The Masters often serves as the unofficial start to the heart of the golf season. With that, it is not uncommon for short-season games to begin with the Masters and run through the TOUR Championship. My inbox supports this, as does my Twitter account and the historical statistical page hits on my personal golf blog.
Taking all of that into account, this seems to be the perfect time to hit the reset button on the top 125.
The format and the thought process for this one is quite different than what the in-season updates have been in the past. Rather than trying to project out to where everyone will sort out in the end somewhat based upon where they are now, I’m largely discarding what has happened to date as it relates to the FedExCup standings. I say largely, because certain people who are very high in the FEC standings due to a win will go pretty far in the Playoffs regardless of what happens from this point forward, so they still have some future value tied to their past performance.
For this top 125, I took the approach of constructing a draft board for how I would draft a team that began with the Masters and ran through the TOUR Championship.
This draft board looks vastly different than one I would have constructed for a full season for a few reasons.
- This draft can be heavy on the international and non-member side because of the proportional amount of majors remaining compared to regular TOUR events. Throw in THE PLAYERS and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and a non-member could easily bag six events and potentially a few more with sponsor invitations.
- Tagging along with the first point, certain rank-and-file TOUR players offer value based on the high number of starts they make and high number of checks they cash. These guys seldom contend, and when they do it is usually in weaker-field events. There value at this stage of the season is greatly diminished.
- For players that shine on the West Coast Swing or the Florida Swing, their sweet spots have now closed. Hopefully they performed well when they had their opportunity. Even if they did, they should be discounted at this stage if their curve falls south at this stage of the season. Remember, you’re buying what they will do from this point forward.
One final thought is that I still believe that class is permanent. There are several guys who are really struggling with the putter this year that are fairly recent major champions. Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson come to mind. I made the mistake of fading Adam Scott to start this season, forgetting that class players can figure things out. While I don’t put Bradley and Simpson on Scott’s level, they aren’t to be written off completely. They are a risk, but offer significant rewards if they get their stuff together.
I constructed my list as if it were a snake draft, featuring 10 teams and 12 rounds. I then threw in the last five to get us to 125.
Here are the results!
1. Jason Day – There is a pretty fair debate about where this pick could land, with cases to be made for Day, Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. As of this moment, Day feels the most like the 2015 version of Spieth. He’s going to win at least one major, and he is a threat any time he tees it up.
2. Jordan Spieth – He’s not clicking on all cylinders, but it’s not too late by any stretch. What stands out to me is that he still ranks first on TOUR in par 4 scoring average. I put a lot of credence in that stat. As the layouts get tougher, he should increase in value.
3. Rory McIlroy – You can’t pass on him with the third pick. He’s too elite and can pop off wins in bunches when he is on.
4. Adam Scott – It scares me to elevate him to this height, but he can’t be ignored. Past champions perform very well at the Masters historically, so he should be on the short list as he drives down Magnolia Lane. The length required at Oakmont will also make him a tasty option at the U.S. Open.
5. Bubba Watson – The case could be made that he’s already peaked, but I’m not so sure. He’s an Augusta National genius and has kept his schedule very manageable in preparation for a busy summer that could also include the Olympics.
6. Rickie Fowler – Plenty of eyes on Fowler to see if he can break through in a major after a number of close calls of late. He’s worthy of a pick this high to start a full season, in large part because of his value from April – September, so he’s certainly worth a grab here in a short-season draft.
7. Dustin Johnson – DJ hasn’t played poorly in 2016, but others have overshadowed him. More so than the six above him, some of his sweet spots have already passed on the schedule. Still, he should be dangerous on courses like Oakmont and multiple FedExCup Playoff spots.
8. Henrik Stenson – It’s always hard to stomach pulling the lever on the Swede in the first round of a full-season draft, but a format that begins with the Masters would be an easy call. All systems appear to be a go.
9. Justin Rose – Has five top 20s in six stroke-play starts in 2015-16. As his schedule picks up, so should his value.
10. Hideki Matsuyama – Japanese star grabs the final spot in the opening round. A bit of a sleeper in terms of making a splash in majors compared to some other studs, but probably only behind Fowler, DJ and Stenson in terms of talent for non-major winners.
11. Louis Oosthuizen – If we had last year’s major rotation that included St. Andrews, King Louis would have slipped into the first round. As it stands, he’s still an excellent play based on his current form. Just needs to stay healthy.
12. Phil Mickelson – Has played well enough in the first three months of 2016 to earn a solid endorsement for the remainder of the year.
13. Zach Johnson – Proven to be a trusted commodity, and can perform very well at THE PLAYERS, Colonial and the John Deere Classic to name a few.
14. Charl Schwartzel – Could make the case that he should actually be faded now that he got a win out of his way, but the more likely answer is that he’s trending towards a really steady summer.
15. Brandt Snedeker – Definitely took care of business early in the season, meeting or exceeding lofty expectations, but earns a bit of a fade to the middle of the second round as the schedule gets a tad less favorable.
16. Sergio Garcia – Everything appears to be normal for the Spaniard. Normal from this point forward would likely include a near miss at a major and another close call at a non-major.
17. Bill Haas – Already has four top 10s in 2016, including a playoff loss at Valspar. You know what you are buying here.
18. Brooks Koepka – In contrast to Haas, the pick before, you really don’t know what you are buying here. Loads of potential and some solid results, but he hasn’t yet busted through into the elite category just yet.
19. Patrick Reed – Three of his four PGA TOUR wins have come between January and March. Has more value in a full season.
20. Jimmy Walker – A tough one to call, as he failed to win on the West Coast Swing this year. Needs to earn some dough in Texas in the next couple of months to validate a late second round grade.
21. Matt Kuchar – His true value lies in his ability to be competitive on many layouts. What he’s dealing with right now is the recent absence of contending for wins. Hard not to snatch him up early in the third round if he remains.
22. Danny Willett – He’s shown no fear in contending in WGCs this season, despite not having any PGA TOUR status. With four majors and the WGC-Bridgestone still to go, he is a solid pick from here to the end. While you can’t consider him in the top five rounds of a full-season draft due to status, he can’t fall out of the third round in a short-season format.
23. Graeme McDowell – He’s been great and he’s been off. That puts him in fantasy no man’s land. It will only take one or two more great weeks to validate him here.
24. Justin Thomas – My expectations for him were for a true breakout year. Not quite Jordan Spieth of 2015, but something that would push him to the cusp of a future first-round grade. It has not been a bust, but it also hasn’t been a homerun just yet.
25. Jason Dufner – Winner at the CareerBuilder Challenge, he’s made eight of nine cuts in 2016 including three top 11s. Looks more like the Dufner that was a star a couple of years ago.
26. Paul Casey – Even with top 10s in his last two stroke-play starts, some may still undervalue him. Currently, he appears to be rounding into form.
27. Kevin Kisner – After finally breaking through at Sea Island to win in the last start of 2015, Kisner has returned to earth a bit of late. It can’t be discounted that he is possibly adjusting to a much tougher schedule. Keep an eye on him at Hilton Head.
28. J.B. Holmes – Has been fairly unpredictable the last few months, as he gears up for his Shell Houston Open defense this week. Still plenty of opportunities for him to shine, but he needs to get to work to validate a third-round pick.
29. Kevin Na – Such a boring pick on draft day, but one that always produces. While I’d prefer him more in a full-season format, he’s still hard to let fall out of the third round.
31. Ryan Moore – Hasn’t been flashy, but four top 11s in six 2016 starts more than validates an early fourth round grade. Tied for fifth in the WGC-Match Play last week.
32. Harris English – Hasn’t broken 70 in 11 rounds, but that also was largely on the difficult Florida Swing. His game should produce enough results to merit his value here, with Memphis being one stop that stands out. He won there in 2013.
33. Branden Grace – Borderline elite talent overseas that hasn’t completely translated to the U.S. just yet. Had a T4 in the U.S. Open and a third in the PGA Championship last year, so he’s close to becoming a household name.
34. Patton Kizzire – Rookie won his pool in the Match Play last week, which is saying something. Has plenty of length, but also possesses one of the better putters on TOUR.
35. Smylie Kaufman – Has proven on multiple occasions that his win at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open wasn’t a fluke, including a T8 in the WGC-Cadillac and a T12 at Bay Hill.
36. Charles Howell III – He’s doing it again. Veteran gamers know what I’m talking about. He’s teasing us with a really solid start to the season, but traditionally fades as the weather heats up. You can’t ignore him, but you have to let him fall to you at a value that makes sense. Don’t take him before the fourth round.
37. Kevin Chappell – Dude’s twice been a runner-up this season and has exceeded his preseason expectations. It’s going to happen one day.
38. Tony Finau – There wasn’t really a monkey on his back, but he did earn his first win in Puerto Rico last week. Will that free him up for more, or will he have a lengthy hangover? That’s the question.
39. Brendan Steele – Always a popular one-and-done pick at the Valero Texas Open, he’s made each of his six cuts in 2016 including two top 20s.
40. Shane Lowry – Failed to meet rather lofty expectations of late, but will remain a threat in the upcoming majors. Offers good upside at the end of the fourth round.
41. Keegan Bradley – Once a star who could be counted on for a top 20 in the FedExCup standings every year, Bradley is proving to be one of the casualties of the anchored putting ban. He’s shown flashes of late, but can’t put four rounds together. Hard not to take a flier on him in round five.
42. Webb Simpson – Ball-striking numbers are very good, but he’s now one of the worst putters on TOUR. On the bright side, he’s still got some friendly courses on his horizon.
43. Robert Streb – Has not come close to matching his 2014-15 success in 2015-16, which could be attributed to a schedule that includes much deeper fields.
44. Patrick Rodgers – Youngster still feeling his way through his first full year on the PGA TOUR, but seems to be relatively comfortable. Could have a few big weeks on the horizon.
45. Marc Leishman – It’s hard to peg when the Aussie will have a big week, but he always seems to. Keep in mind, he nearly won the Open Championship last year.
46. Graham DeLaet – Canuck seems to be more reliable this season than last, with health being the key.
47. Ryan Palmer – Has taken a bit of a step backwards relative to the last year or two, but still has a number of events in Texas where he has been known to shine.
49. Russell Henley – This has not been a particularly good season up until this point for Henley, but his history of strong par 4 scoring and ability to get hot with the putter offers him as a potential value buy at this point. He was probably in the top 30 in some drafts in October and the top 40 in all of the others.
50. Luke Donald – Made five of his last six cuts. He’s beginning to show signs of snapping out of his recent funk, with Hilton Head just around the corner. He’s often played well at the RBC Heritage.
52. Russell Knox – Was excellent in the 2015 portion of the 2015-16 schedule, but has been equally horrible in 2016.
53. Jamie Lovemark – After floundering for the early years of a promising professional career, he appears to be clicking on all cylinders in 2015-16. A lot of upside to like here.
54. Daniel Summerhays – Making cuts and amassing some top 25s, but Summerhays has failed to crack a top 10 this season. Needs to step up his game, but we have no real red flags.
55. Matthew Fitzpatrick – Expect the young Brit to earn is way into the four majors and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
56. Martin Kaymer – Offered very little value for full-season gamers when the season started, but exemptions into all major tournaments from here through the PGA Championship changes things.
57. Rafa Cabrera-Bello – Increased his stock on the biggest stage by a third-place finish in the WGC-Dell Match Play. That got him into the Masters.
58. Scott Piercy – Top 20s in each of the last two WGCs has him rounding into form as we approach the heart of the season.
59. Brian Harman – He’ll play plenty and he is always dangerous on courses where length isn’t the largest factor.
60. Danny Lee – One must remember that he really caught fire last summer. He also tees it up quite often. There are much worse ways to spend the last pick of the sixth round.
61. Daniel Berger – While he offers plenty of upside, he also failed to make another big splash in his native Florida during the Florida Swing.
62. Boo Weekley – A bit feast-or-famine so far in 2015-16. He still has his favorite stop left to play, which is Harbour Town.
63. Ben Martin – Ranks 112th in the FEC standings, but has top 20s in two of his last three starts ahead of the Shell Houston Open.
64. Charley Hoffman – Entered Houston ranked 125th in the FEC standings, which is well below where he’s been of late. He’s a steal in the seventh round.
65. Francesco Molinari – Made five of his seven cuts thus far, with a T9 at Bay Hill in his last start being the highlight.
66. Steve Stricker – Largely a non-factor last season, Stricker seems to have renewed himself both in quality and quantity of play.
67. Hunter Mahan – He’s not the same player we grew to consider a lock for the top 20 for most of the last 10 years. One hypothesis could be that his life has changed with the addition his children. Great for him, but bad for his owners if that is the case.
68. Ian Poulter – He has to have a Ryder cup push in him, right?
69. Lee Westwood – Westy isn’t a PGA TOUR member this year, but we should see him a decent amount over the next four months.
70. Victor Dubuisson – Former Ryder Cupper for the Euros has a few starts coming up over the next few months.
71. Freddie Jacobson – Really good winter and early spring from the Swede. The biggest question is if he can keep it up the rest of the way.
72. William McGirt – Hard to imagine him remaining inside the top 40 of the FEC ranking all the way to the BMW Championship, so he has to earn a slight fade in our rankings.
73. Alex Cejka – Gutted it out in his title defense in Puerto Rico before becoming a WD after a poor opening round at the Shell Houston Open.
74. Scott Brown – Has long had the reputation for playing extremely well in events with weaker fields. He’s done so again this year, but unfortunately there aren’t many of those left on the schedule.
75. Jonas Blixt – One of the more pleasant surprises of the 2015-16 season to date.
76. Cameron Tringale – Overdue for a breakthrough win, but his recent form makes him hard to endorse.
77. Will Wilcox – Seemed poised for a huge season after a fast finish to the 2014-15 campaign, but has yet to deliver.
78. Gary Woodland – There is no way he actually falls to this pick in most drafts, even at this time of year and ranking 91st in the FEC standings, but he probably should.
79. Matt Jones – Ranks 120th in the FEC standings and his T11 at Pebble Beach is his only top 30 this season. The talent is there, but the results haven’t been.
80. Jamie Donaldson – A confusing player to handicap, as he offers the feel of an elite European Tour player but without the results. Ranks 147th in the current FEC standings.
81. David Lingmerth – Has a few big weeks and a number of forgettable ones. Perhaps he has another rabbit in his hat at TPC Sawgrass again this year.
82. K.J. Choi – One of the good guys, Choi has played well on some of his favorite tracks this year. Hard to see him keeping it up until the finish line, but it could happen.
83. Jason Kokrak – Bomber has only cashed in seven of 13 starts, but has a runner-up at Riviera to go with four other top 25s. It’s been all or nothing.
84. Kevin Streelman – I’ve just about given up on trying to figure out Streelman. He’s missed four of his last five cuts, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he won his next start, or finished 120th.
85. Troy Merritt – Not unlike Streelman, Merritt is another guy that is a complete roll of the dice most weeks. He will come up snake eyes on occasion, so don’t ignore him completely.
86. Chad Campbell – Same old story. Strong ball-striker, not so strong putter. He’s worth a hard look at this slot due in part to the upcoming Texas Swings.
87. Hudson Swafford – Has a big game and seems to be improving incrementally.
88. Aaron Baddeley – Very nice start to the season for the Aussie, but it’s hard to ignore his lack of results over the course of the last few years.
89. Lucas Glover – It all comes down to the putter, but we’ve seen some nice tournaments out for the 2009 U.S. Open winner this season.
90. Adam Hadwin – Ranks 82nd in the current FEC standings and should finish around the same range unless something crazy happens.
91. Martin Laird – The Scot is 89th in the FEC standings today. No reason to expect big changes.
92. Sean O’Hair – Making 70% of his cuts. If he can keep up that pace, he’ll be fine but not special.
93. Harold Varner III – Rookie showed some sizzle early in the season, but has fizzled out a bit.
94. Anirban Lahiri – Best PGA TOUR finish of 2016 is a T28. Ironically, it’s happened three times.
95. Bryce Molder – Familiar territory and value.
96. John Senden – Aussie is a potential value here despite his results over the last 18 months.
97. Brendon Todd – Off to a horrible start this season, but he offers great value here if he can get his normally strong putter back on track.
98. Kiradech Aphibarnrat – Expect to see him pop up on a leaderboard near
you at some point during the majors.
99. James Sullivan – Relative newcomer to the OWGR top 50, but acquainting himself pretty well.
100. Byeong-Hun An – Former U.S. Amatuer winner has earned himself spots in a number of upcoming tournaments via his fine play on the European Tour.
101. Chris Wood
102. Thorbjorn Olesen
103. Fabian Gomez
104. John Huh
105. Zac Blair
106. Vaughn Taylor
107. Peter Malnati
108. Si Woo Kim
109. Colt Knost
110. Jhonattan Vegas
111. Blayne Barber
112. Roberto Castro
113. Jim Herman
114. Jeff Overton
115. David Toms
116. Bendon de Jonge
117. Morgan Hoffmann
118. Angel Cabrera
119. Scott Langley
120. Scott Stallings
121. Kyle Reifers
122. Steve Marino
123. David Hearn
124. Jerry Kelly
125. Jon Curran
For those drafting teams soon, best of luck to all! For those just looking forward to the Masters, I’ll return with a preview for the season’s first major early next week!