This year’s US Open was huge.
While Tiger Woods was busy waiting for his golf club to fall back down to earth, his 21-year-old compatriot Jordan Spieth was making history, becoming the fourth youngest player to win two majors in the same year and heralding a new super rivalry between himself and Rory McIlroy.
Speith's composure around greens which came in for stinging criticism by many of his vanquished and much more experienced pros belied his tender years - and frighteningly, there’re still two more majors to go.
Although he’s far from the only young sportsman with a big year ahead of him. Here are the other wunderkinds set to make a big dent in their respective domains fairly soon.
Thunder-stealing Speith may have ultimately ran away with most of the headlines but there was another major All-American success story at this year’s US Open: Cole Hammer, the wonderfully named 15-year-old high schooler who not only qualified for the tournament but managed to beat former champ Tiger Woods’ score (probably best not to tell him). Factor in Rickie Fowler and with this much budding golf talent stateside, it can’t be too long before the US Ryder Cup team wrestles back dominance from European hands.
Toro Rosso’s 17-year-old racing driver is the youngest in World Championship GP history. Introduced to karting at the tender age of four and a half (his dad, former F1 driver Jos, clearly thought bikes-with-stabilisers was a waste of time), he’s picked up 10 points in his first competitive season. To put that into perspective, he’s currently beating former World Champions Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso (but then, that’s not been difficult this season).
We’re not sure where football teams get the money for radars from, or how they use them, but according to reports, many of them are currently tracking this Koke. Already a Spanish regular and an ever-present in Diego Simeone’s dogged Athletico Madrid side, the 23-year-old has been hailed as the new Xavi, and with the Barca man now no longer an international player, he’s shaping up to have a pivotal role in filling that current black hole for his national side.
Jamie and Craig Overton
Twins: God’s version of two for the price of one. And especially useful when it turns out that they’re good at sport. 21 year-old Somerset twins Jamie and Craig Overton recently celebrated their first call-up to the England setup and every cricket fan is crossing all their appendages hoping they’ll be our version of the uber-successful Aussie Waugh twins, who terrorised the Poms throughout the nineties. Craig is an all-rounder, while Jamie is a tall fast bowler: should they line up together, they’ll become the first twins to represent England in the same match - and we’d bet it won’t be too long.
It’s been a rough few years for US men’s tennis, clearly still suffering an Andy Roddick-sized hangover since the big man hung up his cap (backwards, obviously). But even he couldn’t match the greats like McEnroe and Connors. What the US needs is a new hero. A world class firebrand. Someone to dominate the sport for years to come, and in Frances Tiafoe, they might just have it. Born in Maryland to parents from Sierra Leone, the rangy, powerful all-rounder is widely considered the great hope of the US men’s game and turned pro in April, jumping up a gigantic 1000 spots in the process. Still only 17, let’s just pray he’s not the tennis world’s answer to Freddy Adu.
Another teenager to turn pro in his respective field this year, at just 15, Yan Bingtao became the first millennial to turn pro in snooker. Which regardless of what happens to his career now, is one hell of an achievement. Already a household name in his native China having won the Amateur World Snooker Championship aged 14, you might not hear from him on these shores for a while but there’s a good bet he’ll be smashing reds into pockets at the Crucible sooner or later.
Just think - four years ago no British cyclist had won the Tour De France and now we're gutted if we don't win it. Our expectations won't lesser any with Simon Yates, 22, set to be chasing that yellow jersey himself at some stage (a hill stage ideally). As at home on the track as he is the asphalt, there’s a touch of the Wiggins about him, going someway to explain how he won gold medal at the 2013 Track World Championships and finished third in the recent Tour of Britain. Yates races alongside his twin brother Adam for Aussie team Orica GreenEDGE and is growing into quite the rider.
Andre De Grasse
Will anyone ever dethrone sprinter and part-time Virgin Media star Usain Bolt? Canadian sprint prodigy Andre De Grasse is hoping so. The upcoming track star, 20, broke records in Oregon last weekend, running the 100m in 9.75 secs and later the 200m in 19.58 secs, which was the best sprint double in NCAA Championships history. But not before calling out Bolt and claiming he can beat him in the forthcoming Worlds. Another showman with a mouth as quick as his feet? Richard Branson might just have a new best mate.
In truth, it’s not quite happened for Sam Burgess at Bath yet. Not that switching codes from league to union was ever going to be easy, particularly playing as a forward. Nor is it for want of trying (he’s as hardworking as they come) – it’s just that big things were expected of a player who Hollywood star and former chairman at South Sydney Rabbitohs Russell Crowe narrated a whole documentary about. However, signs during the last few months of his season were enough to suggest he’s finally starting to grow into his own and command games as he did in league. What's more, if he carries this form into next season, he’ll be soon be knocking on Stuart Lancaster’s England dressing room door, if not taking the hinges off.