It's the Final Countdown.
In Part 1 we looked at the top 100 through 150 golfers for 2019 PGA TOUR fantasy leagues.
In Part 2 we looked at Nos. 51 through 99.
Now it's time for the Top 50 heading into 2019.
When you look at expected money earned per start, this is the range of golfers where it becomes highly variable. When you are dealing with top golfers you get a higher percentage of top-heavy finishes. Some years a golfer may catch a few good breaks and turn a pair of third-place finishes into a pair of wins. That could be worth $1 million or more just on its own. Every stroke matters, especially when in contention.
That is just a reminder that you shouldn't hang on the actual amount of these projected earnings. They are meant to be a rough guideline of where I expect golfers to land in the pecking order by year's end. I do try to factor in things like historical consistency, age, stat trends, and number of expected starts on the PGA TOUR.
Here we go...
2018 SG Rank: 52
5-Year SG Rank: 75
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,521,050
Notes: May not always show up strong in raw strokes gained data but he doesn't back down when he's in the mix. He's gained strokes off-the-tee in 17 of his 23 career ShotLink starts which is the recipe for consistency. From there, he has four starts where he's gained 5+ strokes with the putter. Putting is the strength of his game, really. Also inside the top 40 in the OWGR, that will allow him plenty of big-pursed starts which will lead to some big paydays like the T4 we just saw at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
#49 Billy Horschel
2018 SG Rank: 38
5-Year SG Rank: 57
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,545,560
Notes: Despite his win in 2017 he was trending in the wrong direction. That seeped into 2018 but he found his groove in the middle of the season. Since a top 5 at the Heritage, he's gone on to gain 4+ strokes over the field in 12 of his latest 19 starts. Horschel appears to be back in business.
#48 Kyle Stanley
2018 SG Rank: 46
5-Year SG Rank: 61
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,563,500
Notes: Backed up his comeback season with a second straight trip to East Lake. The 31-year-old is comfortable with his game and there is no reason to expect a decline in 2019.
#47 Kevin Kisner
2018 SG Rank: 88
5-Year SG Rank: 53
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,591,000
Notes: Played through a shoulder injury for parts of 2018. Not sure when it happened but he lost strokes to the field in 9-of-14 starts before a top 10 at The RSM Classic. That's a promising sign that he may return to form in 2019. Kisner is someone that will generally earn more than his raw SG stats suggest because his game doesn't suit all venues. When he does head to courses that suit accuracy over distance then he generally pops with a big finish.
#46 Sungjae Im
2018 SG Rank: 48
5-Year SG Rank: 111
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,600,100
Notes: The 20-year-old Korean tore through the Web.com Tour last year to lead the money list. That will give him plenty of quality starts in 2019. His game is well suited for accuracy tracks so he may not be a plug-and-play when the longer, tougher courses start joining the rotation in 2019. Still, he's proving early that he wants to peg it as much as possible. He's already racked up six starts this season with highlights being a T4 at the Safeway Open and a T15 at the Shriners.
#45 Daniel Berger
2018 SG Rank: 37
5-Year SG Rank: 30
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,620,000
Notes: The 25-year-old posted three straight seasons of $3 million or more in earnings before last year when he settled for $1.7 million. It was a mid-season wrist injury that derailed him although he did manage to play through it at times. Didn't peg it once during the fall which is actually great news for his prospects in 2019. He is extremely valuable in leagues that use 2018 earnings as a salary cap because if he's fully healthy in 2019 then he'll shatter that mark.
#44 Beau Hossler
2018 SG Rank: 51
5-Year SG Rank: 65
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,620,500
Notes: His 5-year SG Rank looks worse than it really is due to him playing through injury when he was first trying to earn his status. Last year's SG Rank of 51 is a better indicator or where he currently stands. Add in his pedigree and age and suddenly Hossler quickly swerves into the fast lane to breakout success. The Texas alum does well off the tee but it's his putting that puts him in elite territory. He already has 10 tournaments where he's gained 4+ strokes with the putter. His iron play is a bit too spotty to have superstar status but if that changes then he'd be a force to reckon with.
#43 Ryan Moore
2018 SG Rank: 44
5-Year SG Rank: 40
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,661,000
Notes: The 36-year-old has cracked the FedExCup Playoffs in all 12 seasons it has run. He's landed between $1.1 million and $3.7 million every year on TOUR. Gamers looking for a reliable draft pick should give Moore their full attention. You know what you are getting (22 to 24 starts with roughly 10 of them going for top 25s).
#42 Zach Johnson
2018 SG Rank: 29
5-Year SG Rank: 28
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,685,000
Notes: Just split ties with his longtime caddie which could go one of two directions in 2019. Actually, there are even more paths than that. One, he could go out and play carefree with a new bagman and have a revival season. Two, he could try too hard to prove he's still got the A-level tools and fall flat. Three, he could have a connection with his new caddie out of the gate but have a short-lived run of success. Four, it's really tough to predict human interaction so we shouldn't even try. New caddie or not, ZJ still deserved attention in all fantasy leagues. He' settled for $1.7 to 2.3 million in each of the last three years but tallied $3+ million in four straight seasons before that. I personally don't fall head over heels about a lot of 42-year-olds but on paper ZJ still deserves top-30 pick consideration.
#41 Keegan Bradley
2018 SG Rank: 31
5-Year SG Rank: 38
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,711,000
Notes: One of the best ball-strikers on the planet, Keegan has finished 60th or better in the FedExCup standings in 7-of-8 seasons on TOUR. He returned to the winner's circle late in 2018 so confidence won't be an issue anytime soon. Best yet, Bradley has posted 24+ starts each and every year he's played on the big stage.
2018 SG Rank: 40
5-Year SG Rank: 45
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,717,000
Notes: The definition of an ATM. CH3 has collected at least $1.2 million for 17 straight seasons now. It's really 18 in a row since he's already eclipsed that mark in the fall. Just when the 39-year-old looked to be losing his edge this summer he then kicks it back into high gear at the start of the new season. He finished T5 at the CIMB Classic and then found a WIN at The RSM Classic. The days of 30-start seasons are a thing of the past, but Howell is still making plenty of starts each season and he's showing very little sign of stopping. Currently ranked 1st in the FedExCup.
#39 Ian Poulter
2018 SG Rank: 42
5-Year SG Rank: 48
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,726,000
Notes: Looking at last year's ranking I had Poulter pegged for the old "Ryder Cup Year" narrative. Whether the RC had any impact on his performance or not, anyone that drafted him was surely pleased with his 16-for-20 season that earned $2.7 million. That set a new career high for the Englishman. You know the drill if you are playing in a league that is based off last year's earnings... don't follow the money. In other formats, he is still worth a look in this general range. The downside is his lack of PGA TOUR appearances. Last year he made 20 starts which also tied a career high on the PGA TOUR for him.
#38 Bubba Watson
2018 SG Rank: 41
5-Year SG Rank: 32
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,759,000
Notes: What a difference a year can make. At this time last year he was 89th in the OWGR and many were wondering if he'd recover from the year of Volvik. Watson has a different story for his resurgence as he dealt with some health issues and also had his wife deal with some health stuff that required him to become more of a full-time dad in 2017. Watson proved that he still has gas in the tank, winning three times in 2018. The 40-year-old also joked years ago that he'd hang it up when he reached 10 wins...but here he stands with 12 TOUR wins to his name. Watson finished the season ranked 5th in SG Off-the-Tee but outside the top 110 in the three other SG categories.
#37 Matt Kuchar
2018 SG Rank: 35
5-Year SG Rank: 17
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,770,000
Notes: The 40-year-old has kids that are now approaching their teenage years. For most that means a countdown to the Champions Tour begins but Kuchar has other plans. After a sub-par season last year he returned to the winner's circle in the fall. Historically Kooch is a top-10 machine (99-of-428 starts) but last season he found just four of them in 24 tries. Where did the dropoff come? Well, he's lost 0.5 strokes off-the-tee per event over the last 20 starts. His baseline since 2012 is gaining 0.6 strokes so that's a massive 1.1 shot swing off-the-tee alone. He's always been one of the shorter hitters out here but he's continued to lose yardage which is going to make things harder. His career track record makes him worth a look in this range but I would personally pass on him in most season-long formats.
#36 Sergio Garcia
2018 SG Rank: 92
5-Year SG Rank: 18
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,775,000
Notes: They say form is temporary but class is permanent. Every so often someone like Sergio comes along to remind us that is true. After a 7-for-15 season on the PGA TOUR he got his act together just in time for the Ryder Cup. He carried that form in the fall on the Euro Tour. In fact, he ended the calendar year with five straight top 10s in worldwide stroke-play events. Where is the downside with Garcia? Well, he hasn't eclipsed 17 PGA TOUR starts in a single season since 2008. You are likely getting the bare minimum allowed of 15 starts in 2019 which makes him less appealing in leagues without many bench spots.
#35 Louis Oosthuizen
2018 SG Rank: 30
5-Year SG Rank: 27
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,776,000
Notes: Last seasons consisted of a lot of top 30s. Twelve of them in 17 starts to be exact, plus a T31 thrown in there. Consistency was not the problem but he did manage just three top 10s and one of them came in the Zurich team event. The South African picked up the pace in the fall with a T5 at the CIMB and a solo third at the Nedbank... He then parlayed that momentum into an emotional win at his home open. Oosthy didn't pick up any more podiums in major championships this year but he remained solid with top 30s in three of the four. Similar to Garcia, you won't get much more than the minimum number of starts since he does keep a duel schedule, overseas.
#34 Luke List
2018 SG Rank: 33
5-Year SG Rank: 44
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,779,560
Notes: He doesn't have the efficiency numbers of some in this range but he makes up for it with VOLUME. List has made 24, 27, 31, and 29 starts in his four seasons on TOUR. Last year was easily the best with a new personal best in Top 10s (5) and Money Earned ($2.7 million). List has 10 events where he's been inside the top 10 thru 54 holes. He's finished T18 or better in all of them and top 10 in eight of them. That kind of moxie will eventually lead to a win, and likely very soon.
#33 Adam Scott
2018 SG Rank: 34
5-Year SG Rank: 16
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,814,550
Notes: The Aussie checked in at #28 in last year's Top 150 ranking. That's pretty close to where he ended up, ranking 34th in 2018 strokes gained. Scott made a big effort by making 21 starts last season, a new career high for him. His flat stick remains the issue as he's lost an average of 1.2 strokes putting each event, over his last 20 ShotLink starts. The rest of his game is still world class. Scott has had stellar putting seasons before so there is plenty of upside to drafting him in this range without much downside. His putting can't really get any worse.
#32 Joaquin Niemann
2018 SG Rank: 47
5-Year SG Rank: 43
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,820,600
Notes: It's no secret that ball-striking is the name of the game when it comes to long-term success. Niemann grades as an elite striker and he's still getting his feet wet. Niemann has gained strokes off-the-tee in every one of his ShotLink starts and he's gained on approach in 12-of-15 starts. Making his home in Florida, I'd expect him to get more comfortable on Stateside grasses and courses in general. as a result, I'd look for him to win at least once in 2019. Yup, I said AT LEAST one win is on the way in 2019. Big breakout potential here.
#31 Byeong Hun An
2018 SG Rank: 35
5-Year SG Rank: 51
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,853,000
Notes: Very similar profile to Niemann above. An is also an elite ball-striker that will gain heaps of strokes off-the-tee and on approach each week. He has 10 starts where he's gained 4+ strokes on approach. Got married over the holiday break and I'd expect his new wife to be very happy with their bank account by the end of 2019. He led thru 36 holes at TPC Scottsdale in 2017 and was T8 at the midpoint last year. That's an obvious spot for his potential breakthrough win.
#30 Phil Mickelson
2018 SG Rank: 28
5-Year SG Rank: 19
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,870,000
Notes: A stellar year of putting led to a boatload of cash but the decline off-the-tee is concerning for 2019. He lost more than 12 strokes off-the-tee over his last 20 starts. He's hit fewer fairways than the field in 20 of his last 25 starts. On a positive note, he still posted a top-15 rank in SG Approach last season. We may need to reserve him for short courses only moving forward, or at least venues where his errant driving won't be punished too heavily.
#29 Alex Noren
2018 SG Rank: 19
5-Year SG Rank: 29
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,928,000
Notes: The Swede has the history of playing in 60 degrees north latitude but he also has a home base in Florida so he has all weather bases covered. He struggled to perform under pressure when he didn't have full TOUR status (4 top 25s in his first 23 starts) but he's getting very comfy as of late. Last year he posted 10 top 25s on the PGA TOUR (in 18 starts). Only made 18 starts last year so the hope is we see a slight increase. Realistically, we'll probably never see him crack the 20-start barrier on the PGA TOUR. He's a proven winner so that vaults his earnings potential.
#28 Tyrrell Hatton
2018 SG Rank: 27
5-Year SG Rank: 25
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,9760,00
Notes: Went 13-for-16 during his first full season on TOUR. Seven of those doubled as top 25s and four landed inside the top 10. That helped him finish 54th in the FedExCup. Was it a transition year as he slowly leaves some of his comfortable Euro Tour events behind or will he continue to split his time across both Tours at this ratio? If we only get 16 starts a year then he becomes less appealing at the high end of drafts but the potential for big finishes in big events will be there either way.
2018 SG Rank: 22
5-Year SG Rank: 26
Projected 2019 Earnings: $1,978,000
Notes: Making his second stint on the PGA TOUR, RCB made one more start last season and also made $500K more than the season prior. It's promising that we saw him hit the 20-start marker as many Euro Tour transplants end up falling in the 15-to-17 start range. RCB does most of his heavy lifting with the putter but he holds his own in the ball-striking department. Will he also become a steady scrambler as he sees these TOUR courses for the second or third time? That would help him take the next step toward becoming a first-time TOUR winner.
#26 Cameron Champ
2018 SG Rank: 21
5-Year SG Rank: 41
Projected 2019 Earnings: $2,002,800
Notes: Taking the TOUR by storm with his elite, effortless distance. He gained 22.244 strokes off-the-tee in 15 measured rounds this fall. That is unheard of territory. For comparison, Luke List led the TOUR last year with 61.974 SG Off-the-Tee (78 measured rounds). Champ is not quite double his pace but it's close. If Champ maintained that pace but played 78 measured rounds then he'd gain roughly 115 strokes OTT. It's unlikely that Champ will go lights out with his putter all year but his standout driving is going to put him in position to have plenty of big finishes.
#25 Aaron Wise
2018 SG Rank: 38
5-Year SG Rank: 42
Projected 2019 Earnings: $2,019,500
Notes: Won the Rookie of the Year award and it wasn't too surprising for anyone that has followed his career. He won on his second try on the Mackenzie Tour. It only took him 8 starts to win on the Web circuit. He continued that trend of early wins by taking home the Byron Nelson during the 18th start of his rookie campaign. There isn't a "next level" to progress to, so how does Wise take the next step now? Perhaps winning twice in 2019?
#24 Webb Simpson
2018 SG Rank: 11
5-Year SG Rank: 21
Projected 2019 Earnings: $2,022,000
Notes: Turned a weakness into a strength by vaulting his SG Putting rank from 177th to 88th to 5th in a matter of two seasons. Webb didn't hit a career high in total earnings ($5.37 million versus $6.34 million in 2011) so this is another case to fade if you play in a league that sets a golfers salary based on last year's earnings. His median earnings are actually right around the $3million mark. If his putting regresses at all (which is somewhat likely) then he'll plummet down to the mark or lower.
2018 SG Rank: 18
5-Year SG Rank: 21
Projected 2019 Earnings: $2,049,000
Notes: What a difference a month can make. The Italian was hovering at 122nd in the FedExCup standings in late June before he added the Quicken Loans and John Deere to his schedule to make sure he reached 15 starts and also fulfilled the "New Tournament every 4 Years" rule. What did he kick off at the QL National? Well, he posted a runaway victory there, finished runner-up at the JDC, and then went overseas to WIN The Open Championship. His year also included a Euro Tour win at the BMW PGA Championship and a runner-up in his home open. The best part about his standout season? He actually performed worse with the putter last season compared to his career baseline. His ball-striking was THAT good. The 36-year-old had just three podium finishes on the PGA TOUR before last season. Probably a good one to fade in drafts that rely on last year's earnings as a salary cap. Other than that, we should expect another steady season but we now know that Moli has some confidence in his corner, finally an *official* PGA TOUR winner.
#22 Marc Leishman
2018 SG Rank: 26
5-Year SG Rank: 24
Projected 2019 Earnings: $2,067,000
Notes: We knew 2017 was somewhat of an outlier season, even if we were waiting for a breakout, as he sets career highs in many areas. He backed it up nicely with a $3.77 million season. His ball-striking stats were trending downward in 2018 but his short game stats was an uptick. If he maintains that short game skill but returns to his usual ball-striking ways then another big season could be in store in 2019.
#21 Emiliano Grillo
2018 SG Rank: 25
5-Year SG Rank: 34
Projected 2019 Earnings: $2,077,000
Notes: A model of consistency, Grillo has a career record that stands at 75-for-87, nearly 90 percent! He gets the job done with steady striking, averaging more than 1 strokes gained off-the-tee and 1 stroke gained on approach, per start. We saw a huge improvement with his putter in 2018 so the next logical step is to combine those two things to create a breakout season. We already saw him eclipse $3 million during his rookie season but he does have all the tools to go even higher than that.
#20 Henrik Stenson
2018 SG Rank: 13
5-Year SG Rank: 6
Projected 2019 Earnings: $2,115,000
Notes: Was just going through the motions during 2018 as he battled with elbow problems. As we often see with these injuries that golfers can play through, they end up practicing less so there dip shows up in the short game department. That is what we saw last year with Stenson. Had a procedure to clean up the elbow and he's looked good as new upon return (T12 in Dubai and contended for a win at the Hero). If your league has a shallow bench then Stenson is probably one to pass on, since he typically makes the minimum number of starts (15), give or take a few.
2018 SG Rank: 31
5-Year SG Rank: 36
Projected 2019 Earnings: $2,281,000
Notes: Some golfers just have that "it factor" and Xander certainly qualifies. He ranked 56th in my 2017 SG Rank during his rookie season but he found two wins along the way to help him win Rookie of the Year. He improved in 2018 with a SG Rank of 31st but again his rank on the Money List and FedExCup standings were much better than that. He managed to crack the podium four times last season and also added a WGC win this fall. He might be overvalued still in some formats but his ability to have multiple standout finishes per year is going to make him worthy of consideration after the top tier is all drafted.
#18 Gary Woodland
2018 SG Rank: 23
5-Year SG Rank: 33
Projected 2019 Earnings: $2,312,000
Notes: His cuts-made ratio sits over 75 percent on his career but he also cracks top 10s in more than 10 percent of his starts. This summer/fall we saw him rattle off five straight top 15s so the confidence is still at a rolling boil ahead of 2019. If we compare his SG numbers over the last 20 starts versus his career baseline then he's improved more than a stroke per start in the OTT department and also slightly improved on APPROACH. The putting was also improved in 2018. Basically, everything is trending well for the 34-year-old which is the perfect age for a breakout season. If he reaches this $2.3 million projected earnings in 2019 then it will set a new career best for him in a single season (previously $3.44 million in 2011). I'm projecting a career-best season but it doesn't feel extreme by any means. He could easily win twice this season and shatter this projection.
#17 Hideki Matsuyama
2018 SG Rank: 17
5-Year SG Rank: 11
Projected 2019 Earnings: $2,349,000
Notes: Had the worst season of his career but still managed to finish 13th in the FedExCup race and collect $2.68 million in earnings. He's known to be a heavy tinkerer in the equipment department and appeared to have the perfect setup late in the year when he rattled off six straight top 20s. Things went dark from there as he finished outside the top 40 in a pair of Japan Golf Tour events and then finished dead last at the Hero. I would expect he's probably on the range grinding as I type this and will likely come out firing in early 2019. The 26-year-old still hasn't reached his peak.
#16 Paul Casey
2018 SG Rank: 20
5-Year SG Rank: 12
Projected 2019 Earnings: $2,735,000
Notes: The 41-year-old may have put it on autopilot after finally returning to the winner's circle at the Valspar. Despite the win, his 2018 SG Rank shows a big decline versus his 5-year baseline. A decline at any age is worth monitoring but a decline when a golfer reaches there 40s is definitely cause for concern. I'm not expecting a dramatic drop off the cliff in 2019 but a slow and steady decline may be in the works over the next few seasons.
#15 Patrick Reed
2018 SG Rank: 16
5-Year SG Rank: 23
Projected 2019 Earnings: $3,062,000
Notes: Proved that his Ryder Cup comments won't affect his play as he twirled top 10s at the WGC and Dubai this fall. Battled through rib injuries in Hong Kong but clearly wasn't a big issue as he made the flight and played the very next week in The Bahamas. The Texan has made 26 or more starts for each of his six full seasons on TOUR. That puts him in rarified air because most golfers that fall into the Top 25 category end up playing 15-to-22 starts per season.
#14 Patrick Cantlay
2018 SG Rank: 15
5-Year SG Rank: 13
Projected 2019 Earnings: 3149000
Notes: Really ramped up his schedule last season, adding 10 events year-over-year. He went 21-for-23 last season and continues to be one of the steadiest golfers from a week-to-week basis. He is now 37-for-39 since his return from the long injury layoff. Gains over 4 strokes per event in the OTT and APP department. That is the recipe for A LOT of success.
#13 Tommy Fleetwood
2018 SG Rank: 4
5-Year SG Rank: 8
Projected 2019 Earnings: $3,170,000
Notes: Tommy Lad is a top 10 golfer in the world and it finally showed with a full season on the PGA TOUR. He ranked 4th in my 2018 SG Rank so why does he sit down here at #13? It's a matter of quality versus quantity and Fleetwood made 19 starts last season. I would expect him to pay off a top 10 draft pick if he repeats that in 2019 but we don't have any indication if that start number will be high or low this year. Many duel members end up in the 15-to-19 start range every year.
#12 Tony Finau
2018 SG Rank: 7
5-Year SG Rank: 19
Projected 2019 Earnings: $3,195,000
Notes: He stockpiled 11 top 10s last season but even his bad weeks weren't so bad. He lost strokes to the field in just two of his starts, going 25-for-28 on the season. Finau made HUGE improvements with the flat stick in 2018. His profile now looks pretty similar to someone like Rickie Fowler where they can excel in any area of the game on any given week. His all-around game will continue to put him in contention and it's just a matter of time before the wins start to pile up.
2018 SG Rank: 9
5-Year SG Rank: 30
Projected 2019 Earnings: $3,205,000
Notes: BAD went from a 14-for-31 season to a 22-for-26 campaign. The improved consistency was remarkable but it came with three wins as well. The most impressive feat was where the wins came (Memorial and two Playoff events). DeChambeau has been remarkably efficient at turning his good putting weeks into victories. In his young career he has seven starts where he's gained 4.5+ strokes with the putter and he's turned four of those into wins.
#10 Tiger Woods
2018 SG Rank: 5
5-Year SG Rank: 15
Projected 2019 Earnings: $3,333,000
Notes: It was an unbelievable season, even for Tiger fans that expected big things. Even Tiger admitted doubt at many times throughout his comeback. He knew his game was improving but it was still tough for him to imagine returning to such a high level, given the state of his body just a few years ago. As you can see by his 2018 SG Rank, he's proven himself as a Top 5 golfer in the world again. But at the age of 42 and his history of health concerns, he does get docked just a little on my draft board. He also plays a light schedule with last year's 18 likely being the max we'd see out of him in 2019.
2018 SG Rank: 10
5-Year SG Rank: 13
Projected 2019 Earnings: $3,390,000
Notes: He now has five career wins and they've come in four different time zones. He's someone that likes going to new courses and figuring out the puzzle in a matter of days, rather than relying on course history. That's probably why he's won two majors and has three other top 10s in major championships (none of them at the Masters where course history is a big deal). The most impressive part of BK's season was the fact he missed most of the early season with a wrist injury and it sounded pretty scary. It sounded like an injury that could linger for months or even years. Not an injury that allows you to win three times in 12 months since suffering the setback. His big wins vaulted him to #1 in the World but his SG numbers suggest he sits more in the 5th to 15th range.
#8 Jon Rahm
2018 SG Rank: 13
5-Year SG Rank: 8
Projected 2019 Earnings: $3,420,000
Notes: It's funny to think of 2018 as a disappointing season for Rahm but he set extremely high standards by finishing 3rd in the FedExCup during his first full season on TOUR, the year prior. "I was actually quite surprised on how well I played compared to what I had going on in my personal life and a lot of things going on." He didn't expand on that but he did get engaged in 2018 and from the sound of things, there was more going on behind the scenes. A win at the Hero likely proves those are a thing of the past which means another year season should be in store for Rahmbo.
2018 SG Rank: 24
5-Year SG Rank: 5
Projected 2019 Earnings: $3,430,000
Notes: For Spieth fans, 2018 may forever be known as Mono Year. He was hit with the bug in late 2017 and the side effects showed in his early 2019 results. It was his putting in particular that couldn't get on track, losing strokes with the flat stick in 9 of his first 11 ShotLink starts. He fixed that issue by gaining with the putter in 7 of his next 8 ShotLink starts. He couldn't piece his entire game together, though. A year removed from the illness and now a married man, I'd look for Spieth to have a big rebound year in 2019. He should be a steal in formats that set his value based on 2018 performance.
#6 Rory McIlroy
2018 SG Rank: 12
5-Year SG Rank: 3
Projected 2019 Earnings: $3,440,000
Notes: Before last year he said he may hit 30 starts by the end of the year. He ended up with 25 worldwide. We saw a decline in his ball-striking numbers in 2018 but he did win at the API. It wasn't a lost season, by any means. Now ahead of 2019 he made comments that he may not play enough Euro Tour events to meet (the very low) minimum required. That may just be a statement to rattle the feathers of Keith Pelley but it also sounds like good news for his PGA TOUR prospects. He wants to remain Stateside for longer to help him have a big year at the majors. He posted top 5s in two of them in 2018 but also finished T50 and MC in the other two. I think we are about due for another Rory major.
#5 Jason Day
2018 SG Rank: 6
5-Year SG Rank: 4
Projected 2019 Earnings: $3,495,000
Notes: He fell to 12 in my rankings last year as his game took a big step back in 2017 and he was dealing with off-the-course issues. The Aussie shut me up real quick as he won twice last season and collected over $5 million in earnings along the way. You would think his putting would regress at some point but he's now finished top 10 in SG Putting in three of the last four seasons. Despite all his injury and illness concerns, he has also reached 20 starts in four straight seasons now.
#4 Justin Rose
2018 SG Rank: 2
5-Year SG Rank: 2
Projected 2019 Earnings: $3,535,000
Notes: This is the part of the program where my opinion starts to bleed into the rankings but shouldn't be taken as gospel. Rosey deserves a Top 1 or 2 spot on merit alone but his age, history of back concerns, and equipment rumors have me questioning his ability to repeat his 2018 season. In addition to that, Rose's SG Putting per Start of the Last 20 events is nearly a stroke higher than his baseline since 2012. If his putting regress then we see him fall back to earth. After a career-best season at the age of 38, I will let others deal with him in 2019.
2018 SG Rank: 8
5-Year SG Rank: 7
Projected 2019 Earnings: $3,745,000
Notes: While Rose deserves a higher rank on paper, Fowler deserves a lower spot. However, his stats are all holding steady and he remains one of the best all-around talents on TOUR. Turning 30 in a few days, I think we are just entering the prime of his career. Fowler has earned $4 million+ in four of the last five season and another should be on the way in 2019. Will it finally be the year he gets his first major?
2018 SG Rank: 3
5-Year SG Rank: 10
Projected 2019 Earnings: $4,100,000
Notes: It seems like his stock is on the decline after winning "just" three times last season but his overall consistency actually improved. When looking at the percent of rounds that are greater than 2 adjusted strokes over the field, only Justin Rose had a higher ratio than JT in 2018. He ranked 7th in that stat in 2017. We know he has the go-low rounds in his tank so if his average rounds are still beating the field then the wins should keep on coming for JT in 2019.
2018 SG Rank: 1
5-Year SG Rank: 1
Projected 2019 Earnings: $6,890,000
Notes: I just talked about JT's improved consistency but it's DJ's ability to go low that separates him from the pack. Looking at percent of rounds that beat the field by 4 or more strokes, DJ ranked 1st on TOUR last year and beat #2 (Jon Rahm) by nearly 10 percent. Justin Rose, Rory, JT, Bryson, Koepka, Fowler, and Day followed just behind Rahm. Back to DJ, he won three times last season and has now won at least once in every season since he joined the TOUR back in 2008. The 34-year-old has eclipsed $8 million in each of the last three seasons and there is no sign of him slowing down anytime soon.