Nick Dougherty selects five players to watch on the European Tour in 2018
Last Updated: 29/12/17 4:12pm
Ahead of another busy European Tour schedule in 2018, Nick Dougherty picks out five young stars he expects to see lifting some silverware ...
After a distinguished amateur career, Connor turned professional following the Walker Cup in September and immediately impressed with top-15 finishes at the Portugal Masters and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
The young Scot is managed by Modest Golf, and their association with Niall Horan has ensured that Connor already enjoys a high profile.
I spent some time with him during the Dunhill and he's clearly level-headed, mature and very strong mentally. And his performance throughout the week proved he has got all the shots in his locker.
I'm confident he'll enjoy a successful first full season on the European Tour and he's more than capable of winning some silverware in 2018.
Sam is a protege of Ian Poulter, and being mentored by a player of Ian's stature counts for so much in the early stages of your career, and it can do wonders for your belief and confidence.
I had that from Nick Faldo when I was an up-and-coming youngster and his influence was still strong as I made my way onto the European Tour.
Nick's support made me much more comfortable and I suspect it will be a similar situation for Sam as he continues to learn from Ian Poulter.
He's got an excellent all-round game, and he earned his card for 2018 with a dominant performance in the Final Stage of Qualifying School, cruising to an eight-shot victory in Spain.
I've been tipping Eddie to break through for some time now, but I'm a huge fan of his game and his attitude and the way he finished the 2017 season on the European Tour was hugely impressive.
Eddie made the cut in only one event from December through to May, but he then made four in a row including a tie for 16th at the US Open.
A share of fifth at the Czech Masters in early September then prompted a superb run of results, with a pair of T3s in Holland and Portugal followed by another three top-10 finishes which booked his place in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
Eddie would end the season just outside the top 40 on the Race to Dubai, the best result of his career, although I felt he really should have won his first event on the European Tour.
I'm certain it's only a matter of time before we see Pepperell hoisting a trophy. His game has become so well-rounded, and he's too good a player to go another year without a win.
Sometimes he can be guilty of over-thinking and over-analysing his performance, which isn't good for a productive outcome. But he's a smart lad who's switched on, and I'm expecting him to build on his brilliant last three months of 2017.
Aaron enjoyed a strong amateur career, and his background is fairly unique as he is coached by a pair of YouTubers - Piers and Andy from Me and My Golf.
These guys lead the way in golf coaching on social and digital media platforms and they are fantastic at what they do. And now they have the added credibility of helping a class player to earn his full playing rights on the European Tour.
He did that by winning three times on the Challenge Tour in 2017, and he also posted encouraging top-10 finishes on the main Tour in Denmark and Spain.
Aaron prides himself on his accuracy, he's got huge determination and hunger, and he is surrounded by a great team. Everything bodes well for him to enjoy a successful debut season in the big league, and his top-10 finish at the Joburg Open gives him some good momentum for the year ahead.
Consistency was a huge asset for Pulkkanen on the Challenge Tour last season as he won the Road to Oman title with plenty to spare having made the cut in 16 of his 20 starts.
The Challenge Tour has produced a number of major champions over the years, US Open winner Brooks Koepka being the most recent, and while it's too early to say if Pulkannen can hit those heights, his performances in 2017 should stand him in good stead.
Getting your card through the second tier in Europe is not easy, and it takes some serious golf to finish in that crucial top 15. And to do it so comfortably shows Pulkkanen has the ability, and the mental strength, to compete on the European Tour.
And the Finn has proved that already, leading the Joburg Open at the halfway stage before going on to finish in a tie for third - a pretty good result for someone making only his sixth career start on the European Tour.
Being the reigning Road to Oman champion should get our attention, and I'm looking forward to seeing if he can maintain that quality and consistency in 2018.