at the U.S. and British Opens, Matsuyama will play a lot more PGA Tour events this year, including the season opener, the Frys.com Open.
We'll stay in the 21-and-under category and focus on Cantlay, who was on everyone's radar after he fired a 60 at the 2011 Travelers Championship while he was still an amateur. Injuries have slowed him since, including a bad back which kept him sidelined for three months in 2013. The former All-American at UCLA returned to play in one Web.com Tour Finals event, though, and a runner-up guaranteed him a PGA Tour card in 2013-2014. If he's healthy, there's reason to believe he could be this season's Jordan Spieth.
Remember that young guy who made an ace at Olympic Club (left) on his way to a T-4 at the 2012 U.S. Open? Well, he won the Web.com Tour Finals money list making him fully exempt -- including a spot in the Players Championship -- for the upcoming PGA Tour season. Still 24, the LSU product and winner of the 2011 NCAA Championship led the Web.com Tour in scoring average (68.94) and greens in regulation (75 percent).
After a solid rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2012, Noh had a brutal campaign in 2013. But he took advantage of the new Web.com Tour Finals by winning the second-to-last event of the developmental tour's season to keep his PGA Tour status for 2013-2014. Considering how many big-time events he's played in, it's amazing that Noh is still only 22. It's tough to live up to expectations when you win a European Tour event at 18, but don't be surprised if his big breakout season comes this year.
As a PGA Tour rookie in 2013, the Oklahoma State product finished 96th on the money list and had three top 10s, including a T-5 at the Bryon Nelson. Hoffmann is the only player returning from last year's sleeper list. In other words, we're expecting even more from him this season.
The 26-year-old Clemson graduate led the Web.com Tour in all-around ranking and his eight top 10s and just under $400,000 in regular season earnings were second-most on tour. After winning twice on the developmental tour this time around, Martin appears much more ready for a second stint on the PGA Tour.
The Georgia Tech product won twice on the Web.com Tour in 2013, including the season finale. That made him second on the Web.com Tour Finals money list after finishing third in earnings during the regular season. Like a fellow Raleigh, N.C., native, Webb Simpson, Chesson certainly has a name that will be easy to remember, especially if he keeps up his good play.
Cauley seemed to be a can't-miss prospect when he qualified for the PGA Tour in 2011 solely via sponsor's exemptions -- a path taken by such stars as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. But things haven't come as easy as expected in his first two full seasons on the PGA Tour. At 23, he still has plenty of time to make the adjustment.
We can't have all twentysomethings on here, can we? The 35-year-old led the Web.com Tour in putting average and birdie average and was fourth on regular season money list. If nothing else, Loar will probably be one of the PGA Tour's longest hitters this season, having averaged 309.3 yards off the tee in 2013.
Stroud earned a career-best of more than $1.6 million on the PGA Tour in 2013, thanks in large part to four top-10 finishes, including a runner-up at the Travelers Championship. Don't remember that event? Stroud was the guy who chipped in for birdie on the final holeof regulation (left) to get into a playoff. He'd lose to Ken Duke, but it was still one of the more remarkable shots of the year.
Speaking of Ken Duke, we'll end with Walker, our pick to follow Duke as the next late bloomer to earn a PGA Tour win. Walker has 11 top 10s the past two years, including a first runner-up at the 2013 Greenbrier Classic and he's improved his money-list standing each of the past six seasons. After narrowly missing out on qualifying for his first Tour Championship, we'd be surprised if he doesn't make it to East Lake next year.