Performance of Players Under 30 on the European Tour

By | November 23, 2018

With the 2018 season of the European Tour just finished, and the 2019 season has just started in Hong Kong, I thought it would be useful to have a look at the performance of players under 30 years of age who have played at least 10 European Tour events over the last two years.

The reason for this? Mainly just to get a sense of how younger, so-called ‘up and coming’ players are performing. We all want to identify value and winners, and this just gives a summary of how a group of players are faring in European Tour events.

The Excel download is available here: GolfOdds.Info – European Tour Players Under 30 Analysis

Why Under 30 Players?

Most players under 30 have yet to reach their golfing prime. Very likely their games have progressed gradually, with a definite upward trend visible. This list I’ve produced is my way of examining these players, and highlighting some of them into the loose set of categories I’ve outlined below.

Whatever category a player may fall into, from a betting perspective a win is a win, whether it’s in The Open or the Trophee Hassan II makes no difference.

What is useful is to try and highlight some players with potential in each of the loosely defined sections below.

With regard to potential major winners these two very useful articles are worth having a look at:

https://www.pga.com/news/golf-buzz/average-age-of-golf-major-champion-32-years-old

https://www.golfdigest.com/story/the-british-open-produces-the-oldest-winners-by-a-large-margin-why

Over the past few years the likes of Koepka, Spieth, Thomas and McIlroy have reduced the average major winner’s age, while Zach Johnson, Darren Clarke, Mickelson and Stenson have shown that players at or near their fifth decade is no barrier to winning golf’s oldest major. So with the average major winning age coming down, it make sense to have a look for golfers yet to reach thirty who can contend in a major.

The next level down from major winners is players trying to win one for the first time. Typically you’ll have a player who has won multiple times, maybe on different continents, and has maybe been in the thick of the action at least one major. Competing well in WGC events is also noteworthy. They may be a significant step down from the four biggest prizes, but the smaller but nonetheless highly competitive fields do make WGC events highly prized accolades, and show players can win amongst the best.

Then there’s the players just trying to win on the main tour, along with others trying to follow up on a first success to prove it’s no fluke. Some who have yet to win may be over rated. One time winners may be looking for that extra consistency that puts them in contention more often.

Some caveats – the output from my queries does not include matchplay events. In events where it’s strokeplay followed by a knockout format I divide the tournament into two – the strokeplay and knockout are treated as two separate events. For cuts made, if the tournament has no cut all players in the field are recorded as a made-cut by me (unless the player WDs/DQs).

This list encompasses not just full European Tour members, but also non-members who have competed in tournaments recognised by the Tour as counting events; e.g. Rickie Fowler just makes the list as he’s a few weeks shy of his 30th birthday and has played in enough WGCs and majors to be included.

There’s several players worth noting that I’ve highlighted below. Some may get more exposure than others, but most are trending in the right direction.

First, some basic observations (remember, just players under 30 with at least 10 European Tour starts over the last 2 years).

Most starts:

Haydn Porteous (61), Alexander Bjork (60).

Most wins:

Matt Wallace (4), Matthew Fitzpatrick (3), Tommy Fleetwood (3), Jon Rahm (3), Brooks Koepka (3).

Most top-10s*:

Tommy Fleetwood (19 from 44 starts).

Most cuts made:

Jordan Smith (42), Lucas Bjerregaard (41), Thorbjorn Olesen (41), Haotong Li (41), Alexander Bjork (41).

Most missed cuts:

Zander Lombard (32), Renato Paratore (31)

Percentage Top 5s*:

Tony Finau (54.55%, 6/11), Rory McIlroy (54.17%, 13/24).

Percentage Top 10s*:

Tony Finau (54.55%, 6/11), Rory McIlroy (54.17%, 13/24).

Percentage cuts made:

Tony Finau (100%), Brooks Koepka (100%), Rickie Fowler (100%).

Percentage missed cuts:

Petr Dedek (0.00%), Nathan Holman (18.18%), Gavin Moynihan (20.00%)

* Includes wins

 

Established Players

There’s a few players who have established themselves over the last couple of years as fixtures on the European Tour.

Thomas Detry tends to get mentioned in broadcasts as someone who will go on and win tournaments, but so far he’s come up short. In terms of the number of starts and his age, there’s no real difference between the Belgian and a few players of a very close to his birthdate:

Player

DoB

Age

Starts

Wins

2nd-5th

6th-10th

Top-10 %

Cuts Made %

Thomas Detry

13-Jan-93

25

54

0

4

4

14.81%

66.67%

Jordan Smith

09-Nov-92

26

58

1

2

5

15.52%

72.41%

Adrian Otaegui*

21-Nov-92

26

59

0*

4

3

11.86%

67.80%

Paul Dunne

26-Nov-92

25

53

1

2

3

11.32%

71.70%

Alexander Bjork

07-Jun-90

28

60

1

5

3

15.00%

68.33%

*Astute observers will know that Otaegui does have two wins to his name – The Paul Lawrie Matchplay and the Belgian Knockout, but as I’ve mentioned above, matchplay/knockout events are not included, but they are worth mentioning in this example.

What’s striking is the consistency between all 5 players in nearly every category. Indeed 4 of them were born within about 2.5 months of each other. Detry’s 4 places between 2nd and 5th shows he’s not far away from a maiden title. Smith has started to show some form again in recent months, whereas Dunne has stalled a bit. Nevertheless these 5 players have very similar profiles over the last 2 years.

It’s perhaps these 5 players who have shown enough consistency over two years, but have yet to elevate themselves to the next level of serial winners (Otaegui apart). First find players who can make cuts; then look at those who can contend, and the wins will surely follow.

Serial Winners

The level up from having your first win is to get multiple wins on the board. Matt Wallace is now firmly in this category, as is Matt Fitzpatrick, who despite an indifferent year has still managed a win and currently sits 3rd in Hong Kong after 2 rounds as I write this. Wallace has been very impressive, but his 4 wins so far have come in weaker events. However two were courtesy via play-offs, so he clearly has the bottle to win. His second place last week in the DP World Tour Championship has moved him to 44th in the world, so all 4 major invites should be coming his way by Christmas.

Fitzpatrick has now won 5 times on the European Tour, despite having only turned 24 a few months ago. I do wonder if he has the power required to compete in the majors though. Just one top-10 in 12 major starts as a professional to date, although lots of time on his side.

Two Danes also fall into this multiple wins category, Thorbjorn Olesen and Lucas Bjerregaard. The former now has 5 European Tour titles after winning in Italy back in late spring, while Bjerregaard picked up his second win at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship after Tyrrell Hatton’s collapse. As for Hatton, he’s been ultra-consistent without actually winning again. He’s played a lot in the States and has been far from disgraced, with T6 at the US Open and T10 at the PGA amongst the highlights.  Clearly he’s got the game but there’s always a nagging doubt about his temperament.

You can maybe squeeze Eddie Pepperell into this category as well now, two wins and a 6th at Carnoustie show he’s progressing. He’s now at the lofty heights of 38th in the world, so a first trip to The Masters beckons in the new year. Whether he has the length and consistency off the tee to compete with the very best remains to be seen.

Likely WGC/Major Contenders

The next step up from winning run of the mill tour events is getting across the finish line with the world’s best in the field.

Players like Kiradech Aphibarnrat have edged into this category, his win at the World Super 6 in Perth earning him a 4th European Tour success. With making the cut in 3 of the 4 majors this year, plus two top-5s in WGC events, the Thai is starting to contend in the big tournaments. No top-10s yet in his 14 majors but definitely one to watch.

Li Haotong is still amazingly only 23. He bagged his second European Tour win at the start of the year in Dubai, and had a great chance of winning the Turkish Airlines Open before succumbing to Rose in a play-off. Like Aphibarnrat he’s starting to find his feet after playing regularly in these bigger tournaments.

I can also include Olesen here, who had top-10 finishes at The Open in 2012 and The Masters in 2013, but nothing since. However, T3 at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and T7 at the HSBC Champions demonstrate the turnaround in his game this year.

Certainly a few US based players were included in my query results due to competing in mostly the majors and WGC over the 2 year period. Among them is Bryson Dechambeau, who is taking all the plaudits after a superb run in the FedEx play-offs, but it’s the younger (by one month) Xander Schauffele who is getting the results in the WGCs and majors. He’s only played in seven majors but already he’s finished T5 and T6 at the US Open, and T2 behind Molinari at Carnoustie. Add in his play-off win over Tony Finau at the WGC in China and you have a player with a game primes to start winning golf’s biggest prizes.

Players Turning 30 Next Year

A few notable players will be turning 30 over the next few months. Fowler, as already mentioned, has a total of 8 wins to his name – 4 on the PGA Tour, 2 on the European Tour, the Korea Open from 2011 and his last victory he’ll be defending next week at the Hero World Challenge. It was three years ago, just before Fowler won The Players Championship, shortly after an anonymous poll named him and Poulter as the two most over-rated players on the PGA Tour. Fowler needs to start turning these high finishes into wins if he doesn’t want this moniker back.

McIlroy reaches 30 next May, and it’s been 4 years since he won his last major. He’s recently laid out his rough plans for next year that clearly revolve around the majors, and in particular Augusta National. 23 career wins to date but only one in the past two years (this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational) doesn’t make for great reading, but still superbly consistent.

Others reaching 30 includes Andrew Johnston and Tony Finau, with wins sadly lacking for both. The American is certainly consistent but has only ever played on European soil 4 times, 3 Opens (T18 2016, T27 2017, T9 2018) and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (T10) after the Ryder Cup. For Johnston, the hype has sadly outperformed his golf, with a poor spell in America in 2017 continuing into this year. I’ll be watching with interest what the new slimline version has to offer in 2019.

So there you have it. Nothing earth shattering I know, but a useful summary to see where a few under 30 players are at with their careers. Some will kick on over the next 12 months while others regress. In summary:

 

Established Players

Serial Winners

WGC/Major Contenders

Players Turning 30 Next Year

Thomas Detry

Jordan Smith

Adrian Otaegui

Paul Dunne

Alexander Bjork

Matt Wallace

Matt Fitzpatrick

Thorbjorn Olesen

Lucas Bjerregaard

Tyrrell Hatton

Eddie Pepperell

Xander Schauffele

Kiradech Aphibarnrat

Li Haotong

Rickie Fowler

Rory McIlroy

Tony Finau

Andrew Johnston