In his first PGA Tour event as a pro, Jon Rahm fired a 7-under-par 64 to take the first-round lead at the Quicken Loans National. It got me thinking, who are the players leaving college this year that are likely to be successful on the PGA Tour in the near future? Here are four to watch:
JON RAHM (Arizona State): The key indicators of success are there for the Spaniard. Having won 11 collegiate tournaments, Rahm is a two-time recipient of the Ben Hogan Award for being the top college golfer. He was the Low Amateur last week at the U.S. Open, tying for 23rd and he can keep pace with the PGA Tour’s biggest hitters, averaging 306 yards off the tee at Oakmont, far greater than the field average of 286 yards. He already has a pair of top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this season. And his 7-under-par 64 at the Quicken Loans National in his first round as a professional is evidence of a smooth transition from the amateur ranks.
LEE MCCOY (Georgia): His college coach said McCoy just needed to get out of his own way. He’s had the physical tools, but his fiery temper was capable of destroying a good round. A superb senior season at UGA, in which he was an NCAA First-Team All-American and SEC Player of the Year, served notice that McCoy may have a handle on his emotions. If that is the case, expect more events like the 2016 Valspar Championship, where McCoy placed fourth, ahead of Jordan Spieth, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar.
BEAU HOSSLER (Texas): Hossler was ready to turn pro before a shoulder injury derailed him at this year’s NCAA Championship. He is looking at a four-month rehabilitation after surgery on his torn labrum, creating a large degree of uncertainty about his immediate future. But whether he makes his pro debut this fall or sometime later, Hossler has the credentials of a star in the making. He burst onto the world stage as a 17-year-old when he led the U.S. Open for a time before fading to 29th place. He received the 2016 Fred Haskins Award, voted by peers, coaches and golf media as the most outstanding collegiate golfer of the year. He was a Ben Hogan Award finalist. He was the Big 12 Player of the Year. The list goes on, but you get the point. When he’s healthy again, watch out for Beau Hossler.
ROBBY SHELTON (Alabama): Shelton has bypassed his senior season, heading straight to the professional ranks. After a long run of success in junior golf and college golf, Shelton knows what it takes to win. He won a school-record seven times at Alabama and has three of the four lowest single-season scoring averages in Crimson Tide history; this, from a school that has turned out a large number of Tour pros. In 34 career college tournaments, Shelton has only finished outside the top 20 four times. He closes out his final college season ranked eighth by Golfstat. In his limited PGA Tour experience, Shelton missed the cut in his pro debut at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, but he did tie for third at the 2015 Barbasol Championship, played opposite the Open Championship. More results like that seem forthcoming.
The Next Four, also considered for this list: Aaron Wise (Oregon), Charlie Danielson (Illinois), Jordan Niebrugge (Oklahoma State) and Matt NeSmith (South Carolina).
Is there such thing as a sure bet in professional sports? The path to stardom is littered with “Can’t Miss Kids” who missed. But if you’re looking for the closest thing, these four players are a good starting point.