Sobel’s 2019-20 PGA Season Preview: Power Ranking Every Golfer on Tour
Adam Hagy, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Brooks Koepka
- The 2019-20 PGA Tour season begins on Thursday at the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia.
- Which golfers will make good fantasy sleepers and who should you target if you're looking for a longshot bet?
- Jason Sobel previews the season by ranking the field ahead of the new golf season.
So, how did you enjoy that two-and-a-half-week offseason?
Technically, it will have been 17 days, 13 hours and, oh, about 15 minutes or so between the end of the 2018-19 PGA Tour season and the beginning of the 2019-20 PGA Tour campaign.
Depending on how we count a few quasi-sanctioned events (Hero World Challenge? Presidents Cup? The Olympics?), there are somewhere in the neighborhood of a half-a-hundred tournaments on the upcoming schedule, starting with this week’s A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
That leaves plenty of opportunities for plenty of players, as many of the same ol’ superstars will continue ranking amongst the world’s best and some up-and-comers will make their presence felt.
If you’re part of a season-long fantasy league that drafts before the opener, or if you’re joining a pool with a Thursday deadline, I salute you. Many leagues and pools – OK, most of ‘em – don’t start until the calendar turns over. Collectively, we usually have to finish off fantasy football before we move on to golf, but I admire those who kick things off this week.
Speaking of football, it was some of our Action Network pigskin preview content – notably, Sean Koerner’s tiered fantasy rankings – which inspired me to create a similar list for the impending golf season.
Whether you’re starting now or waiting a few more months, the following tiered rankings should offer a unique breakdown for not only how every PGA Tour member stacks up for this season, but where we can find some separation between them.
Of the 239 players (and yes, this number is always fluid) with some sort of membership – either full status, conditional or medical – I’ve divided them into 10 tiers based on potential for the 2019-20 campaign.
Simply put, he ticks all the right boxes to stand head and shoulders above the competition. McIlroy’s overall strokes gained number last season was the best we’d seen in a decade. He won three times – and while none of them were majors, two were big-money events.
And since you’re wondering, yes, I did consider adding Brooks Koepka to this tier based on his major championship superiority, but let’s remember: This ranking is about the future, not the past. I like Rory’s chance to separate himself from the pack in the next 12 months.
Two of these names will come as no surprise to those who have paid even the slightest bit of attention to the professional game over the past few years. The other one shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s watched more closely. Rahm is an elite-level talent – and he’s on the verge of some big-time results. With four top-10 in majors over the past two years, the soon-to-be 25-year-old is only gaining more confidence and experience the more he competes. He belongs up here with some of the world’s best.
The first three players here aren’t just in the same tier; I’d also place them in the same category: Consistent weekly performers who can win anyplace, anytime. I’ve got Cantlay with the biggest short-term upside of the trio, but it’s certainly a close race. I’d love a wager on Cantlay/Schauffele/Finau to win a 2019 major, though their 12 combined opportunities might come at something just slightly more than even-money.
As for the more well-established players in this tier, Rose turns 40 next summer and DJ is fresh off an end-of-season head-scratcher, but each is still worthy of inclusion here.
You’ll see the tiers start to increase in numbers as there becomes less separation between players further down the list. This one is still full of blue-chippers, featuring five players who are major champions and a half-dozen more who are on the short list of best players to have never won one. But of course, the most noteworthy names here are a pair of youngsters in Im and Hovland, each of whom I (and many others) expect to ascend into the next echelon very soon.
Fellow players and caddies have called Im a top-10 player in the making and Hovland wasn’t just impressive in limited exposure in the big leagues, he was impressive in final rounds, when it meant the most.
Byeong Hun An
Charles Howell III
There’s admittedly a lot to unpack here. Spieth is the ultimate wildcard, a player who’s capable of winning multiple majors in a year or one who struggles just to get into contention.
Speaking of high floor-low ceiling types, Woods obviously offers the potential to still win some hefty hardware, though his limited playing schedule prevents him from being ranked higher, even if he’s healthy and motivated. In between them, this tier offers an amalgam of established performers, recent risers and impending stars. Morikawa and Wolff are already PGA Tour champions and it might not take long before Niemann and Scheffler join them.
Si Woo Kim
Rafa Cabrera Bello
Harold Varner III
Consider this a lengthy list of players who can potentially contend any week and wouldn’t be a shock if they were to win. What you’ll find in this tier is a combination of talented internationals who won’t necessarily play 25-30 times on the PGA Tour and U.S.-based stalwarts who will. Most in this group are high-floor, low ceiling guys, though the electrifying Champ owns an opportunity to be a hit-or-miss selection.
As for the freshman class, I’m expecting a solid opening season from Ventura, Ghim and McNealy, each of whom starred on the collegiate level before qualifying for the PGA Tour through the developmental circuit.
If you need ‘em, most of these guys should be decent lineup-fillers, though many have at least one mark against them – things like getting older, conditional status or limited experience. Some in this tier have dropped dramatically in recent years (Furyk and Johnson, for example), while others are just making a quick pit stop on their way to another level (Straka and Hickok to name a few).
Ted Potter Jr.
If you’re drafting this deep in your leagues, well, you and I should probably be friends. There’s no better 19th-hole debate than which players deserve to be picked in the 17th round of your 12-team draft.
OK, maybe there’s a hint of sarcasm in there. But in all seriousness, if you are drafting this deep, be prepared, because most of your fellow fantasy leaguers won’t be. Taking a player like most of these above, each of whom – as they say in poker – has a chip and a chair can be advantageous over those who are drafting retired, injured or developmental tour players.
A mixture of familiar names and Korn Ferry grads here, though nobody who pops off the page as a must-own in any season-long leagues.
Sure, the chip-and-a-chair philosophy still applies, though it’s more difficult to envision any of these players contending at a handful of events or reaching the season finale at East Lake.
David Berganio Jr.
Wow, some blasts from the past at the bottom of the ranking here. Unless you want Stricker to offer your squad a putting lesson or Stadler to bring some needed personality or Villegas to get those calf muscles into shape, take a hard pass on this group, most of whom will be playing off a medical exemption this season – if they play at all.