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Culp's Corner

Top 150 Golfers for 2021: Part 1

by Josh Culp
Updated On: December 16, 2020, 10:00 pm ET

While the PGA TOUR's super season has already checked off 12 events this fall, many fantasy golf leagues are just getting started. 

Continuing with my yearly tradition, I will now attempt to rank my top 150 golfers for the upcoming year. The goal is to help gamers that are prepping for a season-long draft or just to serve as a touch-up for weekly gamers to reacclimate themselves with some of the golfers that may have fallen off their radar. 

I know that fantasy leagues come in all sorts of shapes and sizes with different rules for each of them. My choice of ranking the golfers will be projected earnings in PGA TOUR events for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. 

This means that some golfers will appear lower than their baseline skill solely due to the expected number of starts. For example, guys like Sungjae Im, Si Woo Kim, and Brian Harman have a track record of playing nearly every week. Others like Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry will likely be flirting with the minimum 15-start rule, as usual. 

I'm going to break down these golfers in chunks of 25 or 50 at a time, starting from the back of the line. 

6-Month Performance = Strokes Gained per Round during all worldwide events over the last six months. This is a good guide to see what golfers were trending well to end the year, after the mid-season restart. 

2-Year Performance = Strokes Gained per Round during all worldwide events since 2019. This is how you can see a golfer's long-term baseline. A good chunk of golfers will gravitate back toward this number while a handful will make big moves in either direction that actually stick. 

Projected 2021 Earnings = An estimate of PGA TOUR earnings during the 2020-21 season, excluding any money collected during the fall schedule. 

First things first, let's get out some honorable mentions that didn't crack the list but might deserve a look, depending on the format of your league: Cameron Percy, Graeme McDowell, Keith Mitchell, Jim Herman, Andrew Putnam, Nick Watney, Bronson Burgoon, Josh Teater, Aaron Baddeley, Hudson Swafford, Ben Martin, Kevin Tway, J.B. Holmes, Robert Streb, and Sung Kang.

Now let's dive into the Top 150 list... 

150. Beau Hossler

6-Month SG Rank: 150
2-Year SG Rank: 147
Projected 2021 Earnings: $428561

Notes: The amateur pedigree hasn't translated in terms of ball-striking but you love to see his putting stats. Hossler has gained at least 5 strokes putting in 14 of his career starts already. That kind of putting upside should translate into a few wins eventually. The problem with drafting Hossler is his inconsistency. You'll likely be left with a lot of missed cuts from a week-to-week standpoint and from there you need to hope that you don't leave him on your bench during the weeks that his ball-striking is at least average. 

149. Vaughn Taylor

6-Month SG Rank: 148
2-Year SG Rank: 80
Projected 2021 Earnings: $434348

Notes: Taylor battled with injuries in 2020 but started to flash some form to end the fall with a 40th-place finish at Bermuda and a 30th at the RSM. Two of his last three starts. The 44-year-old (45 in March) isn't getting any younger so you'll need to weigh that into your decision but there is plenty of upside if he returns to the 2019 version of himself. 

148. Robby Shelton

6-Month SG Rank: 141
2-Year SG Rank: 146
Projected 2021 Earnings: $436633

Notes: Similar to Hossler above, there will be names that grade out better than Shelton on paper but we like the upside that comes along with drafting Shelton. He was an elite amateur golfer and he won two times on the Korn Ferry Tour. He gained 10.6 strokes tee-to-green at the 3M Open this summer and he's gained at least 5 strokes tee-to-green in four other starts in his PGA TOUR career. For now he's someone to target on easy courses or weak-field events. Those two angles often overlap. 

147. J.J. Spaun

6-Month SG Rank: 135
2-Year SG Rank: 150
Projected 2021 Earnings: $436919

Notes: It was a letdown year for Spaun who finished 185th in the FedEx race last season. He had finished inside of the top 100 in each of the three previous years. There is light at the end of the tunnel for the new dad as he gained strokes on approach in 78% of his measured rounds over the last three months of the year. He will likely go overlooked after the disappointing 2020 but there is top-100 upside here. 

146. Sam Ryder

6-Month SG Rank: 141
2-Year SG Rank: 134
Projected 2021 Earnings: $440740

Notes: The 31-year-old finished 75th in strokes gained approach last season but lost strokes in each of the three other sub-categories of strokes gained. The Florida native has gained 9+ strokes over the field in six tournaments over the course of his career. Five of those came in 2018. Was he a one-year wonder or someone to buy-low after a few sub-par seasons? 

145. Andrew Landry

6-Month SG Rank: 143
2-Year SG Rank: 127
Projected 2021 Earnings: $452551

Notes: The Texan is what I like to call a "popper". His form is always irrelevant and erratic but he can still pop into contention on any given week. Just look at his two biggest finishes of 2020 to see what I mean. He lost 11.1 strokes to the field in a missed cut at the Sony Open and followed it up by winning the American Express (+17.3 SG Total that week). Then this fall he lost a whopping 16.9 strokes at the Masters then posted a top 5 at the RSM the very next week (+12.3 SG Total). He's one of the straightest shooters on TOUR so make sure you target him on the weeks where distance is not a requirement. 

144. Danny Lee

6-Month SG Rank: 134
2-Year SG Rank: 126
Projected 2021 Earnings: $463237

Notes: The Texas resident is in a short-game slump, to say the least. He's lost strokes around-the-green in seven of his last eight starts and also lost strokes putting in six of his last seven events played. In theory that should be an easy fix which makes him a good candidate to bounce back in 2021. He's posted top-100 FedExCup seasons in seven straight years, despite missing 75 cuts and withdrawing 10 times along the way. He'll drive you mad along the way but you can pencil him in for a couple of top-10 finishes each season which usually pays off his market value. 

143. Martin Laird

6-Month SG Rank: 139
2-Year SG Rank: 124
Projected 2021 Earnings: $466770

Notes: Laird did not play a single PGA TOUR event after the restart last season. He returned in the fall and barely missed a beat. There was some expected rust at the Safeway Open (missed cut) but he followed it up with a top 30 at the Sanderson Farms where he gained 5 strokes tee-to-green. Just a week later he kept his foot on the gas to flirt with 10 strokes gained tee-to-green at the Shriners, winning the event. It was his first victory since the 2013 Valero Texas Open. Will that Shriners win give him added confidence resulting in some more top-heavy finishes in 2021 or will it be an outlier result when we look back at the end of the season? Tough to say but Laird gets the job done through ball-striking which is the preferred method for longevity. 

142. Bo Hoag

6-Month SG Rank: 135
2-Year SG Rank: 140
Projected 2021 Earnings: $469650

Notes: He's not flashy but he missed just eight cuts in 22 starts last season. He flashed some upside with four top 25s, as well. He's only made 33 career starts but four of his top five finishes have come on coastal courses. Something to consider when the Sony Open rolls around. 

141. Nick Taylor

6-Month SG Rank: 138
2-Year SG Rank: 91
Projected 2021 Earnings: $474050

Notes: He won at Pebble Beach in February but the rest of his year was very uneventful. He's reached at least 26 starts in all five seasons played before the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. You're getting a lot of volume when drafting Taylor. 

140. Mark Anderson

6-Month SG Rank: 145
2-Year SG Rank: 143
Projected 2021 Earnings: $488225

Notes: He's yet to piece it all together to win a PGA TOUR event but he did end the fall by pelting more greens than the field average in six of his last seven starts. If he maintains that momentum early in 2021 then he'll be one to target often as a DFS value play. 

139. Nate Lashley

6-Month SG Rank: 137
2-Year SG Rank: 108
Projected 2021 Earnings: $489840

Notes: The late bloomer had a strong follow-up campaign after breaking through with a win at the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic. He's not consistently landing top-25 finishes but he did post a pair of third-place finishes last season and also snagged a solo 4th this fall (Corales). Looking at the best finishes of his career it jumps off the page that you likely want to target him in birdie fests. He won in Detroit on 25-under and the next best three finishes of his career were all weeks where he reached 14- or 15-under for the week. 

138. Richy Werenski

6-Month SG Rank: 127
2-Year SG Rank: 136
Projected 2021 Earnings: $492700

Notes: After three years of flirting with the FedExCup Playoffs bubble, the Georgia Tech product broke out last year with a win a the Barracuda Championship. His follow-up to the win has been ugly, to say the least. He finished outside of the top 55 in seven of his nine starts since the win. Perhaps a bit of egg nog will do the trick to get him realigned for the 2021 schedule.  

137. Tom Lewis

6-Month SG Rank: 127
2-Year SG Rank: 141
Projected 2021 Earnings: $495876

Notes: He was fully committed to the PGA TOUR in 2020 but really struggled to post consistent results. There were highlights along the way, most obvious being a runner-up finish at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Overall, he missed the cut in 7-of-12 starts and also went just 1-for-5 this fall. He won on the Challenge Tour, two times on the Euro Tour, and once on the Korn Ferry circuit. It's nice to have a proven winner in your corner. 

136. Rafa Cabrera Bello

6-Month SG Rank: 146
2-Year SG Rank: 97
Projected 2021 Earnings: $507431

Notes: The chilled Spaniard did not find any momentum after the restart. He went 9-for-17 with just two top-25 finishes. He's been inside the top 100 in the OWGR since January 2016 but is flirting with that number as he currently sits at 98th. They say form is temporary but class is permanent so I'd give him a bit longer of a leash before cutting loose. 

135. Kyle Stanley

6-Month SG Rank: 125
2-Year SG Rank: 121
Projected 2021 Earnings: $519933

Notes: He's a known commodity and standout ball-striker. Stanley was T5 at the midpoint of each of his last two starts this fall, flashing a bit of form before the holidays. He had posted 13 top 25s over a three-season stretch before last season. Over the last year he's gained strokes tee-to-green in 61% of his measured rounds but also lost strokes putting in 61 percent of rounds. 

134. Austin Cook

6-Month SG Rank: 116
2-Year SG Rank: 145
Projected 2021 Earnings: $528123

Notes: He fell off the radar in 2019 but showed some signs of life this summer and fall. Cook landed more greens than the field in eight of his last 13 starts of the year. That is a part of the game that got away from him in 2019. He was a top-20 machine when he burst onto the scene and might be headed back toward that consistency in 2021. 

133. Harry Higgs

6-Month SG Rank: 144
2-Year SG Rank: 98
Projected 2021 Earnings: $534182

Notes: He's a fan favorite and a social media darling but did that translate to the course during his rookie campaign? Well, yes, he landed seven top 25s en route to finishing 55th in the FedExCup race. He also opened the new season with a runner-up finish at the Safeway Open. As you can see from his underlying strokes gained stats, he'll likely be overvalued this year and will get drafted before he should. That being said, he's a fun guy to root for and has shown he can payoff his price tag with one or two big finishes each season. Sometimes you need some of those guys on your squad. 

132. Jason Dufner

6-Month SG Rank: 119
2-Year SG Rank: 139
Projected 2021 Earnings: $542268

Notes: He's not the perennial East Lake contender that he used to be but still provides some fireworks at time. It will generally happen on a course that gives him lots of short irons and wedge opportunities. He finished last season ranked 24th in strokes gained approach so there is still some gas left in the tank. 

131. Kiradech Aphibarnrat

6-Month SG Rank: 140
2-Year SG Rank: 111
Projected 2021 Earnings: $547075

Notes: The Arm enjoyed his break during the COVID pause so a little bit of rust was to be expected upon return. He went 3-for-8 in worldwide appearances after the restart. The big Thai has weeks where he can't be touched on the greens and those generally produce top-10 finishes. It's unlikely that he'll perform consistently so to draft him you need to be in a league that doesn't require you to make tough week-to-week start/sit decisions. 

130. Kristoffer Ventura

6-Month SG Rank: 110
2-Year SG Rank: 148
Projected 2021 Earnings: $547616

Notes: The youngster has some glaring weaknesses (approach and around-the-green) but also some massive strengths (driving and putting). Over the last year he's gained strokes off-the-tee in 73% of his measured rounds. That's top 20 among all TOUR players. He's also gained strokes putting in 70% of his measured rounds. That slots him behind only Ian Poulter over the last 12 months. 

129. Roger Sloan

6-Month SG Rank: 113
2-Year SG Rank: 142
Projected 2021 Earnings: $556502

Notes: If you want to ride the hot hand then Sloan is an interesting name that is also likely to fly under the radar. He ended the year with top 35s in five of his last eight starts which doesn't sound like much but it's a lot more consistency than you'll see from most in this tier. Of course, before that he had lost strokes to the field in 10 straight events so there is plenty of risk to this pick. He won in Canada and once on the Korn Ferry Tour. Always good to see a winning pedigree. 

128. Troy Merritt

6-Month SG Rank: 124
2-Year SG Rank: 108
Projected 2021 Earnings: $561521

Notes: I talked about "poppers" with Landry above and Merrit is another one that can be given that tag. He usually pops with the putter but he's also known to get red hot with the irons. Despite being below average on his career baseline in strokes gained approach, he has actually gained over 10 strokes on approach in three events over the course of his career. Those are lap-the-field type numbers and have resulted in both of his wins. High upside but highly volatile. 

127. Adam Schenk

6-Month SG Rank: 122
2-Year SG Rank: 103
Projected 2021 Earnings: $564838

Notes: Rattled off 11 straight cuts made at one point this year. That made him a trendy DFS value pick for a few weeks and he responded with missed cuts in two of his last three starts of the year. He's never led or co-led after any round on the PGA TOUR so it's hard to bank on any upside but you do give a lot of paychecks when draftings the Purdue product. 

126. Danny Willett

6-Month SG Rank: 125
2-Year SG Rank: 100
Projected 2021 Earnings: $569681

Notes: The Englishman went just 7-for-13 last season and he lost strokes in all three tee-to-green categories. On a positive note he was 54th in strokes gained putting last season and he poked his head into contention with a T4 in Detroit. The main selling point for Willett here is that he's won seven times worldwide since the start of 2012. 

 

Check back soon for part two. 

Josh Culp
Josh Culp joined Rotoworld in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.