The holiday break is quickly drawing to a close so it's time to put a cap on this series which aims to identify and rank the top 150 fantasy golf options for the 2021 calendar year. There are 50 golfers still to break down and today's article will look at 25 of them.
If you missed the first four sections then you can find them here:
PART ONE (126th to 150th)
PART TWO (101st to 125th)
PART THREE (76th to 100th)
PART FOUR (51st to 75th)
As a reminder, here are the underlying stats that are being used:
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.
50. Mackenzie Hughes
6-Month SG Rank: 26
2-Year SG Rank: 88
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1385700
Notes: He fell short of his career-best in terms of single-season earnings but Hughes made it to East Lake for the first time in his career so you could argue it was a career year for him. He frustrated gamers who rely on ball-striking stats because the Canadian kept getting it done with his short game. By season's end, he was ranked 6th in strokes gained around-the-green and 8th in putting. A stark contrast from the previous two seasons where he ranked outside of the top 100 in both categories. Because of that, it's hard to trust that his good form will carry over into the new year.
49. Brendon Todd
6-Month SG Rank: 42
2-Year SG Rank: 54
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1403983
Notes: Many probably wrote him off as a regression candidate after winning twice last fall. It's true that he did regress from that ceiling but he remained a top 50 golfer, even post-COVID break. He was even nursing a fractured big left toe during the final stretch of the year. It wouldn't be a complete shock if he fell off the map again but for now we should treat him like a top-50 golfer.
48. Ryan Palmer
6-Month SG Rank: 23
2-Year SG Rank: 47
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1408524
Notes: The putter remains a liability at times but Palmer actually gained strokes putting in 48% of his measured rounds last year. If he maintains a TOUR-average level of consistency then he'll continue to shine because the ball-striking remains solid as a rock.
47. Bud Cauley
6-Month SG Rank: 63
2-Year SG Rank: 55
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1420007
Notes: We are still waiting for the big breakout season for Cauley but the Alabama product is provided steady returns in the mean time. The 30-year-old went 13-for-20 last season to finish 83rd in the FedExCup race. Cauley gained strokes tee-to-green in 68% of his measured rounds last year which puts him in the second tier of tee-to-green consistency, around 25th best on TOUR over that stretch. That is a recipe for long-term success.
46. Kevin Streelman
6-Month SG Rank: 46
2-Year SG Rank: 56
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1449183
Notes: Iron and wedge play remains a strength for Streels. He had 10 measured rounds last year where he gained 2 or more strokes on approach. He's not flashy but he's finished 91st or better FedExCup in all but one of his seasons played and 107th in that other year (2012).
45. Lanto Griffin
6-Month SG Rank: 48
2-Year SG Rank: 42
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1461296
Notes: He was a bit of a late bloomer as he took to caddieing for Willy Wilcox while struggling on the mini tours. Fast forward just five or so years and Griffin just posted 14 top 25s in 27 starts last season including a win at the Houston Open. Griffin ranked 72nd tee-to-green last year but also 39th in putting. His all-around game makes him more suitable to all courses they travel to. He has the length to keep up with the big boys but also the iron play and putting to rack em up in a birdie-fest.
44. Dylan Frittelli
6-Month SG Rank: 52
2-Year SG Rank: 79
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1469707
Notes: He's posted driving distance figures longer than the field average in 86% of his rounds in the last three months. The distance gains are real for Frittelli who has been focusing on this in 2020. In 2019, for comparion, he was longer than field average in just 53% of his rounds played. There is no guarantee the added distance elevates his game but there is a chance the added length adds a new element that allows him to compete on more courses next year.
43. Matt Kuchar
6-Month SG Rank: 67
2-Year SG Rank: 23
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1490978
Notes: The 42-year-old is showing signs of age in the last few years. Kuchar made it to East Lake every season from 2010 to 2017 but he's missed out on the TOUR Championship in two of the last three years. He's still landing top 25s at a high clip so don't ignore him entirely.
42. Louis Oosthuizen
6-Month SG Rank: 37
2-Year SG Rank: 26
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1549122
Notes: The South African has earned at least $1 million on the PGA TOUR for six straight seasons. Well, actually he's already locked that up for 2021 so seven straight. He still underwhelms in non-major events so you're banking on the big finishes in majors and WGCs to carry you home.
41. Justin Rose
6-Month SG Rank: 58
2-Year SG Rank: 25
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1581619
Notes: The Englishman missed the cut in NINE of 19 worldwide events played in 2020. That's the most on his resume since the 2000 calendar year, despite playing the fewest events since 1999. He's a strong buy in leagues that set the salary based on last year's earning but otherwise he will likely go too early in drafts compared to the state of his game right now, due to name value.
40. Paul Casey
6-Month SG Rank: 56
2-Year SG Rank: 20
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1582060
Notes: He remains a steady cut-maker but Casey landed just one top 10 in 15 appearances last season. That's a huge dropoff from the previous years (7, 5, 9, 7, 8). Perhaps a little tune-up over the holidays is all it takes to recharge. A good buy-low candidate but there is no guarantee he'll bounce back to previous levels.
39. Si Woo Kim
6-Month SG Rank: 42
2-Year SG Rank: 96
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1599823
Notes: Volume, volume, volume. When you draft Kim you know you are getting a lot of events played. He's pegged it 24 or more times in all five seasons played on TOUR and cracked the 30-start barrier in three of those seasons. With all the influx of young talent, it's sometimes easy to forget he's still just 25-years old.
38. Jason Day
6-Month SG Rank: 28
2-Year SG Rank: 23
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1608717
Notes: The 33-year-old should really be approaching his prime years, just based on his age. However, his history with injuries has him on the downward climb of his career after peaking in 2015 and 2016. He's made more swing changes to try to alleviate some of the pain but the results have yet to really snap into place. Will it all click in 2021, will he get frustrated/lost with the new swing, or will injuries slow him down? It's hard to say but the unpredictability is why he's falling outside of the top 30 for me.
37. Jason Kokrak
6-Month SG Rank: 37
2-Year SG Rank: 34
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1642578
Notes: Looking at measured rounds over the last year, there are just five golfers that gained strokes off-the-tee at a more consistent basis than Kokrak. Those golfers are Bryson, Sergio, Rahm, Vegas, and Conners. Kokrak is in an elite group when it comes to driving performance. All that ball-striking consistency finally paid off this fall when he won his first PGA TOUR event. Looking at his number of events played, Kokrak's five-year median is 28 so you are getting a lot of volume in addition to the steady ball-striking.
36. Brian Harman
6-Month SG Rank: 44
2-Year SG Rank: 62
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1680307
Notes: The smooth-swining lefty has finished top 60 in the FedExCup race in seven of his nine years on TOUR (94th and 88th the other two). Harman lost his game a bit in 2019 but has regained control with top 25s posted in 10 of his last 30 events played.
35. Bubba Watson
6-Month SG Rank: 45
2-Year SG Rank: 39
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1712646
Notes: The big hitter has gone more than two and a half years since his last win (2018 Travelers Championship). He has just one podium finish over that time frame so it's not like he's had a bunch of close calls. This wouldn't be news for most TOUR pros. Winning is hard. It hasn't been all that tough for Watson, though, over the course of his career. His current drought is the longest stretch for him without a win, since breaking through back in 2010 at the Travelers. Due for another win soon? His per-round effiiciency still has him around 40th in the world so there should be some gas left in the tank still.
34. Sam Burns
6-Month SG Rank: 41
2-Year SG Rank: 88
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1733322
Notes: The LSU product has been a favorite up-and-comer of mine for a few years now and it feels like he's finally at the doorstep of breaking out. Burns gained strokes off-the-tee in 80% of his rounds last year. Golfers with a more consistent rate? Just nine of them. You don't need to draft Burns this early because his market price is set much lower right now. However, I would feel comfortable scooping him up
33. Adam Scott
6-Month SG Rank: 35
2-Year SG Rank: 10
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1759601
Notes: The Aussie snuck into his 40s last year (turned 40 on July 16th). He was understandably rusty as he took a more cautious approach than most TOUR pros to the COVID pandemic. His first event after the restart was the PGA Championship in August (T22). He backed that up with finishes of T58, T25, T38, T32, and T34 to round out the year. He's earned $2 million or more in nine of his last 11 seasons played so don't let a quiet summer deter you too much. Now that I'm writing this, I probably have him posted way too low and he should logically be ranked somewhere around 20th or 25th.
32. Corey Conners
6-Month SG Rank: 33
2-Year SG Rank: 41
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1782371
Notes: The Canadian is a GIR machine. He's pelted more greens per round than the field in 11 of his last 12 events played. He's gone as high as 19 in a row. If you're the type that likes to target consistent ball-striking over short game then Conners should be near the top of your target board.
31. Russell Henley
6-Month SG Rank: 15
2-Year SG Rank: 64
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1809210
Notes: It was hard to ignore just how locked in Henley was with his irons and wedges this year. Over the last 12 months he's gained strokes on approach in 73% of his measured rounds. There are just two golfers with a higher ratio during that stretch (Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson). That is elite company to be in. If he can maintain that pace then he'll likely pick up a win or two in 2021.
30. Doc Redman
6-Month SG Rank: 52
2-Year SG Rank: 67
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1818307
Notes: When most think of exciting young prospects they probably imagine bomb-and-gouge is the preferred strategy. That is far from the truth when it comes to Redman and his style of play. He gets the job done by piping nearly every fairway and then landing greens in regulation at a very high clip. He ended 2020 with top 5s in three of his last eight starts so the confidence tank should be full heading into the new year. A breakout candidate for sure.
29. Kevin Kisner
6-Month SG Rank: 21
2-Year SG Rank: 38
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1838373
Notes: He was a bit of a late bloomer but there was never any doubt that he belonged on the big stage. Kisner has won three times in the last five season and has 15 total podium finishes since the start of 2015. Kisner is a top-30 golfer in the world when he's in form and he also plays a lot of events.
28. Rickie Fowler
6-Month SG Rank: 63
2-Year SG Rank: 20
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1894038
Notes: The fan favorite settled for 94th in the FedExCup standings last season. It was his first time landing outside of the top 45 in that season-long race. He's made some swing changes over the last few years and the results haven't gone as smoothly as he probably would have liked. Perhaps a little extra work over the holidays will get him dialed back in. A good buy-low candidate.
27. Tommy Fleetwood
6-Month SG Rank: 31
2-Year SG Rank: 17
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1966453
Notes: It was a strange year for Fleetwood who finished 165th in strokes gained approach. An area of his game that is usually a strength. Even odder, his game seemed to click whenever he traveled across the pond for a Euro Tour event (top 15s in all four of his Euro events after the restart). He's too good of a ball-striker to stay slumping for long, likely making him a buy-low option. Of course, he's going to continue to split time between TOURs so you won't get much action out of him in terms of non-majors/WGCs.
6-Month SG Rank: 16
2-Year SG Rank: 18
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1990877
Notes: He played his first season as a card-carrying PGA TOUR member and landed 36th in the FedExCup standings, grabbing five top 10s in 15 events played. He did that while also slipping in five European Tour events, including a big win at the DP World Tour Championship to end the season on a high note. The 26-year-old should start to establish some course knowledge on some PGA TOUR courses now that's he played a few times through the rota. The only thing holding him back from being in my top 20 of the rankings is the assumption that he will still make his fair share of trips back to Europe.
Check back soon for part six where we'll crack into the Top 25 golfers to target for the 2021 schedule.