With the 2016 portion of the 2016-17 PGA TOUR season in the books, it’s that time of year when the second waves of fantasy golf drafts are set to take place. That also means it is the perfect time to provide the first update to my preseason top 125.
While I am taking into account the performance of the first portion of the new season, I am not trying to put together a prediction of where players will ultimately finish this season. For example, I view Rod Pampling’s win at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open as something that is very unlikely to happen for him again this season. Even though he is sixth in the current FedExCup standings, you will find him buried quite far down the list. While he does have value for earning his way into a no-cut event like the SBS Tournament of Champions, his win has to be otherwise treated like the one off that it probably was.
All that to say that this is meant to be used as a draft guide for those who receive no benefit for what a player did from October and November other than the status changes those weeks may have offered in future events.
Here we go!
1. Dustin Johnson – I could make a case for any of my top five to be the number one player taken in a draft. My argument for DJ would be that the lid is now lifted on his first major and he’s now playing free and clear of most pressure. He also tends to tee it up more than a few of the others and doesn’t have the injury history of a Jason Day.
2. Jason Day – Health is the question, but his play has otherwise been top shelf the last 18 months.
3. Rory McIlroy – His “A game” beats anyone else, but he so rarely brings it. Won the FedExCup last year and it felt like he didn’t even show up until the Playoffs.
4. Hideki Matsuyama – I was absolutely giddy when he fell to me in the seventh pick of one of my full-season leagues a few months ago and he immediately rewarded my selection. It wouldn’t be a shocker if he ended 2017 as the number one player in the world.
5. Jordan Spieth – It seems almost laughable that Spieth will be the last of the top five. When you put him up next to the other four, the only argument Spieth has at jumping the others is the flat stick. Using the “A game” argument, Spieth’s best doesn’t beat the other four’s best. Now that he seems to be sticking to a lighter schedule, he’s losing another advantage.
6. Henrik Stenson – You know what you are buying. He’ll show up at Bay Hill and contend for a win, and will continue to do so from then until East Lake.
7. Patrick Reed – His early returns in the new season may seem alarming, but he essentially played too much and ran out of gas. He should be a favorite at Kapalua.
8. Justin Thomas – Probably failed to meet some very lofty expectations last season but already has a CIMB win to start the new campaign and sits second to Matsuyama in the FEC Standings.
9. Brooks Koepka – In my own drafts, I’m a sucker for young and talented. That fits Koepka to a tee. Already has a runner-up in his two starts.
10. Rickie Fowler – Felt like a small regression last season. Perhaps expectations were too high, but the pressure will be on to get back in contention in the majors again this season.
11. Daniel Berger – Earned a T2 in the WGC-HSBC Champions. Always dangerous in his home state of Florida.
12. Matt Kuchar – Not a flashy pick, but one that brings a ton of top 10s to the table. If he picks off a win, it would be a huge bonus.
13. Paul Casey – Back up to 14th in the OWGR and already three starts into his 2016-17 campaign, he nabbed a T3 in his first event with nothing worse than a T21 before the winter break.
14. Adam Scott – A couple of quiet top 15s to begin the new season. His ceiling is completely dependent on getting on a roll with the flat stick.
15. Emiliano Grillo – Very consistent start to the season, averaging a little over $115k per start without anything better than a T10. Great driver of the golf ball.
16. Jon Rahm – It’s a matter of “when” not “if”. The only danger is that the expectations will weigh him down if he doesn’t grab a win early in 2017. The West Coast swing should offer a comfortable opportunity.
17. Brandt Snedeker – Sneds coming off the board in the middle of the second round is about right. It wouldn’t be a reach to take him late in the first and he won’t make it to the very end of the second.
18. Jim Furyk – Bagged a T6 in the RSM Classic before the break. Age is a legit question, as it’s hard to see him in the hunt as frequently as he was just a couple of years ago.
19. Ryan Moore – Sneaky good player to add to a roster in the late second / early third. Very accurate and has the ability to provide consistency. Seemed to pace himself a little better last year.
20. Phil Mickelson – Medical questions and age realities prevent him from going much higher.
21. Kevin Chappell – After a trio of runner-up finishes last season, he probably leads the short list of best player without a PGA TOUR win.
22. Justin Rose – Really wasn’t a factor on TOUR last season. Due to a light schedule, he doesn’t provide first or second-round value unless he’s clicking on all cylinders. Could become a Charl Schwartzel or bounce back to be a Henrik Stenson. We’ll hedge the bets in between.
23. Bubba Watson – His personal fulfillment experienced as a Ryder Cup Vice Captain is great for Bubba, but potentially bad news for Bubba owners. Throw in a reported golf ball switch to Volvik golf balls, and I have to seriously question what his motivations are on the course these days. Don’t underestimate the impact of Doral being off the rotations this year, as that was a boon for him.
24. Sergio Garcia – Known commodity for better and worse. Great value in the third round, but sometimes proves to be a reach any earlier.
25. Zach Johnson – Won’t be a factor every week, but his wedges are worthy of a hard look in the middle of round three.
26. Russell Knox – Three starts, with all going for top 10s, in the early portion of his schedule. He’s looking to grow upon a big 2015-16.
27. Gary Woodland – Always tempting for the stats junkies in the crowd. Late third-round value is the right spot.
28. Bill Haas – Good value in this slot. He’s lost some length over the last few years, but is otherwise a solid investment.
29. Scott Piercy – Already eighth in the FEC Standings and 36th in the OWGR, he’ll get starts pretty much anywhere he wants.
30. Keegan Bradley – After a mighty struggle last season, the solid ball-striker enjoyed success early in 2016-17 giving hope to a nice rebound in 2017.
31. Tiger Woods – Let’s be honest. He won’t be around to start the fourth round in any draft, but that’s the right hedge. Looked good in his December cameo, but still needs to put four rounds together before anyone gets too excited.
32. Chris Kirk – Three top 10s in a busy five-start Fall Series has the UGA product off and running.
33. Branden Grace – This is all about the majors and the WGCs. When drafting a guy like Grace, the lineup needs to be balanced with guys that will make plenty of starts.
34. Pat Perez – Given his age, the fact that he bounced back from an injury with a quick win is remarkable.
35. Charles Howell III – Steady pick for savy gamers who know that wins aren’t everything.
36. Billy Horschel – Playoff loss at The RSM Classic has the 30-year-old poised for a big season.
37. Charl Schwartzel – Predictable in that he won’t make many more starts than the 15 required, so the hope for owners is that he makes the most of them.
38. Louis Oosthuizen – Health has been good the last few years, meaning his value has as well.
40. Kevin Na – Historically, he’s much more valuable than this spot. That said, he’s a little below his normal arc at this point in the season.
41. Kevin Kisner – Most of 2016 was a bit of a hangover after a breakthrough 2015 calendar year, but he’s the right value in this spot.
42. Jimmy Walker – My expectations are pretty low this year. As a Walker owner last season, I was pretty disappointed in him until the win at the PGA. It was a season saver for gamers. I’m not as optimistic this season.
43. Jason Dufner – Back on track in 2015-16, should he replicate his $2.8M this season this will be a steal.
44. Tony Finau – Now a PGA TOUR winner, he’s free to play aggressively this season.
45. J.B. Holmes – No way he makes it this far in any draft, but I struggle to trust him above the mix of young studs and proven commodities higher on the list.
46. Si Woo Kim – Big 2015-16, in part because of how often he teed it up, means he’s earned his spot inside the top 50 this time around too.
47. William McGirt – Probably set the bar too high to surpass with a huge 2016.
48. Brendan Steele – Picked up a win already in 2016-17. While he’s not the type of player that is likely to win twice in one season, he does have game that will produce steady results.
49. Luke List – Bomber was really putting it together in the latter half of the 2016 calendar year.
51. Patton Kizzire – After a strong 2015 portion of the 2015-16 season, he cooled off. He started strong again this Fall. We’ll see what happens, but he’s long and can putt.
52. Bryson DeChambeau – If his talent outweighs some of his quirks, this would be a massive steal.
53. Patrick Rodgers – Patience is the key with this expected star. He misses his share of cuts, but shows his potential from time to time.
54. Russell Henley – There’s a lot to like, but he often fails to live up to the level of play that his stats suggest is expected. Very good on Bermuda greens and courses that play to a par of 70.
55. Ollie Schniederjans – A T6 on Sea Island broke a streak of three missed cuts to start the season. Has failed to fulfill his amateur promise as a young professional.
56. Jhonattan Vegas – Strong play the last 12 months deem him a worthy buy at this point. It wouldn’t be a reach to take him a little higher.
57. Lucas Glover – Found his putter of late and sits 16th in the FEC standings with two top 10s.
58. Roberto Castro – Big 2015-16 and great ball-striking have him poised for a breakthrough win this season.
59. Ryan Palmer – Known commodity that makes a lot of cuts and has the potential to be a bargain at this slot.
60. Rafa Cabrera Bello – Global player that should be counted on in majors and WGCs.
61. Harris English – Talent is worthy of a grab two rounds earlier, but he misses more than he hits.
62. Webb Simpson – All about the putter.
63. Marc Leishman – Can show up at any time, including majors.
64. Jamie Lovemark – Solidified himself as a legitimate TOUR pro last season. He should back it up this season. The question becomes how high he will ascend.
65. Jason Kokrak – Elite power, but not an elite player otherwise.
66. Mackenzie Hughes – Already a winner this season. That’s in the past, but it means free money at Kapalua.
67. Jim Herman – Herman won a golf tournament and his old boss won the presidency in 2016. Hard to imagine 2017 will be better, but perhaps the same.
68. Daniel Summerhays – On the short list of best players without a win, Summerhays contended in several majors last season.
69. Alex Cejka – Used his win in 2015 as a springboard to a solid 2016 as well. Getting long in the tooth, but hasn’t shown any falloff.
70. Danny Willett – Didn’t do much after winning the Masters, at least in terms of on the PGA TOUR and in majors. That makes this year a question mark.
71. Kevin Streelman – Not an exciting pick in draft day, but this is a good spot for the veteran.
72. Ben An – Former U.S. Amateur winner is now a legit professional who plays across the globe.
73. Shane Lowry – Another international talent who would be a solid bargain in the eighth round.
74. Chez Reavie – Struggles to finish tournaments off, but has played well overall of late.
75. Robert Garrigus – Showed some fight in the latter half of 2016 that bodes well for 2017.
76. Anirban Lahiri – A T3 at the CIMB Classic on one of his favorite courses was impressive, but at T13 on Sea Island backed it up.
77. Derek Fathauer – A T15-T3 start to the new season erases a disappointing 2015-16.
78. Francesco Molinari – He’ll make his 15 starts and contend on occasion.
79. Brandon Hagy – Number to start the year was poor, but a steady Fall has him in a better spot and ready to make a run.
80. Cheng Tsung Pan – Ended the 2016 portion of the schedule with a T6 in The RSM Classic. Has the pedigree to become a TOUR regular.
81. David Lingmerth – Too much shouldn’t be made of a slow start to the season.
82. Bud Cauley – A risk/reward pick, but worth the dice roll here.
83. Andrew Johnston – Time will tell if Beef proves to be a sideshow or a superstar. For now, I’m taking a wait-and-see approach.
84. Graham DeLaet – Canuck has never been the same since dealing with some injuries a couple of years ago.
85. Sean O’Hair – Has made the comment that he’s at his best when the chips are down. That’s a scary scenario for gamers on draft day.
86. Martin Laird – Steady veteran can be relied upon here.
87. Danny Lee – Rather flat 2016 after making some real noise in 2015. Was that a return to the mean? Will this be a bounce back? That’s the dilemma that only he can answer.
88. Brian Harman – Good value given his high number of starts and ability to outperform this spot.
89. David Hearn – Veteran doesn’t need a defense for this slot.
90. Ben Martin – Hard to envision him finishing much worse than this. Last year wasn’t great, but it was also coming on the heels of being a PGA TOUR winner for the first time.
91. Aaron Baddeley – History tells us this is an accurate range.
92. Ian Poulter – The one-time European star seems at least good enough to earn a FEC Playoff bid in 2017 following an injury.
93. Trey Mullinax – Young stud has the game to earn his keep. Could be a dark horse for a big season.
94. Kyle Stanley – Seems to have stabilized himself as a TOUR pro.
95. Seamus Power – By no means is the Irishman among the most anticipated Web.com Tour grads on TOUR, but his early returns are steady and my radar is up.
96. Adam Hadwin – Good value and potential at this spot. Struggled with consistency, but has the ability to surpass this ranking.
97. Robert Streb – Can’t elevate him any higher than this until he starts to show signs of the player he was in 2014-15.
98. Charley Hoffman – Shown a pretty dramatic fall in productivity of late. Could be age catching up with him.
99. Scott Brown – It would have been nice to have seen more out of him in his first few stars of the new season, but we have to trust what we’ve seen in the last few years.
100. Camilo Villegas – Recently a top 125 bubble player, Villegas’ P2 in The RSM Classic resets his value for this season. For those about to draft, hopefully he keeps things on the current trajectory.
101. Blayne Barber – The last two years have shown the 100-125 range is about right. He was another of the runner-ups on Sea Island.
102. Michael Kim – A little challenged from a length perspective, Kim’s overall game is more than good enough to continue earning a TOUR card.
103. Wesley Bryan – Darling of the Web.com Tour last season, he got it done with a great putter. Historically that doesn’t translate as well to the PGA TOUR as does the ball-striking.
104. John Huh – Accurate and steady, made all five cuts including a top 10 to start the new season.
105. Johnson Wagner – Certainly has his misses, but tends to score a few big finishes now and then.
106. Harold Varner III – Hopes to avoid a sophomore slump after a good rookie year.
107. John Senden – Aussie is on the back nine of his career for sure, but he’s holding on.
108. Luke Donald – Here’s hoping he has a big week at Hilton Head.
109. Hudson Swafford – This is probably too low, as his game and slow rise on TOUR the last few years suggest his value may be higher.
110. Kyle Reifers – Should be able to challenge for a victory at some point this season.
111. Bryce Molder – Very slow start to 2016-17, but tends to pull it together.
112. Ben Crane – Veteran would be a safe choice in the 12th round.
113. Billy Hurley III – With the safety of full status for this season and the next, he can play without worry.
114. Shawn Stefani – One top 10 and two missed cuts in three starts. He’ll likely hover around the top 125 bubble most of the season.
115. Cameron Tringale – Took a step back last season. Needs to rebound strong, but it’s hard to tip him.
116. Troy Merritt – One of those players that historically has a few big weeks every season.
117. Graeme McDowell – Did his heavy lifting in the 2015-16 season very early, and then fell off late.
118. Colt Knost – Short and straight gets it done.
119. Boo Weekley – There’s nothing to say about Boo that isn’t already known.
120. Scott Stallings – Earned his card back via the Web.com Tour Finals. Perhaps that will be a wakeup call for a big season. Either way, he’s worth a flier to end the 12th round in a 10-team league.
121. Matt Jones – Very poor 2016, but has the potential to rebound in 2017.
122. John Peterson – Now healthy, the LSU product posted a T15 in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in one of his two starts.
123. Ryan Blaum – An impressive five-for-five with two top 15s to begin his rookie season on TOUR.
124. Grayson Murray – Loads of talent for the rookie.
125. Rod Pampling – Both a nod to his early win and a cautionary tale that he may not be worth the investment going forward.